2016 Believe in Books Honorees


Each year, Reach Out and Read of Greater New York honors presents awards to individuals and/or organizations in recognition of their extraordinary commitment towards promoting children’s literacy.

Selina and Sean Lovings photo

2016 honorees are Selina Alko and Sean Qualls, authors and illustrators, and recipients of the Mills-Tannenbaum Award for Children’s Literacy.

Selina Alko was born in Vancouver, Canada and moved to New York City over 20 years ago to pursue a career in illustration. Selina began making children’s books by illustrating the dynamic New York City-themed My Subway Ride and My Taxi Ride. She then tried her hand at writing and discovered she loved it! She is the author/illustrator of B is for Brooklyn, I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother and Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama. Selina wrote (and co-illustrated with her husband, Sean Qualls) The Case for Loving, which received three starred reviews and the Carla Cohen NAIBA Award for Free Speech. Selina and Sean’s most recent co-illustrated book, Two Friends; Susan B. Anthony & Frederick Douglass came out in January. The couple currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with their two children.

Sean Qualls is an award winning, Brooklyn-based, children’s book illustrator, artist and author. He has illustrated a number of  highly acclaimed books for children, including Giant Steps to Change The World by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis-Lee, Little Cloud and Lady Wind by Toni Morrison and her son Slade and Before John Was a Jazz Giant, for which he received a Coretta Scott King Illustration Honor. Sean also created the art for Dizzy by Jonah Winter and Skit Scat Raggedy Cat by Roxane Orgill. His work has received two Blue Ribbon citations from the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books where he was also cited for his “serious craftsmanship” and an “original style.” Qualls has created illustrations for magazines, newspapers, and advertisements. His work has been shown in galleries in New York and across the country. Sean draws inspiration from an array of influences such as movies, television, childhood memories, aging and decaying surfaces, architecture, old buildings, nature, folk art, fairy tales, Americana, black memorabilia, outsider art, cave paintings, collectibles, African art, golden books, vintage advertisement graphics, psychology, mythology, science fiction, music, and literature. His most recent titles include Emmanuel’s Dream (Schneider Award) written by Laurie Ann Thompson and The Case for Loving and Two Friends both of which he illustrated with his wife, illustrator/author Selina Alko. He lives in lives in Brooklyn (where you can find him DJing on occasion) with his wife and their two children.

You can visit Selina here and Sean here.

About the Mills-Tannenbaum Award for Children’s Literacy

Founded by Gary Tannenbaum and Helen Mills, long-time advocates of children’s literacy in New York and dedicated supporters of the Reach Out and Read early literacy program, the award recognizes children’s book authors dedicated to promoting a lifelong love of reading in young children.

Literacy Champion

Woolever, Amy

Amy Woolever is a pediatrician and the medical director of Reach Out and Read of Greater New York at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst. She was first exposed to Reach Out and Read during her residency at Montefiore and it quickly became her favorite part of health care maintenance visits. After joining the faculty at Elmhurst, she introduced the ROR model to the Primary Care Clinic. Last year, Elmhurst’s Reach Out and Read program distributed books and literacy guidance at more than 7,000 visits!

 NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, which is located in Queens, is part of NYC Health + Hospitals, an integrated health care system that serves as the public safety net health care system of New York City. Elmhurst serves a predominantly immigrant population from all corners of the world. In addition to providing primary care, Dr. Woolever is the Associate Program Director of the Pediatric Residency Program and and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Her favorite parts of teaching include taking residents on home visits and facilitating a noon conference “reading club” using medical and non-medical texts to explore complex cultural and ethical issues.
Dr. Woolever grew up in Syracuse, NY where she frequented Petit Branch Library and graduated from Yale University. She attended medical school at the State University of New York at Buffalo and completed her residency and chief residency at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (Albert Einstein College of Medicine). She lives in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, with her husband and two sons, next door to esteemed ROR author, Roberta Grobel Intrater!

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