Professor earns appointment to prestigious award committee

  Thursday, January 18, 2018 2:00 AM
  News, Milestones

Pittsburg, KS

Professor earns appointment to prestigious award committee

Susan Knell, a longtime faculty member in the College of Education who has gained an international reputation in children's literature, has been appointed to the prestigious Hans Christian Anderson Award Committee.

The Hans Christian Andersen Award is the highest international distinction given to authors and illustrators of children's books. Given every other year by the International Board on Books for Young People at the IBBY World Congress, the award recognizes lifelong achievement and is given to an author and an illustrator whose complete works have made an important, lasting contribution to children's literature. 

The committee on which Knell now serves will nominate U.S. authors and illustrators and choose books for the biennial IBBY Honor List. 

"It's the biggest thing I've ever served on," Knell said. "I'm excited to dive in in a scholarly way and look at what these folks have done." 

Knell, who advises students in the Master's of Science in Reading program, also has served on the William Allen White Award Committee, the Bill Martin Jr. Picture Book Committee, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award Committee, the Paul Witty Short Story Award Committee, and as a member of the International Literacy Association. She also serves as the president of the Friends of Pittsburg Public Library Board. 

She's gained a reputation as the coordinator of the PSU Young Authors Conference for many years, bringing in well-known authors and illustrators, and is a frequent presenter herself at conferences across the nation. 

Surprisingly, growing up Knell wasn't a reader herself. 

"Children's literature today, compared to when I was in school in the 1960s, is far different," she said. "We had Basal readers that were boring, not real stories, not by real authors." 

It wasn't until she became a teacher in 1982 that she developed a passion for children's literature. 

"I loved Scholastic book orders, and began going to conferences to hear authors and illustrators speak, and a whole world opened up to me," said Knell, who taught elementary grades for 13 years in Webb City, and Jasper, Missouri, and children's literature at Cottey College. 

Knell joined the faculty at PSU in 1996. She teaches early childhood classes in children's literature and the online graduate program for a reading specialist degree. 

And she reads now. A lot. That may prove helpful to her work on the committee. 

"I've always known about this award, because I read authors who have won it," she said. 

Or, it may make it difficult — the committee can pick just one author and one illustrator for all of North America. 

"I've been making book lists for 21 years now," said Knell," and it's so hard to narrow down my favorites." 

Alice Sagehorn, chair of Teaching & Leadership, said she and the entire department were proud of Knell's appointment. 

"This is a great honor and a testimony to her scholarship in children's literature and international folk tales," Sagehorn said.

To learn more about PSU's Teaching & Leadership program or the Master's of Science in Reading degree, visit