Pat Austin, former professor of children’s literature and curator of the University of New Orleans Children’s and Young Adult Library, has received the Light Up for Literacy award from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. The LEH announced the award on Dec. 3.
The award, which is presented in partnership with the State Library of Louisiana’s Center for the Book, honors individuals who have made significant and lasting contributions to literacy efforts in the state.
After 16 years as an elementary school teacher, Austin earned a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of New Orleans, where she went on to serve as a faculty member for 26 years. She retired from UNO earlier this year.
Austin, who has said one of her all-time favorite activities is reading to children, served as curator of UNO’s Children’s and Young Adult Library for two decades and mentored countless student library volunteers and librarians in training. She has authored more than 40 articles in educational journals, hundreds of book reviews and a picture book, "The Cat Who Loved Mozart."
Over the course of her more than 40-year career as an educator, Austin helped develop the literacy teaching skills of thousands of Louisiana educators.
“Dr. Austin is truly a woman of the book and I can’t imagine a more fitting candidate for this award,” University of New Orleans education professor Brian Beabout said. “The most impressive element of Pat’s commitment to building literacy awareness is her unmatched record of community service.
“Dr. Austin served as the curator of the UNO Children's and Young Adult Library for 20 years. She has worked with publishers to secure thousands of books, process them and add them to the library’s collection.”
Austin trained student library volunteers and worked with her students to create library collections for Hynes Charter School, Medard Nelson Elementary School and Morris Jeff Community School whose library collections had to be completely re-created after Hurricane Katrina, Beabout said.
Michelle Douglas, chief executive officer at Hynes Charter School, credits Austin for the academic achievement that 91% of her students are reading at or above grade level.
“Her outreach has impacted thousands of students in the area as she mentors, educates and certifies educators who make a huge impact on our diverse region,” Douglas said. “Meanwhile, at Hynes, our students are such successful readers because they have equitable access to our amazing collection of books and materials.”
Most recently, Austin created the collection for the newly opened Children's Museum in City Park. She also has led African-American literature read-ins and Best New Books for Children sessions at dozens of schools across south Louisiana.
“For 11 years, she sponsored the Literary Lagniappe, a quarterly newsletter that provided undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to publish reviews of recently released children’s books,” Beabout said.
In addition to the literacy award, the LEH announced eight other Humanities Awards recipients on Dec. 3. Each award is selected by a special committee made up of experts in the field and LEH staff and board members.
Austin, along with the other award recipients, will be highlighted in the spring issue of 64 Parishes magazine, published by the LEH, and they will be recognized during the Bright Lights Awards ceremony once public health conditions allow for safely gathering.
Now in their 36th year, the LEH Humanities Awards offer a collective opportunity to celebrate all the humanities have to offer and honor those who have made great contributions to the understanding of Louisiana’s history and culture.