Black Eyed Susan books promote new reads


Photo by Rebecca Dean

WCHS sophomore Aida Sadjadpour browses through a packet with a list of BES nominees at the media center during lunch.

By Rebecca Dean, Staff Writer

One of the hardest parts of reading is getting started. Picking out a book to read can be overwhelming for many. Luckily, the WCHS media center has a selection of specially chosen books students can read and nominate for the Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award (BES).

The BES program begins when members of the Maryland Association of School Librarians(MASL) meet and read a series of potential book nominees. Then, they nominate 10 books for that school year’s BES Awards. The best part is that the students get to vote on what books will be awarded.

“What I love about the Black-Eyed Susan is that it’s the only award that I know that students get to decide what’s the best book for them, for teenagers,” Media Specialist Paige Pagley said. “All the other awards are where adults say what’s the best book, this [is] you guys voting.”

Besides just enjoying the BES books, students also have the opportunity to celebrate these awards with a party. If students read three BES nominees and fill out a short review for each of them, they get to attend the annual voting party towards the end of the year.

“We like to celebrate readers, we try to make the Black-Eyed Susan voting a time to celebrate, it’s a time where students get to use their voice,” Pagley said. “We like to celebrate that, we have always been fortunate enough to have pizza, and prizes, and just a little bit of fun. We try to make it just a really fun day because our student readers deserve to be celebrated.”

Although many don’t know this, a lot of BES nominees are some of the most popular books at the time. For example, “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” were BES winners. Currently, “The Inheritance Games,” a popular book among students due to its prevalence on social media, is a nominee.

“My favorite book I’ve read so far for BES is ‘The Inheritance Games,’ which is about a girl who surprisingly receives a huge inheritance from a dead philanthropist she doesn’t know,” WCHS sophomore Aida Sadjadpour said. “She spends the rest of the book investigating why. I enjoyed this book because it was suspenseful, I didn’t know what was coming.”

Even though the BES awards have existed since 1992, COVID-19 unfortunately disrupted them. With schools closed for a whole school year, it became impossible for librarians to host these award ceremonies. Even in 2023, the BES awards are still suffering from the long-term effects of COVID-19.

“The number of students we have reading our Black-Eyed Susan books aren’t as robust as they were pre-COVID, but we are getting back to that number,” Pagley said. “So probably next year, we’ll be back to those numbers. Like with anything, you kind of have to build back up.”

The librarians are working hard to do just this. This year, they have put up a big display at the front of the library advertising BES nominees to help encourage students to start reading. Not only that, but they have updated the WCHS website to make a list of nominees and their synopses easy to find.

“I would say to anyone interested in participating that they should come into the media center and grab a book, we’re happy to show you where you need to go, where our Black-Eyed Susan books are,” Pagley said. “Come on in, we’re happy to have you.”