BELLOWS FALLS — Samantha Maskell is proof you don't need a cape or X-ray vision to be a superhero.
The youth services librarian at Rockingham Free Public Library is among the five members of the inaugural group of Vermonters to be recognized as Early Childhood Superheroes for "going above and beyond to help young children reach their full potential." The recognition comes from Let's Grow Kids, a statewide public education campaign aiming to generate awareness of the importance of the earliest years in the lives of Vermont children.
Maskell told the Reformer she found out about the honor a few weeks ago, though she still doesn't know who nominated her.
"I was thrilled. It's really nice to be recognized. It was a validation that people appreciate what I'm doing at the library," she said.
Maskell, who lives in Bellows Falls, said she is responsible for many projects at RFPL. She said the fall session of the regular weekly storytime is set to start at the end of September and she also conducts parent- and caregiver-centered training on early literacy, social and emotional development and math and science.
RFPL Director Celina Houlne said she does not who nominated Maskell, but is glad someone did. "She is extremely creative and bright. She's just so resourceful. We're so fortunate to have her on our staff," Houlne said. "She's always reaching out to people in the community, especially the schools, the teachers, the librarians at the schools, to let them know what we have here and to bring children to the library and to bring our resources to schools.
"She does a lot of outreach to the children in our community," Houlne continued, adding that Maskell has been the youth services librarian for 15 years. "She is highly deserving of this (honor)."
Maskell has also put together the Windham County Parent Resource Calendar, which gives area organizations a place to display their information and news updates. The calendar can be seen at rockinghamlibrary.org and other websites. Anyone associated with an area organization can e-mail Maskell at email@example.com to get set up.
Maskell also said the library is hosting a family resource fair from 10 a.m. to noon on Sept. 25.
The selection of Early Childhood Superheroes followed a statewide call for nominations of unsung heroes among educators, child care professionals, parents, grandparents, volunteers, business people, policymakers, civic leaders, and clergy. From the nominations, Let's Grow Kids staff members selected from various regions of the state five Vermonters who have demonstrated a commitment to the success of children.
"It's fortunate for Vermont's children and Vermont's future that so many of our neighbors are dedicated to giving kids the opportunities they need to succeed in life," Let's Grow Kids Campaign Director Robyn Freedner-Maguire said in a statement. "The lack of affordable, quality options in child care and early learning in Vermont forces parents to make tough choices — so we want to celebrate the people who are working to make those choices a little easier."
The other four inaugural Early Childhood Superheroes are Dr. Jody Brakeley of Middlebury, Kathleen Fitzgerald of Williston, Matthew LeFluer of Alburgh, and Monica Stowell of Lyndonville.
Let's Grow Kids continues to accept nominations to join the ranks of Early Childhood Superheroes through an online nomination form: http://www.letsgrowkids.org/nominate-superhero.