NEW MILFORD — Sue Ford, head of the children’s department of New Milford Public Library, is known for her innovative programs to encourage children to read.

Ford joined the library part-time in 1980, before going full-time in 1982. She became the children’s librarian in 1987.

During that time, she’s held a pink party for “Pinkalicious,” a children’s book series about a girl who loves the color pink, and a contest involving shooting things into a mini toilet to celebrate “Captain Underpants,” a children’s series that focuses on two fourth graders in Ohio.

It’s these types of activities that made her this year’s recipient of the Faith Hektoen Award.

- Congratulations on winning the Faith Hektoen Award. How does it feel to be this year’s recipient?

I am so honored to have received this award. The Faith Hektoen Award is given annually by the Children’s Section of the Connecticut Library Association to recognize the efforts of an individual or group that has made an impact on library services to children in Connecticut at the local, regional, or state level. Developed in 1979, the award is named for Faith Hektoen, who served for over 20 years as the first State Consultant for Children’s Services. It is wonderful to be recognized by your peers.

- As the children’s librarian, most of your patrons are younger. What is the importance of having children use the libraries and start reading early?

It's true that our focus is on the children and their needs, but a lot of the patrons we work with are also the parents, teachers and caregivers of children who all want to provide the best experiences for the children in their lives. It is important to introduce children to the joys of being read to early because that leads to the children being better prepared to learn to read on their own. Early use of a library helps early literacy - positive interaction between the children and the people who love and care for them will lead to developing language skills and a large vocabulary, print and sound recognition, and a general love of the reading experience.

- How do you get children interested in reading?

You need to plant the seeds of enjoyment of reading. When children start to read on their own, it is important to let them have free choice in selecting what books and stories interest them. It is also important to continue reading aloud with them after they have started to read on their own- it still is a wonderful bonding experience for both children and their parents. I remember laughing so much with Matthew while reading "Homer Price" - the doughnut machine chapter is hilarious. Lainey and I enjoyed reading "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and others by Roald Dahl. Make sure you encourage kids to select some books that are easy for them to read, some that are right on their target level, as well as books that are a bit challenging, so that they feel very competent in their ability to read and decode books successfully. If they always feel like it is a chore, they may lose interest. Let them have fun! My staff and I are here to help you select the books that will make reading enjoyable for your children.

- Why did you decide to become a librarian?

I have always loved libraries and reading. I also love art , music, and theater. I have some talent in all of these areas. I also enjoy helping people. When I was trying to decide on a major when I was going to college, I thought about maybe being an art teacher, but decided that I could use all the skills I have more effectively as a children's librarian. I have never regretted that decision. I have been happy and blessed to have a job I love.

- What was your favorite book growing up and what is your favorite book now? Why?

Well, that is a really hard question for me to answer - I have so many books I love from my childhood. "Mary Poppins" by Travers..."Pippi Longstocking" by Astrid Lindgren..."The Ark" by Benary-Isbert..."The Borrowers" by Norton..."The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S.Lewis. I could go on and on. All of them hold a special place in my heart. As for now, I enjoy books by Jan Karon, cozy mysteries and fantasy books. And of course, I read lots and lots of children's books - I love Mo Willems and humorous picture books. Why can't I pick a favorite? There are too many wonderful books to limit myself to just one. Maybe my favorite will be the next one I read!

kkoerting@newstimes.com; 203-731-3345; @kkoerting