In 1936 Fiorello H. La Guardia, the mayor of New York, established the Committee for the Selection of Suitable Books for Children in the Courts after local newspapers published criticism of Jacob Panken, one of his judicial appointments to the Domestic Relations Court. Justice Panken had begun to assign books for reading and reporting rather than detention as a method of rehabilitation, and the papers faulted his choice of reading material. Mayor La Guardia asked Rebecca Rankin, the director of the Municipal Reference Library, to serve as the committee's secretary and act with his authority to direct and supervise its work. Rankin oversaw the publication, An Invitation to Read: The Use of the Book in Child Guidance by F.H. La Guardia. The booklet contained a list of annotated titles grouped for boys and girls of different ages and reading levels. The list of books compiled for judges in the Children's Court contained suggestions for their use in addressing the problems of juvenile delinquency through reading. An Invitation to Read went on sale in January 1938 and generated nationwide interest. The committee updated the booklist in 1941 and renewed its efforts to place collections in the courts and hire librarians to guide the selection of reading material, which proved futile without the full support of the mayor.

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