And the Award Goes to…

Book award season is upon us. I love this time of year. I’ve been following the award prediction lists for 2015 and making my own predictions with friends and colleagues. We make our predictions and then read more books and edit our lists. Then we read more books and our prediction lists change again. And again. And again.

We talk about past winners and debate over the books we liked, loved, and loathed. We mourn the books that deserved awards and never received them. We argue over books that should have been medal winners but were honors instead and vice-versa. It goes on and on.

In all of this we are celebrating something we share.

Books. Stories. We HEART books.

While the ALA is preparing for the Youth Media Award presentation at the beginning of February, I am preparing the Lower School students to vote for the Colorado Children’s Book Award (CCBA) at the end of February. Colorado children, with the help of teachers and librarians, select the nominated titles: 10 chapter books and 10 picture books. Then students across the state read those books and vote for their favorites. Votes are submitted to a state committee for tallying.   The winning books are announced at the end of April, along with a new list of nominated titles.

To vote, students need to read at least three books in each category. At our school, fourth and fifth graders vote on both chapter and picture books. Pre-K through third grade students vote for picture books. There are some third graders who also vote for chapter books but because the books are a bit more challenging, we don’t require that they read three of the nominated titles.

Our Lower School students take the CCBA very seriously. The incoming fifth graders read nominated chapter book titles as their summer reading every year. The fifth grade team and I select two books that are required reading and each student gets to choose a third book from the list. In addition, the teachers select another one as a class read aloud at the beginning of the year.

At the start of December (NOW!) I book talk the CCBA chapter books to the fourth graders. By starting in December, the students have a few months to read the minimum of three nominated books. The students put their name on waiting lists for the CCBA titles they are interested in reading. The waiting list moves quickly as students fly through these books, eager to get 3 or more read! To accommodate demand, we have two and sometimes three or four copies of each title. At the time of this posting, I’ve shared the books with two fourth grade classes and the CCBA frenzy is alive and kicking.

In early February I read the ten picture books to every grade in the Lower School. It takes two weeks, two meetings with each class, and by the end, I know every story by heart. While I read, I see student brains churning. They are comparing stories, illustrations, and characters. They are trying to decide which book will be The One to get their vote.

At the end of February, all the students cast their votes in a make shift voting booth (aka puppet theater) with printed ballots, golf pencils, a ballot box, and ‘I VOTED’ stickers. The Pre-K and Kindergarten students circle a picture of their favorite book on special ballots we provide for them.

The Lower School community looks forward to the Colorado Children’s Book Award season. The older kids love hearing the picture books in February since they don’t have picture book story times like they did when they were younger. All the students love voting in the voting booth. Students remember the books that have won in previous years and try to predict the current year’s winners. In past years, the fifth grade news team has been very creative in announcing the winning books at our monthly town meeting.

And, joy of joys, I overhear students debating the books they liked, loved, and loathed. They argue over the books that should have won and the ones that should never have won. Often times, they are celebrating the winners.

And so it goes.

How does your school community celebrate book award season?

5 thoughts on “And the Award Goes to…

  1. At The Gordon School, I work with fifth graders to read and vote for the annual Rhode Island Children’s Book Award. We have a similar process but, in March, we spend the whole morning with fifth graders from a local public school participating in the annual Rooster Games. Why Rooster, you ask? Because of the famous Rhode Island Red Rooster (surely you’ve heard of it?!). I create 9 different rounds that the kids move through at 15 minute intervals (they are on small mixed school teams). The rounds involve guessing and matching objects to books from the nominee list for the RICBA, matching authors, unscrambling titles, matching dialog, multiple choice trivia, etc. It is quite an endeavor, involving the whole fifth grade teaching team, spaces all around the school, and many parents who help run the rounds. It’s really fun and the kids LOVE it! By the end, I am usually really ready for a vacation but it’s totally worth it to have kids literally screaming with joy over books!

    • As a backyard chicken keeper, I LOVE the name of the Rhode Island Children’s Book Award! 🙂 And, what a creative way you celebrate all the nominated books with games. You’ve got me thinking…

    • Suzanne,
      I’d love to hear more about this! I’m hoping to expand our Bluebonnet program to 5th and 6th next year. This might be a fun way to include them, but in a different way than they were in 3rd/4th.


  2. Allison,
    I love the way that you create excitement in your school! We have something similar in Texas-The Texas Bluebonnet Award. The 20 books are voted on by 3-6th graders each January. We are building our program. Last year we had our first Blue Breakfast. Those students who had read 15/20 of the books were invited to a blue breakfast that contained blue foods and drinks. We had a blast! Our struggle is the content. They are usually 5 picture books and 15 chapter books. We are K-4, so sometimes those chapter books are just not appealing or age appropriate for our lower school students. I’m trying another technique this year as well. I’ve set up a blog for third and for fourth graders to discuss the books on The kids are really enjoying the process, but it is slow-going getting time to talk with them about the books, blogging, etc. in the midst of our annual research project with 4th grade. Love all your ideas on the voting process! We may have to add that piece next year!

  3. The blog is a great idea for the 3rd and 4th graders. It’s a good way to use technology in a productive way–to talk about books!

    I also like how you reward the students who read 15 of the 20 books. That might dissuade students from only reading the minimum number of books to be able to vote. I get some “So, I ONLY have to read 3 to vote?” and I’d like to encourage them to go beyond that. One thing I found is that making a little handout that the students can use to check off the books they’ve read creates a little excitement. They like to make check marks. Go figure!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *