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?