One Kid, One Vote: Young Readers' Choice Awards

One Kid, One Vote: Young Readers' Choice Awards

February is almost upon us, and that means it's the heart of election season. Oh, sure, there are the Presidential primaries, but I'm talking about the many regional Readers' Choice Book Awards that librarians are publicizing and children and teens are reading over the winter, to be voted on in the spring.

The Newbery and Caldecott Medals and their ALA-sponsored kin, announced last week, get the big international buzz, but these kid-chosen regional book prizes have a special place in my heart. Accolades from librarians, publishers, and academics are all very well, but what could be more meaningful to a children's author than a medal bestowed by kids themselves?

The premise behind readers' choice awards is simple: kids read from a slate of nominated books each year, and vote for their favorite title. The book that earns the most kids' votes gets the prize. For children's book authors whose books are up for these awards, the phrase "it's an honor just to be nominated" has real meaning, as school and public libraries stock up on multiple copies of each title on the ballot, so that kids can read as many nominees as possible before voting.

As a librarian at a Pre-K through 8th grade school for many years, I was a bit award-happy and promoted a bunch of them. My students liked having a say about which book wins, and some got very focused on reading as many of the nominees as possible. For myself, the need to promote the books spurred me to read titles I might otherwise have passed up--Saffy's Angel (the edition I first saw had a boring cover) and Runt (I'm not big on animal stories) are two that I'm sure I never would've picked up if I hadn't needed to talk them up  for the Young Readers Choice Award. I loved both books, and now recommend them all the time.

One award I'm fond of is the Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award for grades K-3. I used to try to read as many of the twenty nominees as possible to the primary-grade students; they always got excited about the prospect of helping to choose, and took their votes very seriously. And the winner almost always surprised me; a couple of years ago it was Arrowhawk, the true story of a wild hawk who survived for several weeks with a poacher's arrow stuck in his leg before being rescued by raptor specialists. I would've thought the book was too intense and even gory to appeal to many younger kids, but they were fascinated and voted it in at my school and all over Washington State.

Because my daughter went to a different school that also participated in the WCCPBA when she was in kindergarten and first grade, we both ended up being familiar with the same slate of books, and having discussions about which ones we liked best. I had to work hard last year not to influence her to like my own favorites—because, of course, she had a vote, but I didn't!

If you have a child in elementary or even secondary school, he or she may well be able to participate in a kids' or teen choice book award through his/her school or local public library. Check this link for a list of choice awards throughout the United   States.  A list of Canadian children's book awards, including readers' choice awards, is also available online through the Canadian Childrens' Book Centre.

January 23, 2008

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

The comments to this entry are closed.