One of the most anticipated events at the ALA Midwinter Meeting is the announcement of the ALSC Youth Media Awards. This year’s recipients will be revealed during a press conference on Monday, February 12, during the conference in Denver. A spectrum of librarians and teachers shared how they plan to shine the spotlight on the newest batch of winners.
Lower school librarian
This year, I am trying something new with my second-grade students. We just started a mock Caldecott unit. In the past, I’ve done this as an after-school activity, but I decided to make it a part of library class with second graders. Later in the year, they do a unit in which they read Caldecott winners in reading class. I thought doing a mock Caldecott might give them some insight into how books actually win the medal, making their experience in reading class more fulfilling for them.
We discussed what the Caldecott Medal is for and how the real committee evaluates the books, and we have begun to read together our list of roughly 20 books (about two books per class). After reading each title, the students discuss the book’s strengths and weaknesses, working on listening and respectfully defending opinions that may be different from their peers’.
In February, we’ll invite the students’ parents and guardians in for an event. Students will introduce their guests to all of the books we’ve read, point out their favorites, and share with them why they find their choices distinguished. They’ll vote, and we’ll crown our mock winner(s).
I’m also hoping to invite our second graders to the library for a watch party on February 12 to see what books the committee selects and compare their choices to our results.
River Oaks Baptist School
We do celebrate the announcements of the ALA award books! We mainly focus on the Caldecott and Newbery, but we do print the other lists (Geisel, Coretta Scott King, Sibert, and Pura Belpré) and make sure we have a selection of the award-winning books. If we don’t have them already, we order them. We also make a display in conjunction with the announcements to highlight the winners.
For the Newbery and Caldecott, we have a couple of lessons. For one lesson, we will focus on the process of the selection, looking at which traits the committee focuses on to select a winner and exploring past winners. For another lesson, we will focus on the current winners, reading Caldecott winners and doing book talks for Newbery winners.
Three of my librarian colleagues and I are all doing a mock Caldecott with some of the books that have been talked about throughout the past few months. We spend several months reading blogs, tweets, Instagram posts, etc., and select six or seven of the titles that surface as possible winners. We love to use Visual Thinking Strategies to help students closely analyze the images in the books, and then in early February we’ll have our students vote on their favorites before waiting for the announcement of the actual winners. The year that The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat won the Caldecott, our students were absolutely thrilled, because that is the book they picked, too.
This is my fourth year doing the mock Caldecott, and with each year we continue to refine the process. This year, we’ve collectively previewed and selected books, but we’re not holding each other firm on using exactly the same list as someone else because we have differences in our student populations. We have plans to share results of our student vote for the books that we all collectively read, so that students can compare and contrast their results with each other.
We are still early in our process so at this point, my students have only been exposed to one book, which was A Greyhound, a Groundhog, and they loved it. The following titles are on my primary list for K–2, in no particular order: Wolf in the Snow, After the Fall, Mighty Moby, Blue Sky White Stars, The Book of Mistakes, and A Perfect Day. I’ll share the following titles with my older students (third and fourth grade): Dazzle Ships, Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters, After the Fall, Mighty Moby, and Blue Sky White Stars.
Natalie Sonnier Chustz
School library and media specialist
Ascension Episcopal School
Since this is my first year in the library, I have big plans to celebrate with the students. I have not done anything special in the past in my classrooms.
I shared with the students about the Caldecott Awards in October, when we read Creepy Carrots and Creepy Pair of Underwear. I mentioned it to them again when I shared my experiences from the AASL [American Association of School Librarians] National Conference, where I received the book After the Fall by Dan Santat.
We talked about the accomplishment of winning the Caldecott Medal and how this related to our own real-life experiences—soccer award, honor roll, etc. We had a really good discussion at all grade levels, first through fourth. Most of our students are illustrators and artists; therefore, we might do a mock Caldecott Award ceremony with some voting.
Every year, I scour the Caldecott prediction blog posts and bestseller lists to compile a list of about 10 books to use in my mock Caldecott unit with my students. We read each book and evaluate the illustrations, then we hold our own mock Caldecott vote and declare a winner. When I show my students the video of the official announcement, we cross our fingers that our favorites make the list and cheer and sigh as the honorees and award winner are announced.
Seventh-grade ELA teacher
Oregon Middle School
We do a mock Caldecott, and we also watch the awards. The kids get so excited.
Not many people know just how excited middle schoolers can get over the simple picture book, but the truth is, we are a picture book classroom. While some of my students, these giant seventh graders who show up every day, are at first confused when they enter our classroom, they quickly discover that picture books are not just for little kids, but instead are short stories waiting to connect with them.
Every January we come back from winter break, not quite ready to be back. On the very first day, the classroom is ready; shelves are lined with previous Caldecott winner and honor books, and I ask them if they have ever heard of this award, the Caldecott. Only a few have, and off we go.
For a week or more, as long as it takes us, we discuss which books should be given the honors this year. We dissect what the criteria mean. We argue with one another, fighting for those we feel deserve to be awarded. We lament those that really should be honored but probably won’t be. And then we vote.
We hold our results to our hearts until the day comes to watch where we can finally see if we agree or not with the judges. The cheers and disappointment that comes from the students every year never cease to amaze me. These kids care about their books.
And so, every year, we watch along with so many others, holding our breath, swearing each other to secrecy so that the next class won’t know until they watch the announcement. Until they, too, feel like they were a part of this illustrious event.