During my time at the Gottesman Libraries, it has been a pleasure to explore the world of children’s and youth book awards. Many of the award winners are selected primarily by adults. I challenged myself to include an award selected by children in last year’s award winners’ and nominees’ collection development project and found that the Children’s Book Council hosts the Children’s and Teen Choice Book Awards. The winners are read and selected by the targeted age groups, and it’s interesting to see what kids pick versus what teachers, librarians, and adults in the publishing industry pick.
[image: Irma Black Seal from Bank Street College of Education]
My interest in award selection has only grown as I engage more with K-12 readers. One of my observation sites, a public elementary school, has a librarian who immerses her students in Empire State Information Fluency Continuum standards through making them judges in real award circuits. The Irma Black Award and the Cook Prize, both named after beloved teachers, are held every year by the Bank Street College of Education. Over 5,000 children participate worldwide. First and second grade students select between their favorite of four books on general topics, while third and fourth graders focus on STEM. The students at my observation site have been asked to assess each book while considering the following criteria:
Irma Black Award selections
- What do you think of the story overall?
- Who was your favorite character?
- How did the story make you feel?
- Who was the story written for?
- Where there parts you didn’t understand?
- Why do you think the author wrote the story?
- What do you think of the illustrations?
- Did the art match the story? Did the images match the mood? What do you think of the use of colors?
- Are the images and text well placed?
Cook Prize selections
- Was the story engaging?
- Did the author use interesting language?
- Was the information organized? Was the story clear?
- Is there additional information - glossary, back matter, bibliography - and is it well laid out/reliable?
- Many of the criteria for Irma Black books also apply: Do the illustrations match the story? Who was the story written for? Are the images and text well placed? Were there parts you didn't understand?
The students are given agency in their assessment of books on a ballot. Answering which book they liked best and giving details about why allows them to engage with texts critically. These ballots are submitted to the awards committee at Bank Street to be counted. The results will be presented on Thursday, May 14, and will be streamed online.
Building information literacy skills by understanding terms like authority and accuracy, especially for non-fiction texts, is crucial for young children. Studying awards as part of a curriculum in a school library - or making up our own awards - can help us get to know our students, and help them get to know how to navigate the vast world of media around them.
To learn about the winners of the awards, and for more insight on local students' takes on the titles, read my follow-up post here.