Monday, May 4, 2009

California Young Reader Medal

I've heard that authors and illustrators particularly value their Young Reader awards because it proves that kids - the intended readers! - really like their books. The Big Awards are fabulously prestigious - and extremely meaningful - but when you come right down to it, they're all judged by a bunch of grown-ups. Well-read, thoughtful, intelligent, sensitive, book-loving grown-ups - but they aren't kids any longer, not by a long shot!

The California Young Reader Medal is given to the authors (and illustrators, if applicable) of the winning book in five age categories - primary, intermediate, middle school/jr. high, high school, and picture books for older readers. Here are the kid-voted latest winners, just announced on Friday, May 1.

I was on the CYRM committee back in the 90s, as a representative of California Library Association (the CYRM committee is composed of members of four different organizations -
California Association of Teachers of English (CATE)
California Library Association (CLA)
California Reading Association (CRA)
California School Library Association (CSLA)
My term lasted 3 years, which makes sense when you consider all the elements of this award.

1. Gather book nominations in all 5 categories from kids all over California. This means communicating with (and begging and cajoling) hundreds of teachers and librarians to pick their students' and patrons' brains. During my term, we didn't get nearly as many actual kid-generated nominations as we wanted, and so we committee members did throw in our own suggestions, trying to base them on what the kids in our communities were actually reading. Nominations are due April 1, for consideration for the following year.

2. Go through the lists of nominated titles to make sure they match the criteria, were not previous winners or nominees, and to sort them into their age categories.

3. Read ALL the nominated titles! Yes, all of them, from primary through YA. And mind you, we weren't getting these from publishers like other award committees do - we had to check 'em out from the library and read 'em really fast.

4. Vote on the panel of nominees for each age category. Much fun discussion, much shuffling through 3x5 cards, much voting and re-voting.

5. Announce the nominees! Here is the current slate, announced Feb. 1. Kids have until April 1 of the following year (2010 for this slate) to read and vote on them.

6. Get the word out to teachers, librarians, and other interested folks all over the state.

7. Design a resource book chock-full of ideas for adults to promote these books with kids - crafts, reader's theater, related books, curriculum connections, and much much more.

8. Plan, with the other two members of your organization, the award celebration for the author (and illustrator, if it's a picture book) of the book that won for whatever category has rotated to your organization this year. The celebration is held at each organization's annual conference and usually features (at least at CLA) a meal, a speech and book signing by the author, and of course a pitch for promoting the CYRM books in libraries and schools.

While I was a Children's Librarian in various branch libraries, I promoted the program in various ways - by telling teachers all about it and referring them to the website, by putting up displays with ballot boxes in my children's area and providing multiple copies of all the nominated primary and intermediate books, by reading the nominated primary titles aloud to classes (and then having them vote right then and there) and by building book discussion clubs around the intermediate titles.

Kids were excited by the idea that it was only kids who were allowed to vote, and that the winner of the medal got a big fancy sticker on his or her book. It's empowering for kids to know that their votes make a difference - knowledge that will hopefully keep them voting their entire lives. If you have a Young Reader Medal in your state (and I think most do), then be sure to let kids and adults know about it.

1 comment:

  1. I was fascinated by your behind-the-scenes glimpse of what goes on with awards. Even though I am an adult who reads and comments on children's books, the most authentic feedback definitely comes from kids, and I think it's wonderful we have awards like this.