My class this year helped me with my goal of reading the Newbery before it was announced at the ALA Midwinter meeting. They cheered me on, snagged my ARCs after I read them, and helped keep me motivated when my to-be-read pile became overwhelming. On Monday morning they came into the room asking, “Did Emma-Jean win?? Did they announce it? Was it a book you read??” (We read Emma-Jean aloud, and they loved her!). After I shared the winners with them, I also told them I had good news for all of them- one of their favorites had won the Caldecott Medal! Needless to say, everyone who had read “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” was thrilled beyond words. It was a great day!
On Monday, I also had the pleasure of introducing our latest project to them- our very own classroom awards! The students spent our reading workshop time reviewing the list of previous Newbery winners to see which ones they had previously read and enjoyed. As a class, we discussed the books to see if they had any special qualities in common. They had read and average of 6-8 books from the list. Needless to say, they were a bit impressed that I have read 86 of the winning titles/honor books!
We then reviewed the criteria and terms for the Newbery Medal. We read each rule carefully, noting the definitions of the phrases that we were not familiar with. The students were shocked that the rules were so open. They thought that it was much stricter and seemed to think only certain books could even be eligible for the award. It was certainly an eye-opening experience for them.
After reviewing the past winners and learning about the terms for the Newbery Medal, we began to brainstorm criteria for our own classroom award- the Mulbery! The students conferred with one another, sharing criteria as they brainstormed. Other students would then respond to the suggestions. Once we came to a consensus, the rule was added to the chart. After about 15 minutes of debate, we came up with the following criteria:
- books may be published in any year
- ARCs are eligible to win
- books must be published for ages 10-16 (they decided that they tend to read YA novels with a few MG thrown in)
- authors do not have to be American or maintain American residency
- fiction books must be at least 100 pgs. to be eligible
- both fiction and non-fiction books are eligible
- if necessary, the committee may designate categories, such as “Best Series”, “Best New Author”, etc.
- each student may nominate up to 3 titles
- nominations will close at the end of March
- in order to vote for the awards, you must have read a percentage of the books (TBD) or your vote will be discarded
- only my students are eligible to cast votes
Criteria may be added at a later date, should the class deem it necessary. However, they seem fairly content with the rules as they stand. We are all very excited about making our own little mark on the world of children’s literature. My students have very strong opinions about what makes a great kid’s book. Who am I to argue with them- they are the experts! They were shocked that some of their favorites, including Darren Shan’s “Cirque du Freak” series, Andrew Clements’ books, and “Tuck Everlasting” are not award-winners. It should be interesting to see what they choose at the end of the year. I will be sure to keep you all updated!