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Monday, February 8, 2016

And the winner is...Making sense of children's book awards

Last month the children’s book community held its early morning version of Oscar night. The American Library Association (ALA) announced its annual youth media award winners, with the glittering gold Newbery medal awarded to Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt de la Peña, and the gilded Caldecott medal to Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Thanks to these awards, these books will experience a big bump in exposure and find more readers than ever.

When it comes to deciding what books to share with the young readers in your life, there is so much to choose from! The process can be intimidating and confusing, even for folks who are experts in this area. But if you can become familiar with the players in this field, you’ll be able to find great titles and guide your young readers to the very best in children’s books.

So who really knows children's books?

Trust librarians
Newbery Award
Librarians are an excellent resource for finding any book. But they are particularly good at sniffing out the best ones and then spreading the word about them. The librarians of the American Library Association present the best-

Caldecott Award
known and most prestigious awards for children’s books. This includes the Newbery Medal, which is annually awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children, and the Caldecott Medal, which is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. 

The ALA also annually presents the following important, more focused awards:

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards, honoring outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. The author award winner this year was Rita William-Garcia for Gone Crazy in Alabama. The illustrator award went to Bryan Collier for Trombone Shorty.

The (Pura) Belpré Medal, honoring a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose works best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. The 2016 author award went to Margarita Engle for Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir. The illustrator award went to Rafael López for Drum Dream Girl.

The (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Medal, honoring the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States. This year's winner was Don’t Throw It to Mo!, written by David Adler and illustrated by Sam Ricks.

The (Robert F.) Sibert Informational Book Medal, honoring the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published. The award this year went to Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras, written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh.

The Schneider Family Book Awards, honoring an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. The Schneider award for last year went to A Boy and A Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin and Girls Like Us by Gail Giles for children's book, middle school and teen book, respectively. The 2016 award has not been given yet.

The current year's Newbery, Caldecott, Belpré, Sibert and Geisel Award and Honor books are included in the ALA’s Notable Children's Books list, which identifies the rest of the best of the best in children's books. The honor books are the "runners up" for the main award, and you'll know them by their silver or black stickers.

All of these award-winners are selected by committees of librarians who have spent an entire year reading as many books as they possibly can.

Trust kids
Librarians aren’t the only ones who can pick out great books. There are lots of book awards made each year by kids! Teachers and librarians often nominate the titles that kids ultimately choose from, but kids do get to voice their choice!

The Children’s Choice Book Awards is the only national book awards program where kids and teens select the winners.

Virginia Reader’s Choice is one of many U.S. Reader's Choice Awards by State that get kids reading, evaluating and voting for favorite books.

Trust your instincts
Take a look at lots of books. Spend some time in the children’s section of the library or bookstore and page through books with and without shiny stickers. Get a feel for what you like, but keep in mind that a book that received a shiny sticker back when you were a child may not have the same appeal to kids today.

And as you come across a great book, share it! What’s on your “Best of” (or even “Worst of) list? Can't you see the headline now “The Best Read-Aloud Books of 2016” by The Reading Connection?

Guest blog post by Belle of the Book, Rachael Walker.

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