Book award season is upon us! I love to see what books will be chosen from the gigantic amount of titles published each year. I love seeing what the national and state committees pick, but I especially get excited for what my students will vote as there favorites each year. Growing book award programs and student choice award programs at any grade level can be challenging. Here are a few ways that I have promoted and grown my reading award program over time.
Books On Display
Each year I dedicate a display to only my state book award books. This makes it easy for students to know which books are on the list, and if we have any of the specific books they are looking for in at the moment. I create special spine labels each year for all of the award titles as well to differentiate them. During school library tours at the start of the school year I highlight this display and have kept the location the same for the last few years. This has dramatically cut down on student confusion over what books are on the list and if we have them available for checkout.
Collaboration With the Public Library
As a community connection initiative we partner with the teen librarian at our local public library to offer a once a monthly book club to promote the books on our state book award list each year. We plan the top 6 books that we think will resonate the most with our teen population. Our public library helps promote the event in their activities booklet and we promote it at our building level as well. We meet the first Tuesday of each month. Pizza, soda, and water are provided for participants and copies of the next month’s book are available for checkout.
Direct Connection To Voting
Sometimes the disconnect between reading award books and then actually voting is just a matter of time. Students today have fully scheduled lives inside and outside of the school day. To help with the barrier between a student reading and actually voting I make it a priority to directly connect to them. It takes time, and I’m sure there is a more efficient way out there, but I keep a running list of all the students who read an award book and how many they read. Once the month of voting begins I directly send emails to all of the students that qualify with the link to vote. The first year I did this I went from 0 votes the previous year, to 35 votes that year. It seemed that taking the extra time to email those eligible students directly was a big factor in their participation.
Award book season is a time to celebrate the love of a good book. A time to let your student voices and opinions be heard. Participating in state and national book awards can be a powerful motivational tool for all learners. Display, Collaborate, and Connect can all be ways to get students at all levels involved in outstanding books.
Author: Elizabeth Pelayo
Elizabeth Pelayo is the library media specialist at St. Charles East High School in St. Charles Illinois. She currently writes book reviews for School Library Journal. She is a member of the AASL AAUP Book Selection Committee. Also, she is a member of the nominations committee for the ISLMA Abraham Lincoln Book Award.