Saturday, October 1, 2016

State Book Awards

Each year, I get excited when the new reading lists for the Arkansas state book awards is revealed. Arkansas has three state book awards:  Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Award (K-3rd), Charlie May Simon Book Award (4th-6th), and Arkansas Teen Book Award (7th-12th). For a description of each award, reading lists, and previous state book award winners, go to the following website and click on the links for each award.

Aquiring the Books
Since I am a K-6th teacher librarian, my students participate in voting for the Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Award and the Charlie May Simon Book Award. I order the books in the spring as soon as the new reading lists are released. This allows the library to have the books available when the new school year begins in the fall, and the students are able to read the books throughout the entire school year. I usually receive my first overview of the books at a state conference, Arkansas Association of Instructional Media.  (AAIM)

Introducing the Books
Early in the school year, I introduce the students to each of the titles to try to spark an interest in reading the new books. Usually, the presenters at AAIM create a slide show with a brief description of each book. I use the slide show when presenting the books to my students, and I usually add links to book trailers on the slides if the books have one. It is much more interesting to show the book trailers than to just talk about the books.  Fortunately, I was able to find book trailers for the majority of all of the books this year.

For the Charlie May Simon Award books (which are mainly chapter books), I do not place them on the shelf until I have presented the books to all students. In the past, I would have them on the shelf when I presented to my first group of students. Then all of the books would be gone by the time that group left the library, leaving none available for the other students who would come later.

Since they are picture books, I usually read all of the Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Award books to the students when they come to their library classes throughout the school year. I do not place the books on the shelf until I read them to the students. I want the books to be brand new to the students when I read them. In the past, I would put the books on the shelf, and some of them would be checked out the weeks that I wanted to read them.  Unfortunately, sometimes a book would get lost before I could read it.

Displaying the Books
To make the books more easily accessible to the students, I place them on display shelves---one for each book award. Keeping the books on the display shelves allows the students to immediately see what books are available. I have pictures of the books taped on the display shelves. If the book is checked out, students are able to see the picture which is another indicator that the book they may be wanting to read is checked out. On top of each of the display shelves, I usually place the winning books and the runner-up books on the very top so that students will know which books were the award winners from the previous school year. This also allows them the opportunity to read the winning books again.

Reading the Books
Last year when I read the Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Award books, I wanted to find a way to make the books more memorable for the students---especially the younger students. Since there are several of the books to read, I have to read one or two of the books each month to get them all read before the students vote on their favorite book in late April.  For some of the books, I dressed as the main character. We would do art activities with a few of the books. For a couple of the titles, I created the setting of the book for the students to enter as they came to the library. Doing these activities not only helped the students to remember the books, but it also built excitement. I had students who would come to the library to check out books during library free flow time, and they would already be asking me, "What are we doing in the library next week?' I would tell them that they would have to wait and see!  I dressed in character so much that the students began to expect to see me in character when they came to the library. One week when I was wearing normal clothes (a leather jacket and my boots), a student complemented me on my outfit. Another student said, "I know why she is wearing that. She is dressed as the character in the book we are reading this week!" I loved to see the anticipation from the students wondering what we were going to be doing in the library or who I was going to be that week. In future posts, I will talk about some of these book reading adventures.
I dressed as librarian, Anne Carroll Moore, when I read "Miss Moore Thought Otherwise".

Since the books on the Charlie May Simon Award list are mainly chapter books, the students read these independently or can have them read aloud. Because I see students once a week for library class, it is impossible for me to read the books aloud to them. This year, I have made an effort to better inform the teachers of the reading list so that they might find ways to incorporate some of the books into their lessons or to use them as a read aloud. Many teacher librarians say they struggle to get the students to read the books independently each year. I am hoping that adding the book trailers in the introductory presentation has sparked more interest in having the students read. After each presentation, I did have more students wanting to immediately check out the books. Some of the teachers are also offering incentives for the students to read the books. I want students to read books because they want to read them; but for some students, it might take an incentive just to get the book in their hands. Hopefully, once they begin reading the book, they will be hooked. There are a lot of great titles on the reading list.

Voting on the Books
The last week of April is when the students usually vote. I use this time to teach about the voting process to students. We talk about when adults vote, they have to make one choice and cannot choose more than one person. I tell the students, they may like more than one book, but they really have to think about each book and which one was the most interesting and meaningful to them. We also talk about voting being a private matter and that they should not share who they voted for when they have made their selection. I also do this to not sway the vote because some students will vote on the book that looks like it is winning because they want to vote for the winning book. This happened my first year of letting students vote. I had the books sitting on the table with cups in front of them. The students had to go place a bingo chip into the cup of their selected book. When students began to see which cup had the most chips, they wanted to vote for that book.

To also make it more realistic to actual voting and to avoid what I described above, I set up two voting booths for the students to cast their votes. I have two pieces of cardboard that fold on the sides to stand up on the table. As the students vote two at a time, the cardboard pieces give them privacy so that no one knows which book they are selecting. I even tell the students to not tell me which book they have chosen. I do stand close by to answer questions about the voting process, but I try to not look at their selection.
Voting Booths

Students vote privately for their favorite book.

Previously, the students had voted in the booth by circling the picture of their favorite book, but this past school year, I had the students to vote on Chromebooks using a Google Form. The Google Form was much better than the paper format because it immediately tallied the results and created various graphs representing the results. It was also easier for me to tally the results that I have to send in at the state level where the winner for each award is determined.
Students vote using a Google Form.

For younger students, I recommend having pictures of the books for them to see since they cannot always read the titles. When I moved to using the Google Form, I could not figure out a way to get the pictures in the correct place for the students to make their selection. To resolve the problem. I displayed the book covers on the wall with a sticky note number attached to them. On the Google Form, I numbered each title with the corresponding number on the covers. The students had to look at the book covers, find their favorite book, identify the number, and then find that number on the Google Form.

Revealing the Results
The week after we vote, I reveal the results to the students by using the graphs created from the Google Form.  This is a great way to bring math into the library lesson. First, we look at the results for the class that I have in the library at that time. Next, we look at the grade level outcomes. The last graph we view is the one with the results for the entire school. Usually before summer vacation, we learn the state voting results where the winning book and runner-up has been determined.

Final Thoughts
Most states have book awards that are selected by students. If your state does not, you should advocate to get one started. This is a great way to give students a voice on the books they enjoy reading. Look at the reading lists from other states, and see if any of the same books are on their lists. Then find teacher librarians from other schools to connect your students through Google Hangouts or Skype because you could do a shared reading. Through reading these outstanding books, my hope is that students will begin to find that reading is a wonderful, lifetime adventure!

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