Jan. 12, 2018

Happy New Year to everyone! January is not only the start of a new year in books, but it is also when the American Library Association (ALA) traditionally gives all of its Youth Media Awards for 2018.

This year, however, will be a little later than usual with the awards being released on Monday, Feb. 12. A live webcast of the event will be available and you can also follow it on Twitter at #alayma . More info can be found on the ALA web site, by clicking here.

The Youth Media Awards is a highly anticipated day for all librarians and book lovers. As a community of readers, we talk in person and via online communities throughout the year trying to anticipate which titles, authors and illustrators will be honored. Students across the U.S. enter into mock award selection programs in their schools and public libraries to be part of the excitement. 

The awards themselves are exciting, but of greater value is the lasting impact these awards have on the world of children’s literature. They help to increase the variety, diversity and depth of experiences available to readers across the reading diaspora. As teachers, parents and community members, these lists can be invaluable tools to help your students and children select titles that deepen their understanding and connections to the world around them. 

You may be familiar with some of the more visible awards, however, it is very important to know more! Each of the awards has extensive criteria, and each selection committee works throughout the year to ensure the titles they select epitomize the goals of each award.

For the sake of this blog, I will greatly simplify what each award focuses on in order to make them quickly accessible. A complete list of awards can be found in the ALA website link above.

Randolph Caldecott Medal: Awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

John Newbery Medal: Awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

Alex Awards: Given to 10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12-18. 

Michael L. Printz Award: Awarded to a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature.

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal: Honors the most distinguished informational book published in English in the preceding year for its significant contribution to children’s literature.

(Theodor Seuss) Geisel Award: Given annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) who have made the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature (known as beginning reader books published) in the U.S. during the preceding year.

Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults: Awarded to the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a November 1 through October 31 publishing year.

Schneider Family Book Award: Honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.


Stonewall Book Awards – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award:
Presented to English language books that have exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.

Coretta Scott King Book Awards: Recognizes outstanding books for young adults and children by African-American authors and illustrators that reflect the African-American experience. 

Pura Belpré Award: Presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

American Indian Youth Literature Award: Identifies and honors the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians.

Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature: Honors and recognizes individual work about Asian/Pacific Americans and their heritage, based on literary and artistic merit.

(Mildred L.) Batchelder Award: Presented to the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the U.S., and subsequently translated into English for publication in the U.S.

Awards are also given by other organizations. Here are a few I find very helpful. A complete list, and links to each of the many awards can be found here.

Middle East Book Award: Recognizes quality books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of the Middle East and its component societies and cultures. Books are judged on the authenticity of their portrayal of a Middle Eastern subject. For this award, the Middle East is defined as the Arab world, Iran, Israel, Turkey, and Afghanistan.

Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award: Honors authors and illustrators who create literature that depicts the Mexican American experience.

Américas Award: Given in recognition of U.S. works of fiction, poetry, folklore or selected non-fiction (from picture books to works for young adults) published in the previous year in English or Spanish that authentically and engagingly portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the U.S.

Jane Addams Children’s Book Award: Recognizes children’s books of literary and aesthetic excellence that effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community and equity for all people.

Children’s Africana Book Awards: Given annually for the best children’s and young adult books on Africa available for purchase in the U.S. 

Carter G. Woodson Book Awards: Given to the most distinguished social science books appropriate for young readers that depict ethnicity in the U.S. The purpose of this award is to encourage the writing, publishing and dissemination of outstanding social science books for young readers that treat topics related to ethnic minorities and relations sensitively and accurately.

Now that you have all this information, how can you use it?

  • Join online communities to discuss the awards such as Heavy Medal, Calling Caldecott or Some Day My Printz Will Come
  • Hold mock award meetings at your school or community group. My second-grade students are deeply into an inquiry about what makes a Caldecott winning book, and we are exploring possible winners for this year. The discussions have been wonderful! Horn Book and 100 Scope Notes are two sites that demonstrate how to host mock awards.

With older readers, you can create digital reading and responding communities using Goodreads and other digital platforms.

  • Create a 90-second Newbery Video! This is an annual event where you must create a video that tells the story of one of the Newbery Award winning books in 90 seconds! But act quickly if you want to do it this year as the deadline is Friday, January 12! 
  • Delve into the tremendous resources available on net to help you teach and learn about the awards and their authors/illustrators. 
  • Set personal reading goals. Choose awards you are not familiar with and read from them this year. Or choose titles from many lists and diversify your reading experiences.

Whatever you do, I hope that this new year is filled with reading!