Each winter, the American Library Association gives awards for special books that were published during the previous year. Winners for 2015 were announced last week, and – as happens every year – there was excitement, chatter, and surprises!
Choosing the winners is a long process. Committees made up of professional librarians from all over the country invest thousands of hours reading the books and debating the merits of one title over another.
While kids are definitely authorities on choosing books kids like to read, these awards do have an important place in the world of children’s books. They certainly serve as benchmarks for quality. Most parents, children’s librarians and teachers agree that quality of artwork and writing in kids’ books matters a great deal. People gather lifelong impressions of story, information, artwork, book design, characters, and more from what they read in childhood – so some of it really should be of outstanding quality.
Secondly, the writers and illustrators of these books are leaders who innovate in new, creative directions for children’s books. For example, this year’s Robert F. Sibert Award (for informational books) is a stunning and creative presentation of how a thesaurus was created – not typically a riveting topic! Common Core has brought a tremendous need for excellent informational books, and this title shines a light on how interesting informational books should be.
Finally, these awards provide ready-made lists of books in some of the most often requested categories. Need a book about a young person with disabilities? Look to the Schneider Family Book Award list. What about a book that highlights the African American experience? The Coretta Scott King Awards list will fit the bill. Below is an alphabetical list of the book awards appropriate for preschool and elementary aged children.
Coretta Scott King Awards: African American experience
John Newbery Award: most distinguished contribution to children’s literature
Laura Ingalls Wilder Award: an author who has made a substantial contribution to children’s literature
Mildred L. Batchelder Award: a foreign book translated into English and published in the U.S.
Pura Belpre Award: Latino experience
Randolph Caldecott Award: distinguished artwork for picture book
Robert F. Sibert Award: informational book
Schneider Family Award: artistic depiction of youth with disability (includes teen titles)
Theodor Seuss Geisel Award: beginning reader