Sharing the Book Joy with the YMAs! by Melissa McBride
There are few things on this earth that I love more than books, my husband and cat count themselves among the lucky few (most days)! The feel, the smell, the joy of story; there is nothing more exciting than losing myself in a book for a few hours. This joy is something I strive to share with my students on a daily basis.
My students know my favorite days are the ones where the new boxes of books arrive, they know I go weak-kneed and lose basic speech at the sight of one of my favorite authors, and they know that the Youth Media Awards (YMAs) are more important to me than any other “award show” out there. In fact, the YMAs have come to be one of the most highly anticipated “events” in our school library!
It all started because of my attendance at the American Library Association’s Midwinter conference. Thanks to my supportive administration I have the opportunity to participate on various committees that enable me to attend. One of the highlights is attending the YMAs on that early Monday morning conference day! My students look forward to receiving various galley copies that I bring home for them; they just love being able to read a new book before anyone else. What they anticipate the most, upon my return back to school, is hearing about the excitement surrounding the awards announcements. They love my stories about the cheers and reactions from all of the fellow book lovers in attendance.
Because of their excitement, I have been able to create units of study centered around the Caldecott and Newbery Medals. This year we began our “awards season” in November! While we do talk about many of the awards given that day, we mostly focus on the Caldecott Medal (K-3) and the Newbery Medal (4-6). I only see my students every six days, so it takes some time to get through the units. We spend the first few lessons looking at books that won the year prior, as well as a few of the favorites from earlier years. While we enjoy the titles, we discuss what the awards are, the criteria for evaluation and talk about what we like, and sometimes don’t like. The whole time we do this I build excitement by telling the students that they are going to learn to evaluate books just like the real committees! The remaining lessons (usually four to five) are spent reading the books that people are buzzing about as potential winners. The students put on their judging hats and debate the merits of each of the titles we have read. The discussions are always lively and entertaining! On the last day of class before the awards announcement, the students all vote for their winner and then we wait for the big day!
The awards are usually over by the time my first students arrive in the library so they don’t get to watch the live stream, but you can bet that EVERY class begs to watch the video once it is posted. It is so much fun to watch with them and see how excited they are. There are lots of drum rolls, clapping, cheering, and occasionally some groans when their “book” doesn’t win. The level of personal investment from these students is so amazing, some of them joke that I have made them “book nerds,” and they can’t wait to go to the YMA ceremony when they are older! The students’ interest in the winners never wanes, I still have 24 students on hold for The War that Saved My Life, with three copies and the audiobook circulating! I haven’t seen Rollergirl, Echo, Trombone Shorty or Last Stop on Market Street since they won. Circulation on all of the titles is up at the public library as well. In a K-6 building with less than 400 students I consider that a huge success.
I try to inspire my students to develop a love of reading from the moment they step foot into my classroom. Using the Caldecott and Newbery Medals to promote this love has become one of my favorite, and most rewarding, ways to do this. The students are exposed to great literature, learn how to evaluate and talk about books, and hopefully come away with a love for the books we shared.
Melissa McBride is an elementary school librarian on the North Fork of Long Island. She shares her home with her husband, cat, and more books than she knows what to do with. She enjoys spreading the book love throughout her school, with kids and adults alike! In her spare time, you will find her reading (of course!), paddleboarding or catching a local sporting event.