September of this year saw the re-introduction of a popular program at my library: Newbery Visionaries!
The last, incredibly successful Newbery Visionaries program at our library was in 2010. With the lessons of the Bill Morris Seminar fresh in my mind, I thought 2014 would be a perfect time to reinstate this fun, enlightening book group.
Our mock-Newbery group was a registered program consisting of 12 4th-6th graders. Interest in the program went through the roof when we sent an eblast to our parent list enumerating the ways book discussions (and the critical thinking they encourage) enhanced Common Core skills. We met once a month for four months, and will have our final voting meeting next week. I selected the discussion books myself, mostly through reading Newbery prediction posts and stalking the pages of Heavy Medal. All told, the Visionaries read 16 potential Newbery contenders and logged 10 after-school hours of discussion, debates, and book evaluations. We ate a lot of pizzas, too!
We began our first meeting by translating the Newbery Medal Terms and Criteria into “plain English.” Participants took turns reading the criteria our loud, and then interpreted what they read for the group. I was surprised at the passion and debate that sprung up around the terms. Our kids were were very into the details: how and why a book was eligible, what was residency, publication dates, “distinguished,” etc. We had a long conversation about popularity vs quality that was especially impassioned. I left the library that evening on a cloud of love for books and the kids who read them.
The Visionaries will vote one week from today on their Newbery winner, which we will announce on our library website. I cannot wait to see what they will choose! Going into our final vote, the three highest rated books are The Night Gardener, Brown Girl Dreaming, and The Family Romanov.
The entire experience has been a joy to participate in, and I can’t wait to start it again next year. Do you have mock-award groups at your library? How do they work?