Blogger Angela Reynolds

Taking Caldecott to High School

 In preparation for my year on the Caldecott Committee, I am immersing myself in picture books.  One thing I really wanted to do this year was hold a Mock Caldecott with youth. I just needed a willing teacher and a classroom to play with.  I happen to know the English teacher at the local high school, and one of the curriculum outcomes is “able to respond with critical awareness to various forms of the arts and be able to express themselves through the arts.”  Perfect fit.  All grade nines have English with this teacher, back-to-back classes, so I go over for a couple of hours. I’ll be going once a month through January, when we will do our Mock Caldecott before I head off to Philadelphia to see which book this year’s Caldecott Committee chooses.

  My first class was an introduction to the award, which some knew about, but most did pic books screennot. They had heard of Newbery, but not Caldecott. (Remember, I am in Canada. Not every teacher stresses the importance of these books.) So we talked about the award a bit, then I shared some information about style and media from my go-to website, Picturing Books. If you are not familiar with this website, block out some off-desk time and get yourself over there ASAP.  After we looked at the slides about media and style, I gave them a homework assignment. I left 33 books in the classroom, Caldecott winners and honors from a wide range of years. I created a chart for them to fill out for at least 5 of the books:  Is the medium appropriate? Is the style appropriate? Do the pictures enhance the story? Page turns- what do you notice? Overall design? Line: what do you notice?  Since I can’t make it to their class in October, they have over a month to delve into these books, and the teacher is allowing them to read these books during Silent Reading Time in class (that got some whoops from the boys in the class). They will even be graded on their picture book charts.

When I go back in November, I’ll do a Visual Literacy exercise with them–we’ll look closely at a painting or two, and really start discussing art (picked up a few tips in Chicago on how to do this!). I will also take a stack of 2014 Caldecott “possibles” and we will take some time to really look closely at them we will do the same in December, and then in January, we’ll hold a Mock Caldecott.

I’m pretty excited about this little experiment, and I think the class is, too. When I got back to my office, I had an email from the teacher saying they were digging in to the box of books I left there, and that some of them had already started filling in the charts. Most of these students are 13 and 14 years old, so they ARE still officially within the Caldecott age range. How fun that I get to hear what they think about and see in the books!


  1. Lisa Shaia

    I like this idea. I work with 7th and 8th grades, so I may steal it for next year…but how do you choose the books?

  2. Angela Reynolds

    Ah, how to choose the books. I keep a running list of books that I personally think will be possibles, and I also look to The Lists. Starred reviews, the Calling Caldecott blog –, and I also ask around for other libraries that are holding Mock Caldecotts — they are pretty generous in sharing the lists they have created! I also like to throw in a few duds just to mix it up and see what they say about them.

  3. Amanda F.

    Sounds like a wonderful experience! I love talking book awards with middle school readers.

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