ALA Annual 2015

Meaning in the Medals

It is hard to imagine that Annual is right around the corner. This year in San Francisco is particularly interesting for those of us who love children’s books. The much anticipated awards banquet is always a highlight, of course, but we are taking a look at awards from a different lens. The ALSC preconference will feature the honor winners of the ALSC media awards. Often the silver medals of Newbery, Caldecott, Sibert, Geisel, etc. are enduring favorites that contribute to our cannon of children’s literature though not as widely known.

The best of children’s literature stands up to the same critical rigor as all great literature does. Plot, character, setting, conflict, metaphor, meaning, exquisite language and lasting insight are integral to those books we offer to our children and families again and again, year after year, generation after generation. We know too that context, the child reader’s context, will shape the place a piece of literature holds in their life. Context is created by the experiences that child reader has outside the story that help the story have lasting meaning and connection to the reader. Often the most important contextual piece of a story is the person in the child reader’s life who shared the book with them for the first time.

I was recently asked in an interview for the top three books every home library should have. I replied that parents and caregivers should fill their home libraries with their own favorite childhood books; books read aloud to them as children, the first book they read “on their own”, the first novel they read cover to cover without skipping any parts (mine was HARRIET THE SPY). These iconic books will take their place in their children’s lives magically for it is magic; to share a book you loved as a child with a child you love. It doesn’t get any better than that.

It is a different kind of magic to stand with our best of the best at the awards banquet and share their triumph, hear the speeches, learn where they were when they got “the call.” Yet even at the height of the accolades and the glamour, the true purpose of all our work is with us. We remember ourselves as children, absorbed in a book that changed our lives.

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