Awards & Scholarships

Hosting a Mock Award Discussion with Kids

The end of the year is approaching. For me, that means skyrocketing speculation about the Youth Media Awards (YMAs), which include the Newbery, Caldecott. I love pouring over year-end best of lists and reading as many 2017 books as I can. Another reason I look forward to this time of year: I love a good mock award discussion. For this blog, I’ll focus on different ways to host a mock award with school-age kids (for more on the benefits of hosting a blog for your colleagues, check out Amanda Foulk’s stellar post on Guessing Geisel).

If you’ve never participated in a mock award, the basic idea is that several people read a list of pre-selected books, discuss how those books measure up to certain award criteria, and then vote for the winner of their mock award.

You might ask, why hold a mock discussion? How could my group possibly pick the winning title out of so many children’s book published each year? Here’s the thing, although the thrill of picking the same winner as the actual award committee is wonderful, the real value of a mock is in reading and discussing the books.

For kids, there are two major benefits. First, their exposure to newly published books is increased. Second, mock discussions give kids a chance to practice oral fluency, debate, and analytic skills.

There’s more than one way to host a mock and all of them have value. You’ll want to determine three things for your mock:

What award will you focus on?

  • The Caldecott and Geisel are popular because the books are (usually) shorter and faster to read.
  • The Newbery is often chosen by schools or book clubs, who have time to read and discuss longer books.
  • Both the Coretta Scott King and Pura Belpré are excellent mocks because they expose  kids to diverse books.
  • Explore the awesomeness of informational books by focusing on the Sibert.
  • The Schneider Family, Batchelder, and Odyssey are not generally done as often, but each provides a fantastic platform for exposure and discussion.

What books will you read and discuss?

Here are some things to consider as you put together your shortlist:

  • Number – How many books will you discuss? This will depend on how much time you have to read and discuss, as well as the format of your mock. 
  • Length – Is it realistic to expect kids to read the list in the timeline you’ve created? If you include a very long book, think about adding a very short one to your list to balance things out.
  • Availability – Are the books readily available at your library? How many copies do you have? Is there a long holds list?
  • Variety – Think about variety in terms of format, genre, artistic style, etc. You might consider a poetry collection for your mock Newbery, a graphic novel for your mock Caldecott, or a nonfiction title for your mock Geisel. This is an excellent opportunity for kids to try something outside their comfort zone, and variety often leads to richer discussion.
  • Picking Titles – Keeping an eye on new books as they come into your library is one of the best ways to begin compiling your mock book list. There are also a number of blogs that discuss titles through the lens of a particular award, including Calling Caldecott, Heavy Medal, and Guessing Geisel (full disclosure: I am a co-host of this last one). I also like to check Jen J’s blog for ideas.

What format will you use?

Here are some ideas to get you started. Remember to take into consideration your library and community when selecting your mock format. For instance, my library hosts a mock discussion for our metro-area colleagues with a specific time for face-to-face discussion. However, based on the demographics of my library, I’ve found a drop-in program/display hybrid to be more successful with customers.

Don’t forget to share the results of your discussions. The ALSC Blog is sharing results from Mock programs on a special Mock Results page. You can submit your results via this form.

Finally, think about how you’ll celebrate your mock winners, as well as the winners of the real YMAs. You might consider hosting a live streaming party to watch the YMA press announcement on February 12th at 8am MT, or host an afterschool event with snacks, party decorations, and the all important reveal of the winners.  

Amy Seto Forrester is a Children’s Librarian at the Denver Public Library, Denver, Colorado. She earned her MLS from Texas Woman’s University. An active ALSC member, Amy is currently serving on the School Age Programs and Services Committee. She has previous served on the Library Services to Special Populations Committee, as well as the 2016 Geisel Award Committee. She reviews for School Library Journal and the Horn Book Guide, and is the a co-host for Guessing Geisel

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