Blogger Katie Salo

State Reading Lists & the Early Literacy Librarian

One of my favorite tools in my librarian toolbox are our state reading lists. Before I get into the reasons that the state reading lists are awesome, I’ll give you a quick overview.

Three shelves of state reading lists containing books with sign and handouts included on the shelves.
[A picture of our state reading lists nominees for 2018. Photo courtesy of the author.]

A Quick Overview

In Illinois, a committee made up of teachers, librarians, and educators chooses a list of twenty nominees. From those twenty nominees, kids and teens can read and then vote in February/March for the reader’s choice award. The book with the most votes then wins the Award for the year the voting took place.

Illinois has four lists:

Many other states have their own lists. Some are by grade and some are by subject. (Check out Texas Maverick Graphic Novel Lists!)

Why I Love State Reading Lists

First of all, most of our school districts use these as summer reading lists. Which is GREAT because we already buy additional copies of each of the books on the list and they’re already here for summer reading. Service to schools? Check!

They’re great to create programming around. Our library has hosted a caregiver/child reading club for all three younger lists, teachers from local schools have hosted STEM programs based on Monarch titles, and the Monarch books are some of my go-tos when I’m pulling books for school-age read-alouds.

State reading lists help me to provide a range of titles for readers. When a caregiver comes into the library and asks for a “third grade” book, I can direct them to the nominees shelf and talk through several different titles to gauge where their kiddo may be reading. In addition to recommending the nominees, I now have a better understanding of what other titles may work for this patron.

They force me to read outside of my comfort zones. I do my best to read many of the titles from each of the lists (although this year, me and a few of my co-workers are reading all EIGHTY books), and it’s a great way to pick up a title that I wouldn’t otherwise have. It also makes sure that I’m reading different age ranges and genres that I might not normally gravitate to. (Horror…eek!)

We label each of our nominees with a sticker, dated with the year, so that pages know where to shelve them. These stickers stay on for as long as we have the books, so patrons who are familiar with the state reading lists can use these identifiers while browsing the regular shelves to find books that are no longer nominees.

Of course, I’m a bit biased as I did serve on the Monarch Award committee for three years. But I do truly believe that the state reading lists are a great asset to librarians everywhere!

Does your state do any state reading lists? Feel free to link in the comments! And if your state *doesn’t* do any state reading lists, why not think about starting one?

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library


  1. Laura

    How can I find my state’s reading list? I googled Mississippi’s reading list and Mississippi’s state reading list but do not come up with one. If we do not have one, how would I go about starting that?

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      Hi Laura,

      I know that our state lists (well, three of them) are managed through our state school library association, AISLE. I would start by making contacts at the state level. Good luck!

  2. Vicki Kouchnerkavich

    There should be 1 place we could go to, to access all of such lists! My state of Michigan has the Mitten Award (anything not teen) and Thumbs Up Award (teen).

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      That is a great idea, Vicki!

    2. Rachel

      NoveList has most of them, if your library has a subscription.

      1. Katie Salo Post author

        Thanks, Rachel!

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