Awards & Scholarships

Get to know ALSC’s Book & Media Awards

One of the things librarians do best is promote great books and get them into the hands of the kids and families we work with. We know that access to good books can have an extraordinarily important impact on young people’s cognitive, emotional and social development. I believe that developing a familiarity with various children’s book awards represents one great way of building your book curation repertoire. If you know what the awards are for, you can do a better job of evaluating why specific books win specific awards, which will help you decide if and how you may best promote them to your community.

Keeping up with children’s literature awards takes a fair amount of effort because there are dozens, if not hundreds, of children’s book awards given out every year by many organizations. However, luckily for us, our association administers some of children’s literature’s most prestigious awards and I have found that closely following ALSC’s book and media awards and notables lists does wonders for my book curation skills. Following our awards is awesome because ALSC does a terrific job of celebrating its awardees and honorees every year and hearing about new and great books is so important. But the zenith, for me anyway, came with actually serving on an ALSC book award committee.

All ALSC members are eligible for award committee appointments. Each award has its own committee composition processes and it can take several years (and several tries) before your dream appointment is made. After four years serving on other committees, I was honored with a nomination to run for a spot on the 2016 Caldecott committee and was thrilled beyond words when I got elected to serve!

My Caldecott committee work involved countless reading sessions carefully examining all the eligible picture books that had arrived that week and writing notes about how each stacked up to the award’s criteria. After spending a full-year reading and evaluating picture books against the award’s criteria, the whole committee finally arrived in Boston to begin our deliberations. We eventually emerged from our meeting room, exhausted but exhilarated.  Our collective pride in presenting our winner, and our honor books, is what I will treasure most from that weekend, as well as the lifelong friendships I now enjoy with my committee members.  We share our pride and enthusiasm for “our” illustrators and “our” books, and to this day, we are all still totally thrilled when our winner’s and honorees’ books are discussed or displayed, or whenever any of their new books are published or given other awards.

As a children’s librarian, I believe my time on the Caldecott award committee made me a better librarian. I encourage anyone with a passion for great children’s literature and a willingness to spend a lot (actually, pretty much all) of your spare time on an ALSC book award jury, to learn more the ALSC award appointments processes and then login to ALA to fill out your volunteer form. Also, you can look into working on a non-ALSC children’s book jury (i.e., regional awards for your state or province) while you wait for your bucket list ALSC Award committee appointment to arrive!

Tess Prendergast is a Canadian children’s librarian and youth library services educator who is currently a member of the ALSC Membership Committee.

Serving on an ALSC Awards committee contributes to the ALSC competencies, notably:

IV Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials, especially:

  1. Demonstrates knowledge, management, use and appreciation of children’s literature, multimodal materials, digital media, and other materials that contribute to a diverse, current, and relevant children’s collection.
  2. Understands and applies criteria for evaluating the content, artistic merit, and cultural authenticity of children’s materials in all genres and formats.

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