Congratulations to all involved in the YMA Awards– writers, artists, publishers, committee members, and everyone it took to create this year’s canon of beautiful stories. Let us also remember the stories and creators that weren’t recognized and the stories yet to come. They matter. Awards are a huge honor, but they are also just awards and not a measure of a story’s worth or a creator’s talent.
This year, I was on the ALSC Notable Children’s Recordings Committee. What an honor it was. Training for a half marathon was a helpful activity to complete the over 1,000 listening hours each member was assigned this year!
So, what was it like to serve on this committee?
Before this year, I loved the experience of listening to audiobooks (and yes, listening to audiobooks is reading!) Over the course of the term, I learned about being a critical listener of both audiobooks and music. The committee has specific evaluation criteria, but here are some things to consider when listening:
- Is the narrator a good fit for the character(s)?
- Is the recording fully voiced (one narrator portraying a range of multiple characters) or does it use a full cast? Was the choice successful?
- What is the soundscape (music, sound effects, ambiance)?
- How is the volume balance? Are the technical elements crisp and controlled? Muddy?
- Does the pacing align with the tempo of the story’s atmosphere and action?
- Does the narrator use a full vocal range? Use sharp articulation, enunciation, diction?
- Is character voicing and energy consistent?
- Are emotions portrayed with nuance, avoiding overly sentimental or manufactured expressions or inflections?
- Does the recording engage the listener, and implement creativity?
One of the most important questions:
Is the recording culturally authentic? Is it inclusive and equitable? Meaning, does the performer avoid condescending vocal mannerisms, stereotypes, and style? If a dialect is used, is it accurate?
As a white woman, I recognize the system we live in, and that I have privilege and biases. Thorough research was required to evaluate recordings. Who is the performer? Are they from the same culture as the character? What other recordings have they done? Are pronunciations correct, according to trusted sources? Is the music credible, according to the culture?
Recording evaluation, like any evaluation, requires constant analysis of our own biases, being intentionally anti-racist, and having cultural humility.
Please check out our 2022 ALSC Notable Recording list here!
What they don’t tell you about committee work? You meet colleagues and friends. Thanks to the hard work of this committee, and to Jill Frasher for being an incredible chair!
Today’s guest blogger is Katie Clausen. Katie is the Early Literacy Services Manager at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, IL. Her specialties include: early literacy, children’s literature evaluation, play-based learning, and best storytime practices. She is excited to serve another term on the 2023 ALSC Notable Recordings committee. She’s been a member of ALA and ALSC since 2012, and her favorite book changes every day.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
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