Making your vote count

Book Week is fast approaching!

Over on the OZTL_Net listserv, a teacher-librarian asked for ideas for getting students more involved with the annual Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) awards. While there are other, student-voted, literary awards out there (eg. KOALA – Kids’ Own Australian Literature Awards), the CBCA “books of the year” are selected by adult judges, so sometimes the students can feel left out of the judging procedure.

It’s not difficult to lead discussion with students as to what are valuable criteria for judging children’s literature. Some categories are easier for students to judge, because they are within the intended audience of certain books. With guidance, Year 6 students can still make incisive observations about what makes a good picture book for younger students. You can also deconstruct the actual rules used by the CBCA judges.

This is the third year I’ve organised CBCA voting with students this way:

* K-2 (Early Stage 1; Stage 1) are judging Picture Books and Early Childhood Books

* Years 3-4 (Stage 2) are judging Picture Books and Information Books

* Years 5-6 (Stage 3) are judging Picture Books and Novels for Younger Readers.

I supply two empty bar graph grids per student, with the titles written at the base of each column. As we read and appreciate the books, in any order, they give points out of ten and colour their graphs. When all six bars of the graph are filled in, the highest columns are declared the winners and the students record their predictions. They find it very tricky if they’ve voted “ten out of ten” for two or more titles in a category. When Book Week arrives we fill in the actual winners beside their own choices.

At my previous schools, we’ve usually done a show-of-hands voting on a class column graph, but individual voting seems to enthuse the students even more. There’s usually a lot of clapping and cheering when I announce the winners at the school assembly in Book Week.

I recall really impressing one principal, in my first year as a teacher-librarian. She said, “I’ve never heard these children cheer for a book before…!” – and a few days later there was lots more money in my library budget.

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