Summer is a time for educators to relax and rejuvenate. It is also a time for professional development, which does not have to happen in a workshop or a classroom setting. Each summer I catch up on award-winning children’s books that I did not have time to read during the school year. The latest Newbery Award winner and honor books are always on my list. In addition, I look ahead to the next school year for books I will promote to young readers. Most states or regions have an awards program. For me, the Pacific Northwest Library Association’s Young Reader’s Choice Award provides an essential “to read” list. The website for the YRCA includes bookmarks and ballots.
The books are categorized into three divisions: junior, intermediate, and senior. Because of the age of my students, I read the junior and intermediate division nominees. I do book talks the first couple of weeks of school. Students giggle when I tell them, “This is a young reader’s choice award. It means you get to vote. I’m too old to qualify.” To be an eligible voter, a student must have read or heard one of the nominated books. Classroom teachers may choose to use the books as their read-aloud list. (They just need to finish the books before April 15 so students can get their votes in on time.)
In addition to empowering young readers to nominate and vote for their favorite books, knowing what children like to read and being able to create a bank of books to recommend year after year has been an invaluable tool for me. It’s something that summer reading can provide for us all.