Saturday, September 14, 2013

Newbery Books in the Classroom

I’ve always known about the Newbery award, even as a kid. I clearly remember looking at that circle of gold or silver on a book. In my ten-year-old mind, that meant the book was a “serious” book. The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High did not have those stickers. That being said, many important books from my childhood did.

Thanks to Charlotte and Wilber, I learned about friendship. With Jess I learned that your soul mate can be your best friend and that grief can be faced. Karana taught me the meaning of perseverance. Ramona allowed me to see myself in books, which led to my increased love affair with reading. And, as a child, Sarah Plain and Tall let me discover a favorite author at the age of eleven that would still be a favorite at the age of thirty-nine.

Those Newbery stickers led me to books I loved, debated, and wondered about. As a teacher, I have tried to teach my students about them. Sharing favorites, predicting winners. Last year my class cheered like their favorite rock star had entered the classroom when the beautiful The One and Only Ivan won. If you haven’t read it, or have not had the opportunity to share it with your students, I highly recommend it. Better yet, go read Donalyn Miller’s “review” on Nerdy Book Club today and then come back. It is that important. (HERE)

Newbery has been on my mind today. Later today or tomorrow, John Schu and Colby Sharp will post their final videos in the Newbery/Nerdbery Challenge. I’m sad that my Saturday videos will be coming to a close, but thrilled they finished their challenge. (I believe I still have four books left.) With Newbery and Ivan swirling around in my mind, I have been debating how to best prepare my students for the awards this January.

I’ve thought about holding a book club before or after school with a specific book to discuss at each meeting. I could select them based on books I feel have a strong chance at the Newbery and kids could attend if they’d read that book. I think that would be worthwhile, but I worry about having enough copies of each book. I also know that not every book will appeal to every child and I like to champion choice as much as possible.

So the idea I’m throwing around in my brain is creating a list of maybe twenty books I think are strong contenders for the Newbery this year. I would print that list off and any child that wanted to read one of those could choose a book, read it, and come to breakfast in my room on a certain day towards the end of each month. I could have one meeting in September, October, November, December, and January. We could share the book we read, tell why we feel it might be a strong pick for the award, and then get ideas from others in the group of what to read for the following month. And we can eat!

What do you guys think? Does that sound like a doable idea for fifth graders? AND, more importantly, what books do you think should go on the list? I have several in mind, but I’d love to hear what is something you love that you think could be in contention. I’ll share my list here once I create it.

And a final thank you to John and Colby for all the work they did in creating the Newbery Challenge. You two are fabulous champions of kid lit!