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A Word from Pat Scales

May: Awards Galore

May 01, 2014

By Pat Scales

Most schools have an Awards Day at the end of the school year, and some public libraries grant awards to children and teens that have been active in their programs.  And, later in the summer most public libraries recognize kids that have participated in their summer reading programs.  Since May marks the special celebration of Young Achievers Leaders of Tomorrow, it seems appropriate to have young readers focus on what it means to be a good leader, and how working hard in school leads to greater opportunities in the future.  This international and national recognition considers students in grades 5-11, and the focus includes: Positive Role Model; Success in a Variety of Areas; Good Citizenship; Competent Scholar. These criteria are often used for single awards granted by schools.  For example, there is usually a Good Citizenship Award; Outstanding Scholar in each grade; Top Scholar Award in the school; and Best All Around Student.  In addition to these awards, there are ones in the area of sports, art, music and drama, specific academic subject areas, perfect attendance, and there is usually An Outstanding Student Award that is based on multiple criteria.  There is a perfect opportunity here for school and public librarians to engage young readers in some “critical thinking” about the characters in the books that they read.

  • Begin by asking readers to name the awards granted in their school.  Start them off by suggesting such awards as Good Sportsmanship, Outstanding Science Students, etc.  How many different awards are granted? What are the criteria for selection?  Who makes the decision about the recipient?
  • Allow them to work in groups, and ask them to name criteria for a set of specific awards. (Each group may deal with three or four specific awards like Science or Math). Display the Awards and Criteria so that readers can refer to them as they read. Then have them think about books they have read, and decide in which school subject might the main character receive an award.  Such main characters may include:

Brendan in Brendan Buckley’s Universe by Sundee Frazier (ages 9-12)

Deza in The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis (ages 9-14)

Harriet Welsch in Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (ages 9-12)

Hollis Woods in Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff (ages 9-12)

Macey Clare in Burning Up by Caroline Cooney (ages 12-up)

Mena in Me, Evolution and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande (ages 12-up)

Zach in Road Rash by Mark Huntley Parsons (ages 14-up)

  • Talk about what it means to be a good citizen and serve the community.  Then have readers write a citation for an award called Best Citizen and Most Caring about the Community to present to a main character in a book.  Suggestions from Random House:

The boy in A Chance to Shine (picture book) by Steven Seskin

The young girl in Something Beautiful (picture book) by Sharon Dennis Wyeth & illus. by Chris Soentplet

Autumn in Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different by Kristin O’Donnell (ages 9-12)

Juli Baker in Flipped (ages 9-12)

 Nick and Marta in Scatby Carl Hiaasen (ages 9-12)

Leon in Pirates of the Retail Wasteland by Adam Selzer (ages 12-up)

Nina Ross in The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz (ages 12-up)

  • Discuss the definition of courage.  As a group develop the criteria for a Most Courageous Award.  Then grant the award to a main character in a novel.  Write a presentation speech that states all the reasons why the character is getting the award.  Suggestions from Random House include:

The boy in Fish by L.S. Matthews (ages 10-up)

Brother in Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry (ages 9-12)

Brian in The River by Gary Paulsen (ages 9-12)

Clare Silver in Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg (ages 9-12)

Ivy June Mosely in Faith Hope and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (ages 9-12)

Shabanu in The House of Djinn by Suzanne Fisher Staples (ages 12-up)

Armpit in Holes by Louis Sachar (ages 11-14)

Jerry Renault in The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (ages 14-up)

  • Finally, have readers pick a favorite character from a novel and create a new award to honor the character.  Introduce the award to the class or group, and then state why this award has been created for the character.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Brian in The Invisible Boy (picture book) by Trudy Ludwig & illus. by Patrice Barton

Rosie in Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine (easy to read) by Allison Wortche & illus. by Patrice Barton

August in Wonder (middle grade) by R. J. Palacio

George in Liar and Spy (middle grade) by Rebecca Stead

Janie in The Face on the Milk Carton (ages 12-up) by Caroline Cooney

Simone in A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life (ages 14-up) by Dana Reinhardt