Saturday, July 1, 2017

Idaho Kids Vote Book Award year two

One of my students, Hattie, created the logo
Last summer at this time, was still a week away from becoming a registered domain name. I wanted to get my kids talking and sharing about the books they read and reading more complex books. The idea of having a statewide book award had been bouncing around in my head since I saw displays for Oregon Battle of the Books and ORCA (Oregon Reader's Choice Awards) at Powell's books in Portland. That led to a flurry of activity for me that started in early July as I built the aforementioned website and began reaching out to others to make the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award a reality.
One of the inspiring displays

The premise of the award was simple. Teachers would nominate outstanding middle grade books that had been published in the last few years. They would then make these books available in their classrooms and encourage students to read about them. Kids would naturally talk about the books, but teachers could set up blogs and arrange connections with other participating classrooms to get the conversations flowing beyond classroom walls. Finally, in April, kids who read two or more of the books would vote to choose a winner.

With one year of the award completed, it's time to reflect and start thinking about the next one. Things went well in my classroom. Using my classroom budget and donations, I was able to get three copies of most of the books. There was buzz around them throughout the school year (especially the winning book). Although students talked about the books, not many chose to write about them when they created blog posts.

My students contributed one-sentence review blurbs to this bulletin board.
From the feedback I received, things did not go quite as well in the other 21 classes that signed up to participate. Few teachers were able to devote funds to buy all eight books. Others said their administration and district policies were roadblocks to connecting with other classrooms outside their district. Still, four classes contributed votes for the winner and suggestions for this year's award.

In the next few weeks I'll be ramping up for the second year of the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award. I'm presenting about it (and classroom connection strategies) at the P20 Conference at College of Southern Idaho. I'm also reading possible nominees for the award and hope to publish some book reviews here. Of course, there are some questions I still need to answer: How can we get nominated books into classrooms? What could remove some of the barriers to connecting classrooms? Is there a better way to make this accessible to students?

That's a lot to think about while I also catch up on household projects, work at my summer job, and take advantage of some extra family time I don't get during the school year. If you have ideas to help this succeed, please share. And I'll keep you updated as I continue to experiment and refine...