I used the Read Aloud Handbook to choose books to read to my classes...and it directed me to the Newbery Medal winners. Those two sources made reading aloud to my students the most important part of my classroom teaching career.
It also became an important part of parenting. We read to our children...and, like Trelease says (quoting Becoming a Nation of Readers), "The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children." It worked. All three of our children are, like their parents, life-long readers.
I was seriously impressed when my son, Sam, was selected to be on the Newbery Selection Committee for this year. I blogged about it here and at my retirement dinner I announced it for everyone to hear. I suppose it seems a little much, but, to a teacher interested in children's literature, the Newbery Medal is like the Pulitzer Prize for Literature...or the Nobel Prize. It's the top of the heap. Getting on the selection committee is quite an honor (besides...as a parent it's my right and responsibility to brag about my kids!).
For the last 6-8 months Sam (a classroom teacher turned children's librarian) has been reading and writing. He's had to read every new children's book eligible for the medal and has written extensive notes and reviews so he could remember which he liked and why he liked them.
Today the medal was awarded. The information about all the awards in children's literature can be had at the ALA web site. I know Sam's glad that the pressure is off and he can go back to reading for fun again. It's been interesting hearing him talk about reading all the books. He hasn't been able to tell us anything about any of them. The committee rules are very strict -- no telling anyone anything about what you think about the books. Now that it's over, though, I'm hoping that he can direct me to the ones he thinks I might like.
Over the last few years I've included information on this blog about the importance of access to books on student achievement. I'm thankful to public libraries for providing that access...to librarians like Sam who help patrons find what they need, instill the magic of books in children, and help teachers do the same...and to the writers who continue to entertain, teach and capture us with their stories. This is what real education is, not competition, standardized tests, or scripted packages.
Sam, I'll see you this weekend...I'll expect a list of "books I think Dad would like..."
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