Betsy at Fuse #8 suggested that we write about the reasons for each book on our list of Newbery Predictions. We thought that was a good idea, but we must remind you again that we are really not good at this! We just do it for the fun of having an excuse to read as many new children's books as possible!
We both read middle grade novels with the eye of a teacher. We are familiar with the Newbery criteria and love the anticipation of waiting for the winner to be announced. I consider my main job on the day of the ALA announcements to be to get as many of the winning books as possible to share with my students the next day.
This is part of the bigger picture of my teaching. I think it is hugely important for kids to be part of the world of reading outside of the classroom. Paying attention to new books, internet sites, movies-from-books, author gossip, awards etc. all help them to be part of the world of readers that has nothing to do with school. I think this is a critical part of my job--hooking them up to this world that I love so much! One that they can be part of for their entire lives. This Newbery/Caldecott piece is just one part of that. Inviting them to be part of a big day in the world of children's literature.
As a teacher, here is how I make decisions about books and questions I ask myself when reading a new book:
**Is this book so amazing, that I should read it aloud to my students? (Since in the course of the year, we only have time to read about 10 novels, the book has to be REALLY good to meet this criteria.)
**Will this appeal to most students in my classroom or is it one that will appeal to a certain group of kids with certain tastes as readers?
**Which books is this like? Are there other popular books that give me the same feeling when I read it?
**Am I really excited to bring this into the classroom or am dying to tell other teachers/friends about it?
**Is this book surprising in some way?
**How does this book compare to other books by the author? How does it add to his/her body of work? (I LOVE finding great books by new authors or books that change my view of an author completely!)
**Do I think about these characters long after I am finished with the book?
**Is it hard for me to move to another book when this book is finished because I don't want this one to be over yet?
**Do I find myself getting online to look for other books by this author right away?
**What do the reviews say? I always check the reviews. I know that I am reading with the eye of a teacher and not an expert in children's lit. So, I trust the reviews and blogs and read them carefully to see what others are saying about the title.
**I pay attention to any real-world issues in the book that I need to be aware of as a public school teacher. Is the issue written in an age-appropriate way? Is it presented to this age group in a way that will help them make sense of it or one that I see as too much for this age?
**Is there depth to this book that is accessible to my students? Is the theme one that students can understand from the book or one that is not really accessible to them in the writing?
**Can most of the students in my room read this book on their own? What will the challenges be for their independent reading? How can I support them in getting past these challenges if they choose to read it independently.
So, later this week, and before the Newbery Announcement on January 22, I'll share my thinking about a few of the books on my list. I just wanted to process what it is I think about when creating my list of Newbery Hopes.