Every year, the Colorado Academy Lower School students spend two winter weeks in the Lower School Library reading the 10 picture books nominated for the Colorado Children’s Book Award. Students in Pre-K through Grade 5 discuss the 10 nominated books with their homeroom pals, friends in their grade level, their buddies, siblings, librarians, and even their teachers!
That’s because reading the 10 Colorado Children’s Book Award nominees is a celebrated community event. We share stories, we laugh, and together we talk about what makes a book great. What about the text, illustrations, characters, or storyline draws in the reader? What is that special “zing” that we feel when reading a really good book? Ultimately, after evaluating the writing style, illustrations, plot twists and turns, humor, weight of topics, and feelings a book can stir up in a reader, students vote on their favorite. I submit our winner to the State Library of Colorado, along with most other schools in the state, and then we have a state winner. Sometimes the CA winner is also the state winner, but sometimes they are not the same.
Last year’s winner, Can I Be Your Dog?, by Troy Cummings, inspired the students. The story is about a dog who needs a home. The dog writes a letter to every house on the block, explaining why he would be the perfect pet for them. Unfortunately, all of his letters receive negative responses. But much to the dog’s surprise, the perfect human was there all along, helping him find his way to a new home.
Students “oohed” and “aahed” during the reading of this story. The “zing” was multifaceted: the story was about a homeless dog (!), the letters that the dog wrote were undeniably sweet, and the resolution of the story brought the house down! The students experienced empathy, thinking about how they love their own pets, and through that love, they connected to this cute dog’s quest for a family and a home.
Why am I writing about all of this now? Because during our first two weeks back to school in 2021, the Lower School community will be reading the newly nominated picture books in our library classes. We will celebrate the new year by connecting with one another through books! Even while we are apart, learning from home, we will be together in story.
This year’s picture book nominees offer a variety of stories and characters and lots to love and laugh about: a bear, a wolf, an egg, a goose, a llama, a unicorn, a princess, a worm, a motorcycle ride, and a lesson in how to Be You! Which book will elicit that “zing” in our students? Who knows? The one thing we know for sure is that our community wins when we read together.