The Idaho Kids Vote Book Award has two goals: encouraging kids to read high-quality children's literature and giving them an outlet to discuss the books they read. I'll be using this space to post ideas that will help make your students' Idaho Kids Vote Book Award experience a success.
2022 Authors Take Notice
Over the last few weeks, we have been sharing this year's nominations on our Twitter account, and authors are responding!
Twitter can be an excellent resource for your students to connect with authors. As you can see in Prisoner 88 author Leah Pileggi's tweet below, she is happy to engage with those reading the book! Many of the other authors will answer questions or respond to short reviews sent via Twitter.
If you want to create a classroom Twitter account, please check your district's policy. My classroom has tweeted from the @alpBryan account for a few years and we have been able to interact with classes all around the world by participating in polls and exchanging questions. We have also communicated with many authors, scientists, and even an astronaut on the International Space Station!
Free resources for 2021 Books
If you are looking to do more with this year's books than providing them for student-selected reading, you will be glad to know that there are some amazing free resources for most of our titles. You will find these listed halfway down the 2021 Nominees page.
The 2021 Resources video highlights three of my favorite resources available this year: writing lessons for The Season of Styx Malone, videos and a printable activity for Hidden Figures, and a Hyperdoc for Front Desk. These would work well if you use one or more of the books as a read aloud or have students read them together in literature circles or whole class instruction.
If you know of additional free resources for any of this year's books, please use our contact form and let us know so they can be added to the site, too!
The Idaho Kids Vote Book Award has a brand new website for the 2020 - 2021 school year! Thank you to Sarah Windisch, my talented wife, for designing the new online experience. Hopefully the new layout will make it easier to find the resources your classroom needs to participate.
I am very excited about our new current nominees page that includes links to free teaching resources for most of the books and YouTube book trailers for each of this year's titles. There is also a searchable grid of previous Idaho Kids Vote Book Award titles and a Helpful Documents section where you can download printable resources to promote and manage book checkout for your classroom library.
Feel free to explore on your own or watch the YouTube Website Tour to learn more!
The Blurb Board
One of the big goals of the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award is to get students talking about high-quality books. Unfortunately there isn't always time to have those discussions as soon as someone finishes a book and wants to talk. Those conversations are a big part of what get kids excited about reading, so we need to make space for those conversations somewhere.
My solution has been to create a "blurb board." I put printouts of all the nominated books' covers on a bulletin board near my classroom library. I also set out a stapler and a bin full of halved index cards. When someone finishes a book, they can write a one or two sentence recommendation of the book and place it on the board. It gives students a chance to share their thoughts and it creates a buzz around the books. It keeps the books on kids' minds even when we aren't able to devote time to them in class.
This year I've decided to expand the blurb board beyond my school walls with padlet. Readers from across Idaho can share their thoughts there. Participating classes will get the link in their e-mail updates. If you are signed up and missed it, use our contact form and ask for it.
Giving students a real audience for their writing is a powerful thing. Since my students began writing book reviews on our classroom blog two years ago, they have received feedback from commenters around the world. It's a cause for celebration each time a student notices a new comment from out of the area. Knowing that anyone could be out there reading their work inspires my students to do their best and reach for a higher level of excellence with each post.
Seeing the power of student blogging inspired me to begin the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award. I hope to bring the transformative power of connecting to more students in Idaho, and give them the chance to see the great thinking that goes on in schools all over our state.
In 2017 I began using Write About as my digital writing platform. I liked the way that it used interest groups to build connections and allowed teachers to create and share writing ideas and prompts. One of the first things I did after joining was create a group for the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award. Our project caught the eye of one of their founders, Brad Wilson, and he has shared ideas and support over the last few years.
As our project builds I hope that your students will blog their reflections and reviews of the nominated books. If you have a class blog featuring the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award let me know in the comments and I'll build a blogroll on this site. If you don't have a class blog but have students writing reviews and reflections, let me know through our contact form and we'll work together to find a way we can feature their work.
Hopefully we'll be able to share more terrific student work soon!
My classroom library checkout system has always been pretty loose. I've come to terms with the fact that a few books go missing each year, but I'd rather have that happen than create barriers that keep kids from checking out my books.
My copies of the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award books are a little different. Although I only have two copies of each book, I want to ensure that as many students as possible get to read them. My solution has been to create a binder with a checkout page for each of the books. I'm training my kids to write down their names and check the calendar above my bookshelf to give themselves a two-week checkout. If they need more time with a book, they can talk to me and get an additional two weeks. You can find one and two page versions of these checkout forms on the Helpful Documents page.
To further help us share these books, I'm emphasizing some further checkout guidelines. Students are encouraged to check out the Kids Vote Award books only when they are ready to read them. They shouldn't be checked out as an "I might read this next." book. I hope the two-week checkout will help with this, too. I'm also asking students to bring these books back immediately after finishing or abandoning them. If they want to re-read or come back to it, they can check it out again after other students have had the chance.
Do you have great ideas for managing these books in the classroom? Let me know and I'll share your ideas in a future post.
Kicking Things Off With Your Class
Now that we're two months into the school year and students are settled into routines, it's time to start getting kids excited about the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award.
I used an inquiry unit (available on the Helpful Documents page) with my 5th graders to get them thinking about choosing excellent books. The essential question for the unit is "How do we recognize great books?" The double meaning of recognize is intentional, because we started by exploring how book awards are determined and the criteria that different book awards use. From there, we tried to determine the difference between good and great books. Students looked at articles, engaged in personal reflection, and finally conducted a Socratic Seminar on the topic. Finally, students posted a short reflection on the topic to our Bryan Book Blog.
By the time we were done with our inquiry unit, students couldn't wait to get their hands on the nominated books and begin making up their own minds about which one deserves the first Idaho Kids Vote Book Award. Even though I don't have all of the books in my classroom library yet, kids are talking about the books and getting excited about which ones they will read first. I can't wait to see where they take this.
Stocking Your Library
Stock your library with multiple copies of as many nominated books as you can. When kids read the same book at the same time, spontaneous book conversations start happening. If your classroom budget doesn't support it, consider getting creative to fund it.
Many districts have started using Overdrive or other district-wide platforms to manage access to ebooks. You can request the books through that system or reach out to the person in charge of buying ebooks and ask to have the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award books included in the next batch your district purchases.
My school has had success putting up a "Giving Tree" during events when parents visit the school. The idea is to display tags (usually apple shaped) outside your classroom. Each tag has the name of an item you would like donated to your classroom. Asking for specific books is often successful for me; families buy the book, read it themselves, then donate it to the classroom.
Crowdfunding for classrooms is becoming increasingly popular. Both Donors Choose and PledgeCents are platforms built specifically for funding classroom needs. If you submit a project to one of those sites, make sure to highlight how the Idaho Book Award will give your students new opportunities to connect about the books they read.