Children's Books

By Bedford, April Whatley | Childhood Education, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Children's Books


Bedford, April Whatley, Childhood Education


In my inaugural column as editor of "Books for Children," I begin by offering a discussion of resources and trends in the field of children's literature, coupled with reviews of outstanding children's books. I hope this column will energize, inspire, and support teachers in their endeavors to bring wonderful books into their classrooms. If you are interested in reviewing recently published children's books, please e-mail me at awhatley@uno.edu to request reviewer guidelines.

Beginning With the Best

Children's books that receive recognition for quality from various book award committees can be counted on as good choices for inclusion in elementary classrooms. The majority of teachers are likely familiar with the Newbery and Caldecott Awards, the "Academy Awards" of children's literature given annually by the American Library Association (ALA) to the author and illustrator, respectively, of the most distinguished contribution to American children's literature during the previous year. (The 2010 Newbery and Caldecott winners are both reviewed in this column.) However, a number of other awards--some recent, some in existence for decades--bestow accolades on a wide range of children's books. Teachers will want to become familiar with both the annual ALA Notable Children's Book List and the CCBC Choices, published by the Cooperative Children's Book Center from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

As elementary classrooms become increasingly diverse, teachers need to be continually on the lookout for books that will help students better understand themselves and the similarities and differences of others. Three awards given by the American Library Association help educators meet this goal. The Coretta Scott King Award has been presented annually since 1969 to an African American author and since 1979 to an African American illustrator whose books are outstanding reflections of the African American experience. The Pura Belpre Award, established in 1996, is presented every other year to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. One recent award created by ALA is the Schneider Family Book Award, given to an author or illustrator for an artistic portrayal of the disability experience in books for children. (Information about all children's book awards given by the American Library Association can be found on the organization's website at www. ala.org.)

Awards that celebrate specific cultures given by other groups besides ALA include the Sydney Taylor Book Award, recognizing the best in Jewish children's literature each year; the Tomas Rivera Award, established in 1995 by the College of Education at Texas State University-San Marcos to encourage authors, illustrators, and publishers of books that authentically reflect the lives of Mexican American children and young adults in the United States; and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, first awarded in 2004, for books of literary and artistic merit that honor Asian/ Pacific American culture.

While fiction remains the most common genre to be included in elementary classrooms, nonfiction for children has improved significantly in the past decade. The number of nonfiction works that include engaging features and innovative formats has increased tremendously, and two awards can help teachers locate the best of these books: the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award from ALA, and the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Nonfiction can be incorporated into instruction in virtually every content area. Teachers looking for outstanding books related specifically to science should peruse the annual list of Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, selected by a committee of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). …

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