Jane Claes and Janet Hilbun have been doing research about state book awards and shared their findings with us.
Did you know that 49 states have a state book award? Mississippi is the only one that doesn’t and they are considering it.
Why are state book awards so important? They get kids to read and think critically about literature in order to make their selection. The book lists of nominees are also great collection development tools.
The Pacific Northwest Young Reader’s award is the oldest of the state book awards, first given in 1940. Only 11 of the awards were chosen exclusively (nominated and selected) by children. In most cases, the books are nominated by adults and children, then voted on by children.
Nomination criteria vary, but in most cases there is a publication date, whether or not the book is still in print, and the author is living. Some states say that books that have won a Newbery or Caldecott are not eligible.
Generally, students must read a certain number of books to vote and librarians handle the voting in school and public libraries.
The major difference between state and national book awards is that children participate in the selection of the winner.
Big recent winners are:
Eragon by Christopher Paolini – 21 awards
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer – 16 awards
Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo – 15 awards
In the past four years, the top 5 winners have all been considered fantasy or science fiction or magical realism and all of these winners have had movies in production.
It is interesting to note that the top authors who have won state book awards have never won a national book award, such as the Newbery or Caldecott. Some of these authors are Peg Kehret, Andrew Clements, and Dan Gutman.
There are 27 books about dogs that won 47 awards. Five books with the word “ghost” in the title won 11 awards and 16 series books won 21 awards. Ten sequels won 70 awards.
What does this mean for collection development? Taken as a whole, state book awards show clearly what students like and want to read. These books have already been through a rigorous selection process. Looking at these lists also help you keep up with trends in student reading. It is an existing tool that many librarians are not using.
Janet and Jane have a book on this topic coming out this fall: Coast to Coast: Exploring State Book Awards from Libraries Unlimited. Another resource is H.W. Wilson’s Core Collection of state book awards.
A really great and untapped resource for collection development!