April 6, 2014
The People's Choice Awards may grab the TV spotlight, but the Readers' Choice Awards quietly celebrate what parents hope to hear: Our children are reading books and loving them enough to get out and vote for them.
The 2014 Abraham Lincoln Award for books appealing to grades 9-12 goes to "The Fault In Our Stars" by John Green, the Illinois School Library Media Association announced. Green's book tells the story of teens who meet at a cancer support group and fall in love. Veronica Roth's "Divergent" finished a close second.
Every spring, the professional association for Illinois school librarians hands out three awards voted on by student readers. Besides the Lincoln award, there's the Monarch Award for grades K-3 and the Bluestem Award for grades 3-5. The association also supports the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award (for grades 4-8), a separate entity.
Laura Murray's "The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School" won from more than 120,000 votes cast for the Monarch Award.
R.J. Palacio's "Wonder" earned both the Bluestem and Rebecca Caudill awards. The book is about a fifth-grader with a facial deformity who struggles to fit in at his new school.
In all categories combined, students cast ballots at 999 Illinois schools this year, said Becky Robinson, recently retired Galesburg librarian and executive secretary for the state association.
Robinson said the Readers' Choice Awards not only promote reading but "reaffirm that yes, there is reading going on."
"People say kids don't read anymore, but they do. It might not be like we read — for some it might be e-reading — but it's reading," she said. "I was a school librarian for 32 years, and I can say that I never had enough books for the kids who wanted to read them."
Students, teachers and librarians nominate the contenders online. Then members of the school librarians group read all of the nominated books, rate them, and choose 20 or 22 from each age category.
Students who have read at least four nominated books can vote. Younger children may have the books read to them, and public libraries also get involved.
Library media specialist Julie Douglas started a Monarch program at North River Elementary in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood this year.
"I read the books to them (first- and second-graders), and they loved being able to give their opinion," she said. "They loved seeing that our school's winner matched the state winner. I've already previewed the next 20. We'll do it again, and next year I hope to do more."
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