I love the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. Or, at least, I love the concept: children being treated as valued decision-makers whose opinons on media matter.
As the school year draws to a close and parents in my neighborhood begin hunting for books to take on vacation, the inevitable question becomes, “Where are your Award-Winning Books?” Grrrrrr. I can’t tell you how much these questions make me cringe. Should a child read The Higher Power of Lucky rather than Clementine simply because one has been deemed “the best” for that year? Is Kira-Kira really a better book for kids than, say, Diary of a Wimpy Kid?
I have a great deal of respect for my colleagues who put their heart and soul into reading, reviewing, and choosing the best children’s books of the year. Most children’s librarians who do the choosing have only the best interest of children at mind and are trying to pick books that are both well-executed and likeable.
But despite these best intentions, the books often chosen for prestigious awards are those which have a greater appeal to the ones doing the choosing- adults.
This is not to say that said books are not wonderful and deserving of praise. On the contrary, some of them are among my personal favorites. But I’m a grown up. My issue lies with the weight of importance placed on these award-winners and the inevitable pressure that teachers, parents, and children feel they must read these works.
What I propose is not an end to such awards- but an increase in the number of national children’s book awards chosen by kids. While many individual states across the U.S. have kids’ choice awards (such as New York’s 3 Apples Book Award), a nation-wide program has yet to take root.
What was perhaps impractical years ago (getting children across the country to participate in the same program)- the proliferation of the Web and social networking has practically demanded. If a child in my library can sign onto Club Penguin and have a virtual toboggan race with a kid in El Paso, then we can certainly figure out a way to help setup a nationwide vote (for kids only!) on the best books. Who’s on board?
[UPDATE: File under How the heck did I miss this gem?: Robin Adelson informs me that the Children’s Book Council and IRA have introduced such a program this year! Check out the comments section for links and more information.]