booktalking w/a twist

Traditions are important, especially when your school has been around for 125+ years. Old or new, to say that we love our traditions up would be an understatement. When I joined my school’s faculty three years ago, I was able to start an annual tradition alongside my colleague, the middle school librarian. We now host a Middle School Awards Prediction Assembly each January, where we booktalk titles (of interest to middle schoolers) that we see as contenders for the ALA’s Youth Media Awards. This collaboration allows for us to connect with past and current students, share titles for which we have enthusiasm, and show that although we have two separate library spaces, we are one department and school. Booktalking is always fun in and of itself, but what makes this tradition extra special is that we pick a unique theme for our assembly each year.

The first year, we presented our predictions in a Mock Oscars ceremony, with a “well-read” carpet and a video tribute to books that we lost in the past year (weeded from the library due to damage). We shared our booktalks as if they were nominees for the awards. We also did a bit a la Will Ferrell & Kristen Wiig in which we talked up books (that we supposedly hadn’t read) using only their covers, titles, and author names as prompts.

Last year, we presented our nominations in the style of a game show called The Page is Right. We invited children and faculty from the audience to “Come on Down!” and we booktalked each set of contenders as a bidding showcase. At the end of each showcase, the participants had to guess how many page numbers each set of books comprised. Winners went on to play Price is Right –style games, such as Hi-Lo and The Big Squeeze, while trying to predict page lengths instead of prices.

This year, we noticed that the ALA-YMA press conference will occur on Febraury 2, the day alsocfter the Super Bowl. So our assembly was dubbed The SuperBooks Bowl 2015 and presented like a pregame sports news show. We wore jerseys and school spirit gear and talked about the books as if they were the teams. We debated committee strategy and each title’s likelihood of success. We also had a nonfiction pep rally (complete with a Sibert Award t-shirt toss), a Coretta Scott King Award-sponsored commercial break, and plenty of audience participation, with in-the-stands interviews with students and faculty.

I would share with you the titles we booktalked this year, but someone in my family is serving on one of the award committees and I made a promise not to publicly comment on any eligible titles. It’s not necessarily about accurately predicting each year’s winners anyways. Instead, it’s about raising awareness about and appreciation for the awards, sharing some great titles, and building community along the way.

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