Caldecott hype

Caldecott award excitement is in the air!  You can catch the announcement live on a webcast here (it’s not live yet) on Monday, January 10, or  follow on Twitter with the tag #alayma.  Though I don’t have the confidence to predict a winner myself (you can check in with Betsy Bird or  Travis Jonker over at 100 Scope Notes for that),  I thought I’d share some of what I do with my second graders around the Caldecott.

Typically I wait and do my unit a bit later in the spring (so I’m sure to have the newest winner if I hadn’t already purchased it) and run it for 8-10 weeks.

  1. I begin by hanging my huge Caldecott poster (generously provided by my Follett rep) so that the students can see all the award winners at a glance and get a feel for the number of books that have earned this distinction. The poster also serves as a travel-through-history guide as we read at least one book from each decade, beginning with the 1930’s.  This has helped me to share works that I might not necessarily have chosen to highlight, and avoids the temptation to just read my personal favorites.

Since I started doing this I’ve found some real treasures, and discovered that children are not as put off by the older books as I’d thought.  A case in point is Finders Keepers.  With its limited color scheme I doubted its appeal to today’s kids.  They were Strong and Good is another book I overlooked for many years, both because of its lack of “glitz” and what I thought might not be interesting content.  But once again my students surprised me.  Proof that a good story, well illustrated, is far-reaching– even decades into the future.

2.  I give some background information about Randolph Caldecott and the medal itself.  We look at some illustrations from his works and talk about the significance of his contribution.  I try to drive home the point that until the likes of Caldecott, Kate Greenaway, and Walter Crane,books for children during the Victorian era were neither plentiful nor attractive.   I hope to develop an appreciation for today’s vast array of beautifully crafted books—both in terms of the writing and illustration.

3.  As the unit progresses we examine the different artistic media and how they’ve evolved over time.  Students are always amazed to learn that at one time only four colors were possible to print in the illustration process.  Barbara Cooney’s Chanticleer and the Fox is a perfect example to share when discussing this.

4.  Naturally we simply don’t have the class time to read all the award winners (not to mention the Caldecott Honors), so for the last few years I’ve issued The Caldecott Challenge.  For this I use two forms in Pat Miller’s Stretchy Library Lessons:  Library Skills from Upstart.  This is an optional undertaking, and those who complete it are recognized in front of the entire school at our end-of-the year assembly.

Thanks to a recent hit on LMNET, you can find lots of Caldecott lesson plans here.

What will you do this year to highlight this award?