1925 Children’s Book Week posterChildren’s Book Week has become a long-standing tradition in many libraries every November. Each week before Thanksgiving, librarians have for decades displayed, and persuaded kids to look over, books new and old, reminding them about all the great titles they haven’t read during the past year. (In 2007, the Children’s Book Week dates were November 12 – 18.) The poster you see here, from Jon O. Brubaker, comes from the 1925 Children’s Book Week.

Now that will change. Michelle Bayuk, the marketing director for the Children’s Book Council (CBC), a professional association of people in the children’s book trade that sponsors CBW, has announced that the week will be moving halfway around the calendar, from mid-November to May 12 – 18 in 2008 as part of an effort to tie it to the CBC’s “Children’s Choices” lists, a cooperative project with the International Reading Association.

Here’s how Michelle describes how the new process will work:

… 10,000 children in five teams from around the US spend months reading and evaluating books submitted by all publishers. They look at 500-700 titles and the favorite 100 make the final list, approximately 33 titles in each of three grade categories: K-2, 3-4, and 5-6. The favorites are presented in alphabetical order, but we’ve always known the ranking of each title relative to the overall list. In March and April 2008, we will present the top five books published in 2007 in each of these categories for nation-wide vote. Kids can vote electronically online or in their school, library, or bookstore via paper ballot. The winner in each category will be named at a Gala Awards dinner during Children’s Book Week 2008 in New York City.

When I heard this news, I immediately thought about all the statewide and regional awards, typically sponsored by a state’s library association or school media association, in which children vote in the winter or spring on a list of books (usually from two years before, so they’ll be available in paperback) and announce the winners in several age groups. Wouldn’t this new award put the English- and reading-teacher-focused IRA into conflict with the librarians? Michelle told me:

It’s my understanding that most of the programs are finished with their voting process by March, so we don’t think there will be much overlap. Also, not every state (nor every school in every state) participates in a state level program. We won’t be requiring registration or minimum participation levels, so every group can participate at their own level. A point worth mentioning is that unlike the state level programs, our short lists are developed by kids as well, so there is an extra level of interest and excitement for the kids.

There’s been quite the discussion about the change on the ALSC-L discussion group, and several librarians are regretting the move. It does put CBW awfully close to mid-April’s National Library Week, and it will now arrive in the midst of the crazy month of May, in which just about every children’s services librarian I know is running around to schools, promoting summer reading.

I’ll be interested to see how the change affects the celebrating of Children’s Book Week in libraries. And, hey, if we want to, we can always make up our own reason to put up a big display of hot children’s books just before Thanksgiving. “Be thankful for all these great books!” Or something like that.

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