Sixty students walked into the Brooklyn Friends Middle School library to the sound of Europe’s “the Final Countdown,” and gathered on the rug in front of a large projector screen. The air was electric with excitement and anticipation as teachers and librarians presented booktalks and book trailers for 15 Mock Newbery selections. Students scribbled down notes for their favorite titles on clipboards in their laps. We librarians, myself new to Brooklyn Friends School, and Angie Ungaro, were excited. The teachers were excited. Would our excitement translate to our kids?
This was the “rollout” of the new Mock Newbery Project at Brooklyn Friends School, an integrated part of the 5th grade independent reading curriculum. The Newbery Book Award is a prestigious book award that is awarded annually to the best literature for children published that year by an American author. Many independent school libraries have taken on the tradition of a Mock Newbery selection process. We have taken the Mock Newbery tradition to the next level this year, by partnering with the 5th grade Humanities classes and incorporating the Newbery book selection process into the curriculum. After the “rollout” event, the kids selected their top seven books and from there were assigned three titles to read.
In the summer, we worked with the humanities teachers, reading selections that were getting some Newbery buzz on the web and blogosphere. After deliberating over email and a quick lunch meeting, our group settled on a list of 15 books. The humanities department decided students would read three books each and write reviews of the books. Teachers also developed an edublog for the students to post their reviews and share with each other. Angie and I have incorporated lessons into the classroom covering the history of the Newbery Award and selection process, as well as some tidbits about other book awards.
The students are having a blast reading their books and discussing them amongst themselves. The process seems to be running smoothly. We purchased several copies of each book, and the only real challenge we have faced is how to make sure everyone has a book from the list to read. We had our first big swap day this past week, where all books were to be returned and given to the next readers on the list. Many students want to read more than three titles, jump ahead to their next book or read something else from the list so we have been doing our best to accommodate as many readers as possible, utilizing Kindles and Audible books as well to support different reading styles. This is a good problem to have, to not be able to keep up with the demand for books! Voting will begin later in the year. I’m sure the kids will get a kick out of the voting process, choosing their own winner and finally seeing which book is officially awarded the prestigious honor in January.
Our Mock Newbery Selections:
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
George by Alex Gino
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart
Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle
Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowery
I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Paper Things by Jennifer Jacobson
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose
-- Emily Valente