Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How Rocket Learned to Read Wins Irma Black Award

Tad Hills, the 2011 YSS luncheon speaker at WLA, has won the Irma Black Award for his book "How Rocket Learned to Read"

From SLJ online...
By Rocco Staino April 26, 2011

Tad Hills's How Rocket Learned to Read (Random, 2010), a story about a friendly bird who teaches a white dog with black spots to read, is the winner of the 2011 Irma Simonton Black & James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children's Literature.

rocket(Original Import)Sponsored by New York's Bank Street College of Education, in partnership with School Library Journal, the award invites first- and second-graders nationwide to vote for one of four picture books that best uses words and illustrations to tell a story. This year, some 9,550 students from 94 schools participated in the selection process.

With the help of SLJ, the total number of voters increased by almost 300 percent from last year—and the number of participating schools and libraries increased by 800 percent.

"As the weeks went by, the children were really interested in the process and couldn't wait for the next book." says first-time participant Margaret Tice, a school librarian at P.S. 139 in Brooklyn, NY. "The children took the voting very seriously and looked over the books again carefully before voting."

Third- and fourth-grade students at the Bank Street School for Children, which is affiliated with the College of Education, nominated four titles as part of a picture book evaluation curriculum that asked students to critically examine the art and words in picture books to determine whether they were relevant to younger children.

This year's nominees included Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown (Little, Brown, 2010), about a young bear who finds a boy in the woods and decides to keep him as a pet; A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea by Michael Ian Black (S & S, 2010), illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, a book that explains why pigs aren't cut out to march in unison; and Dust Devil by Anne Isaacs (Random, 2010), illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, a companion to Swamp Angel (Dutton, 1994) that has Angelica "Angel" Longrider, the "wildest wildcat in Tennessee," looking for a horse powerful enough to carry her until she wrestles a violent storm.

Rocket beat the others for various reasons, including the fact it accurately portrays that learning to read takes time, said one Bank Street student who advocated for the book. Another said he loved the illustrations, his favorite one shows Rocket writing the ABC's in the snow. One student even compared the book to Munro Leaf's The Story of Ferdinand (Viking, 1936), saying that both characters liked to nap under their favorite tree.

The award will be presented May 19 at the Bank Street College of Education during a ceremony that's open to the public. Perri Klass, medical director of Reach Out and Read, a national literacy organization that works with doctors and nurses to promote reading aloud to young children, will be the keynote speaker.

For more information, check out the award's Facebook page and Twitter feed. The hashtag is #IrmaBlack11.

This article originally appeared in the newsletter Extra Helping.

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