recess radio program

01/12/05
The Caldecott Committee
    by Rita Smith

Every January when the Caldecott Award for picture books is announced, it is the culmination of a lot of work, reading, and discussion by a group of 15 people who compose the committee. Of the 15 members, eight, including the chair, are elected by members of the Association of Library Service to Children or ALSC, a division of the American Library Association. The other seven members are appointed by the president of ALSC to balance the gender, ethnic, professional and geographic representation of the committee. Each committee member must be a member of ALSC and serves for one year.

The charge to the committee is to select the most distinguished American picture book for children published in English in the United States during the preceding year. The Award goes to the illustrator of that book, who must be a citizen or resident of the United States. A picture book for children in contrast to other books with illustrations, is defined as one that essentially provides the child with a visual experience; one that maintains a collective unity of story-line, theme, or concept which is developed through the series of pictures. The winning book displays respect for children's understandings, abilities, and appreciations up to and including age fourteen.

As the committee members review and discuss individual books at the January meeting, they consider excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed, excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept; appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept; and effectiveness of the delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures. The committee makes its decision based primarily on the illustrations, but other components of a book, such as text and over-all design, are considered, especially if they make a book less effective as a children's picture book.

Throughout the year, the committee members each typically read over 500 picture books. They meet for a long weekend in January after their year of reading is over and spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning discussing a subset of the books which have been suggested by them throughout the year as being particularly noteworthy; then they vote, listing their first three choices. The winner must have at least 8 first place votes and be ahead of the second place title by 8 points. If a winner is not achieved on the first round of voting, balloting continues until a winner is selected according to the above requirements and the committee's work is finished. More information about the medal can be found on the Caldecott Medal Home Page: http://www.ala.org/ala/alsc/awardsscholarships/literaryawds/caldecottmedal/ caldecottmedal.htm"

Copyright 2005 Rita Smith

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