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Casting a Vote for New Learning

Let’s take a vote! One of the fun ways to help children feel empowered to express their opinions is asking them to vote. At home family members might vote on what movie to watch or whether to go hiking or skating. In classes children often vote on activities to have at a class party.

The cognitive activity of voting can make decision-making situations feel more rational and move the discussion beyond arguing. In voting everyone’s voice counts equally, and children learn critical-thinking skills, like predicting an outcome or comparing two ideas and then making a choice.

Voting can also involve brand-new learning as children inform themselves in preparation for voting. In January our elementary school librarian, Mari Pongkhamsing, engaged K–4 students in a month-long “Mock Caldecott Award” judging process that stimulated an enthusiastic exploration of children’s picture book art and the criteria used to judge them. Every year the American Library Association for Service to Children awards the Caldecott Medal to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published that year.

To prepare the children for voting, Mari read several possible award contenders during the students’ library visits. They learned about the Caldecott award and some of the criteria for judging the artwork. In the last week, every student got a three-by-five-inch card on which to cast a vote for their predicted Caldecott winner and to create their own illustration of their favorite book.

On January 30, the Caldecott winner and Caldecott Honor books were announced, and the medal went to Hot Dog, by Doug Salati, a book about an overheated dog who takes a trip to the beach. The children’s illustrated cards were posted under book jackets on the wall, which included the Caldecott Medal winner and runners-up and honored books. Children were excited to learn the winners, and as it turns out, Caldecott Honor winner Knight Owl, by Christopher Denise, was the most popular of the chosen contenders at our school.

What about having the children vote for the best movies (Mock Academy Award?), the best book about animals, or a book reflecting diversity?

Voting in a classroom or in a family helps children move beyond egocentric thinking, the inability to understand that another person can have a different point of view. Talking about the process of voting and having children participate in it helps them to feel empowered to make meaningful decisions. It also sets the stage for valuing the voting process as they become adult members of our society.

In March children and their families will have the opportunity to participate in a school-wide book fair. Mari will be posting sign-ups to help soon. And be watching eNotes this week for information about our online book fair!

The I Love Libraries website lists the 2023 winners of the American Library Association’s awards for children’s and young adult books, digital media, and video and audio. The winners, in 20 categories, were chosen by librarians – “and who knows children’s literature better than librarians?”


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