Are Newbery Winners Too Hard?

An article from the Washington Post reflects on the recent School Library Journal article that questioned the value of the Newbery Medal. The Washington Post article says, “Of the 25 winners and runners-up chosen from 2000 to 2005, four of the books deal with death, six with the absence of one or both parents and four with such mental challenges as autism. Most of the rest deal with tough social issues.”

Is it good to choose books that will challenge children? Books that they may not otherwise read? Or are awards that focus on books kids are more likely to pick up in the first place more valuable to teachers, librarians, and parents? Some people, including an eighth grader in Bethesda in the article, say that the more educators force children to read a book, the less likely they are to enjoy it.

Of course, remember that if your students are having trouble with a more difficult Newbery winner, it may help to listen along to the audiobook while reading. We’re very proud of our recording of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, for example, which Booklist calls “a near-perfect audio experience.” Our NY recording studio made sure to get all the details accurate—even down to researching the melodies of songs used in the recording. Listening to a book like this will help students get the pronunciation of difficult and unfamiliar words while not missing out on the author’s poetic, funny, and poignant tales.

But is there value in choosing these more difficult books for the Newbery? What do you think? Check out the comments section on the SLJ article for some enlightening reactions from other educators, and let us know.

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