5/19 Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature


Cover of "How Rocket Learned to Read"
Cover of How Rocket Learned to Read

Early last Thursday morning, when many would have preferred to be sleeping, Bank Street College was setting up its annual award ceremony for the Irma S. and James H. Black Award for excellence in children’s literature.  The nifty catch with this prestigious children’s award is that these books were used in the field, evaluated, and chosen–by children!  Each spring, the Irma Black Award committee chooses approximately 20-25 children’s books published in the previous year that it believes will be “outstanding book[s] for young children–book[s] in which text and illustrations are inseparable, each enhancing and enlarging on the other to produce a singular whole.”  In previous years, only the Bank Street School for Children was enrolled in the Irma Black curriculum.  Teachers and the children’s librarian, Lisa Von Drasek, presented the chosen books to their students, who proceeded to cut down on the stack of nominees until one winner and three honors were chosen.  For the 2011 Irma Black Awards, Bank Street opened up their wonderful curriculum to school libraries across the country.  These finalists are truly exceptional and have proven their child appeal.

As has been brought up at any mention of picture books in the last eight months, the New York Times article “Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children” was raised, chewed over, and thoroughly ripped apart as poppycock by this year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Perri Klass, a pediatrician and children’s author in NYC.  Dr. Klass gave a truly inspirational speech about the benefits of reading aloud to children and its connections to child development.  She is the medical director of the nationwide Reach Out and Read program, through which doctors and nurses promote literacy by encouraging parents to read aloud to their children.  If you’re interested in learning more about child development, check out Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14 by Chip Wood.

This year’s winner is How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills.  In addition to a marker for book signings and his speech, Tad brought his inspiration for his charming children’s book to the awards ceremony–Rocket!  The Irma S. and James H. Black Honor books are Children Make Terrible Pets (written and illustrated by Peter Brown), Dust Devil (written by Anne Issacs and illustrated by Paul O. Zellinsky), and A Pig Parade (written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes).  All of them come highly recommended, I promise.

Want to learn more?  Check out Bank Street College’s Irma Black Awards website.

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