The DogEaredBookAward: Creating Readers and Celebrating Books, a guest post by Jennifer Guyor Jowett
An audible cheer went up when students learned they’d be getting their novels. The boxes sat on our front table, nondescript cardboard shipping containers filled with a variety of genres and plots, just waiting to be opened and placed into the hands of readers. Our classroom librarian ripped them open and began unpacking book after book. Later, as classes changed, one of the students said to me, “I bet you never expected that reaction for books.”
You’re probably expecting me to respond with an “Oh, but I did.” After all, this is a post about getting kids excited about reading. But the reality is that I didn’t. As a teacher, I know how challenging it can be to get young people excited about reading, especially with all that competes for their attention. They often arrive in 7th grade having been tested into oblivion, and it can be a challenge to get them to rediscover their love of books. But once they find a book (and it only takes one), they can become readers for life.
So when the cheer began, my heart caught. I’d done the prep work: the unveiling of covers and glimpses into plots with first chapter read-alouds, layered in music that caught the mood of each novel during book talks, shared images of previous interactions with authors, and hung a few banners from the winning novels of past years.
Students had participated by voting on favorite covers and the best first chapter read-aloud, they’d met with authors for Q and A’s while deciding which novel they wanted to read first from our #DogEaredBookAward nominees. Now, they were more than ready to begin reading.
How It Started
A few years back, I was looking for a way to engage readers and put books into students’ hands that landed somewhere between enjoyment reading and the rigor of a novel unit. After playing around with some ideas, a book award seemed to offer just the right amount of dynamic interaction.
What It Looks Like
The #DogEaredBookAward is driven by students. We begin in the spring of the year by looking at books published or soon to be published that year. Ten books of varying genres are nominated. Authors are notified. That next fall, books are introduced with a first chapter read-aloud, an image of the book, music that goes along with the book’s theme or setting, and genre identification. Students do a simple interest rating while listening before sharing their top three choices with me. I sort them into groups by novel of interest and place orders. Then, they vote on the best cover and read-aloud.
While we await their arrival, students create banners to celebrate each book. We discuss and explore the theme of courage, which can be found in each novel. They compose questions for authors who meet (usually virtually) with us and write thank you notes after the google meet. Sometimes we receive surprises in the mail in the form of book swag (everything from bookmarks to stickers to Vermont maple candy and swedish fish mystery “red herrings”). Our classroom student librarian loves to open these packages!
Once our books arrive, students have a month to read before we group together for a book club discussion. Some have read more than one by that time, some barely make the deadline, and some won’t quite finish. That’s okay. We welcome all readers to share their thoughts, book themed food, symbolic objects, and interpretive discussion questions each student writes in preparation.
After the first semester, we explore the importance of book reviews and how meaningful feedback is to authors before looking at what might be included in a book review. Students then write their own reviews that I share on social media.
Sometimes students create t-shirts of their novels or bookstagram type images. We’ve explored settings by creating replicas with legos and minecraft designs.
During March is Reading Month, we vote on our favorite book. Students weigh in with their top choice on a google form and the winning book is announced. A handcrafted award is sent to the author.
Here are the award winning books thus far:
2017 – Solo (Kwame Alexander)
2018 – Resistance (Jennifer Nielsen)
2019 – The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise (Dan Gemeinhart)
2020 – Black Brother, Black Brother (Jewell Parker Rhodes)
2021 – Fadeaway (Elaine Vickers)
2022 – The Door of No Return (Kwame Alexander)
How It’s Going
This year’s nominees includes a graphic novel The First Time for Everything by Dan Santat, Margaret Peterson Haddix’s dystopian book Falling Out of Time, an historical fiction Enemies in the Orchard written in verse by Dana VanderLugt, Ben Gartner’s sci fi adventure One Giant Leap, a perplexing mystery The Mystery of Radcliffe Riddle by Taryn Souder, and three contemporary fiction novels: Come Home Safe by Brian Buckmire, The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally Pla, and The Probability of Everything by Sarah Everett.
What’s On The Radar
Every year, myriad books pass through my hands. I’m always on the lookout for novels to suggest for next year’s book award, recognizing how important it is to know and love the books myself in order to place them with students. 2024 offers an incredible array of books. I have just begun to delve into those I’ll be sharing with my students. I’m including a list of what’s caught my attention so far below, but I’ve only just begun to delve in. There are so many more upcoming great reads that might find their way into the hands of students, and it only takes one to turn that student into a lifelong reader.
Max in the House of Spies (Adam Gidwitz)
Deep Water (Jamie Sumner)
The Mystery of Locked Rooms (Lindsay Currie)
Olivetti (Allie Millington)
The Enigma Girls (Candace Fleming)
And Then, Boom (Lisa Fipps)
Operation Happy (Jenni Walsh)
Unstuck (Barbara Dee)
Meet the author
Jennifer Guyor Jowett is the author of Into the Shadows, a middle grade historical fiction inspired by true events.. She lives in the mitten state where she is an ELA educator who shares her love of reading and writing with her 7th and 8th graders every day. She is the creator of the #DogEaredBookAward (https://jenniferguyorjowett.weebly.com/dogearedbookawards.html), and her poems can be seen stitched into Findlings. You can find out more about her here: https://jenniferguyorjowett.weebly.com/
Photo 1: The author signing her book. Photo 2: Into the Shadows launch 2022
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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