Best Children’s Books Chosen at Bank Street College of Education
Writers, educators and other lovers of children’s literature eagerly attended this year’s Irma Black Picture Book Award in the Bank Street Auditorium. The Award is unique in that children themselves choose the winner. Over a four-week period, children in various participating schools read the books, then analyze and discuss them with their teachers and librarians, and then vote for a winner. The vote tallies are then submitted to Bank Street. This year’s winning book, “How Rocket Learned To Read,” is about a puppy that is taught the wonders of reading by a little yellow bird he meets one day. The two become friends as the bird teaches Rocket how to sound out words. The book was written and illustrated by Tad Hills, who used his own dog, also named Rocket, as inspiration for the story. “It’s especially gratifying to win an award such as this,” he said. “I have a great job.”
The Irma S. and James H. Black Award is given annually to a book that exemplifies excellence in text and illustration together. The four finalists have been chosen by 3rd and 4th graders from a semifinalist list selected by a committee of educators. The winner receives a gold seal and the other three finalists become honor books with a silver seal. For the first time, the award was able to invite a wider participation in its curriculum program. In partnership with School Library Journal, the program was offered to any librarian or teacher of first and second graders in the United States and Canada. Nearly 10,000 students from 94 schools across the country were able to participate. Previously, only a dozen or so schools did.
Perri Klass, the renowned author and professor of journalism and pediatrics at New York University, spoke movingly about the importance of books in the language and literacy development of young children, and discussed her work as medical director of Reach Out and Read, a national literacy organization which works through doctors and nurses to promote parents reading aloud to young children. “Everything is more interesting when picture books are part of the equation,” she said.
The silver seal books this year were “Children Make Terrible Pets,” by Peter Brown; “A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea,” written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes; and “Dust Devil,” written by Anne Isaacs and illustrated by Paul Zelinsky.
The award was established in 1972 in honor of the late Irma Simonton Black (and later her husband as well), who was for many years director of Bank Street’s Publications Division, and a prolific children’s book author. It is given to a book that meets Irma’s own criteria for a great picture book: “a synthesis of text and art, each enhancing the other to produce a synergistic effect that makes the whole greater than its parts.” #