From Then to Now

True confession time: I haven’t always been a children’s literature fanatic (though, I’ve always been a reader). I haven’t even always wanted to be a teacher. My journey has been long, and that’s another story for another time. (And a side: I wouldn’t change anything about the last 7 years of my life.)

During my junior year of college, I took Children’s Literature, and that’s when the magic happened. This was in fall semester. My professor, Dr. Serck, had a tremendous influence on me. We talked a lot the Caldecott and Newbery winners in class, and that was my first true appreciation of some of the winning titles.

In January, the class was over, but I remember running into Dr. Serck in the education building the day the 2010 awards were announced (When You Reach Me & The Lion and the Mouse). Dr. Serck had shown us The Lion and the Mouse in the Fall, but I immediately went to get my hands on When You Reach Me. This was the first time I was truly excited about a Newbery winner.

My excitement built with each passing year, but I never got excited enough to watch the ceremony. Until this year. Today. This morning.

This is the first year I’ve gotten to go through a complete year of literature with students (in two different semesters with two different groups). I felt like I was “on top of it” as best as I could be through the year and I really had a feeling in my heart of what I thought some of the best books were. In years past, I usually hadn’t heard of some of the winning titles. As a young teacher, I just couldn’t keep up with it all. It’s getting easier to now, however.

When I found out the awards were at 7 AM Central time, I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle watching them. I know last year many teachers watched the announcements live with their classes. Teachers have to be at school at 7:30 AM, and students arrive beginning at 7:45 AM, so at best, I figured we could maybe catch the Caldecott announcements together and celebrate if they were any books we had shared together.

But, school was cancelled today due to frigid temperatures, high winds, and blowing snow. So, I planned to set my alarm for 7 AM to tune in live.

What a great experience! Through Twitter, I could feel all the anticipation built up of those also tuning in. Though we are scattered across the country, it felt like we were all together watching the awards.

I was celebrating when Mo Willems and Kevin Henkes won Theodore Giesel honor awards. I cheered when Aaron Becker, Molly Idle, and David Wiesner took the Caldecott honors, and when Brian Floca’s Locomotive took the medal.

I became very acquainted with Kevin Henkes this past year, and met Molly Idle. I also met David Wiesner the year before. I was celebrating as if some of my dear friends had won.

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Kevin Henkes and I.

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Molly Idle and I.

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David Wiesner and I.

And then the Newbery. I was so thrilled that The Year of Billy Miller got an honor, and screamed when Paperboy won an honor. Two of my favorite books from the year. Paperboy may be one of the best books that I have ever read. I stayed up til 3 AM reading it, and read the whole thing in one night.

I have to ashamedly admit that I have not read Flora and Ulysses.  I had it on the day it was released, and was eager to read it, but I loaned it to the 6-8 ELA teacher at my school to read, and she had not yet given it back. (I e-mailed her this morning and she said it’s sitting on her desk– so whenever we get back to school, you can guarantee it will be my next read).

So much about my life as a reader has changed since 2010. Why? What’s different between then and now?

The books. It’s all about the books. Each time I read a new one, it changes me and I need to read another— and the cycle moves on. The more I read, the more I want to read. And the more I want to celebrate the good books that are in my hands.

Congratulations to all winners- so well deserved. And to those who didn’t win- thank you, and congratulations.  You’ll still be celebrated. Read. Recognized. You’ll still change readers’ lives.

And now, on to reading this year’s books. I can hardly wait for what is in store.

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