The Maine Student Book Award (MSBA) is, just as the name suggests, an award given by the students of the State of Maine ( http://msba.umeedu.maine.edu/ ). The award committee nominates approximately 40 middle-grade books, targeting grades 4 – 8. The books span a range of topics and reading levels. Graphic novels and nonfiction are also included. The list also usually includes one novel in verse, and a biography. Students spend the school year reading these books. In March, students who have read at least 3 of the books can vote for their favorite, which is subsequently announced and celebrated.
Maine is hardly unique with this award! Washington State has a Sasquatch Award (http://www.wla.org/sasquatch-book-award-wla- ), New York has the Charlotte Award (http://www.nysreading.org/content/nysra-charlotte-award-2016 ), and Florida has the Sunshine State Young Readers Award (http://www.floridamediaed.org/ssyra.html ). There are many others, probably because it is such a successful way to build excitement about reading truly excellent books. A literature review of articles about student choice awards indicates that these programs increase the number and types of books students read, as well as increasing the number of and satisfaction with books read by library professionals (Seagrave, 2004). Circulating great books is always a good thing at the library.
I have had the pleasure of promoting the MSBA for two years now. I order the books, make the display, and ask for help from volunteers to make a bulletin board displaying all the covers. This year I also got help from classroom teachers to make a separate bulletin board with a chart where students and staff can record which books they’ve read and a color-coded rating. I do my best to read as many of the 40 titles as I can so that I can provide good quality readers advisory, and I have had a number of teachers ask me for a recommendation for a student, or for a read aloud. In the future, I would like to incorporate formal book talks to help circulate the less obviously wonderful titles. Perhaps I could have students read quick reviews during the morning announcements. Possibly a kick-off event would help get kids reading them even earlier in the year. Also, we may be able to tweak technology lesson plans to use the MSBA titles and authors for research and OPAC practice.
Assessment will also help with promotion. I know the program has been ongoing for at least 4 years, but I don’t have any analysis. This year, I will record statistics on the number of students who voted. The reading chart will also provide valuable information about the number and type of books students are reading (for instance, is it just the graphic novels?). I can also send a survey to staff to see how the library is doing with promotion of the program. With assessment, I can see where our strengths and weaknesses are, make improvements, and get even more students involved in the future.
Seagrave, J. R. (2004). Young Readers’ Choice Awards Across America. Public Libraries, 43(3), 171-176.