Today I was part of a meeting that lasted five hours… Sound horrible??? It wasn’t.
This is a meeting of book nerds whose sole purpose is to select 40ish books for the Maine Student Book Award list. The Maine Student Book Award is an award voted on by students in grades 4-8. Students vote on books from a list that is compiled by the MSBA committee which is composed of public librarians, school librarians and teachers. (http://msba.umeedu.maine.edu/)
This is my second year with the committee which I was thrilled to join after years of reading the books from the list and promoting them to my fifth graders. The meeting today was a culmination of a year long process that involves hours of reading middle grade literature and a series of four meetings in which we discuss books, create a short list and finally create THE list.
My first time through the process I was a bit nervous. How can 12 people agree on anything? I have been on much smaller committees that have trouble making the simplest decisions. Yet, these 12 readers from different professions, regions of the state, and phases in their lives all share a common thread… a passion for sharing literature with students. This common thread ties us together and enables us to reach our goal.
Today as we began the business of the meeting I began to worry a little as the business part of our meeting resulted in lengthy discussion that went a bit in circles. But, when we got to the conversation about the books it all changed as we got down to the important work of deciding on the list.
As books came up for discussion, readers spoke passionately about their favorites. Sharing their thoughts on the writing, characters and how they think the book will appeal to students. Everyone on the committee saw books they loved get cut from the list and books they had reservations about get added to the list. All this tough decision-making was done collegially as we all wanted a balanced list that would appeal to a wide range of students.
Today our mission was accomplished. After several hours we had a collection of 42 books for the students of Maine to read.
Now it on to the new books for next year’s list!