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The Oscars of Children's Literature

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Last year The Today Show noted that the Newbery and Caldecott children's book awards are often called the "Oscars of children's literature." Certainly, the awards are highly regarded and, like the movie ones, result in significant increases in sales. As of this writing, two weeks after the awards were announced, the Newbery winner, Moon Over Manifest, is number five and the Caldecott winner, A Sick Day for Amos McGee, number two on The New York Times best seller lists. Yet despite the endless concern expressed about children (most recently by President Obama in his State of the Union address), the contrast between the media attention for this Monday's announcement of the Oscar nominations versus that two weeks ago for the Newbery and Caldecott winners could not be more extreme.

This year, while The Today Show did enthusiastically cover the Oscar nominations, they passed on those "Oscars of children's books." The result was a lot of discussion within the children's book world as to whether it mattered or not. Those who felt it did wrote letters and emails, started a Facebook campaign, and otherwise tried to get the show to reconsider. Others argued that the brief and often awkward Today Show segments were no longer relevant and that there were plenty of other places to promote the books. Indeed the winners were celebrated in industry publications like PW, heavily blogged, enthusiastically twittered, celebrated on Facebook, and featured in other media outlets, old and new.

I'm one who feels The Today Show still matters. A lot. It matters because there are still many people who depend on it for their information. I'm thinking of parents, grandparents, teachers and other viewers who care about the children in their lives and pay attention when something related to them shows up on a major television show that they watch daily. I am certain it meant something to them when the show took a few minutes to interview winners of awards they remembered from their own childhood. I'm sure many of those busy folks getting ready for the day thought as they caught one of those brief segments: "Hmm...I need to check out those books for my kids/grandkids/class/friend's kid" just as many of us thought this past Monday, "Hmm... I've got to check-out True Grit/Social Network/The King's Speech."

Bottom line for me: giving children's book awards even a smidgen of the attention the Oscars get sends a message that our children matter.

Cross posted at educating alice