And the Winner Is…a Mini Mock Caldecott | Programming Cookbook

Many mock Caldecott programs take months of planning and can last an entire school year, but for librarians tight on time and budget, a mini Mock may be just the thing to ignite rich discussion of text and art with middle graders.

Holly's Mock Caldecott participants selected Kevin Henkes's Waiting as their medal winner.

Though librarians are intimately familiar with the Youth Media Awards, few library users are aware of what those shiny medals mean. Some parents have heard of the Newbery and Caldecott awards, but few know why the awards are given. Kids might understand that a book with a round sticker means that it is good. But what does it mean to be a “good book”? Hosting a mock award program is a great way to share wonderful new titles. It also helps kids learn about evaluating materials and articulating what elements they like—or don’t. Though most mock programs for middle graders tend to focus on the Newbery, picture books are also ideal for this age group. Exploring picture books with middle grade students is beneficial in several ways: it ensures that stories are still being read aloud to older kids (something that should continue well past kindergarten), and it reinforces the idea that it’s okay for “big kids” to read and enjoy picture books. Finally, middle graders are at an age when they can delve deeply into the artwork, discussing technique, medium, and style in sophisticated ways. Mock Caldecott programs can be as intensive and elaborate as an educator is willing to make them. Some ambitious Mock Caldecott programs run for an entire school year. Others run for a semester or two, meeting regularly on a monthly or weekly basis. But for those new to the process or eager to find a way to integrate this type of programming into their library or school without a huge budget or a huge time commitment, it can be as simple as hosting a single event lasting just an hour or two—with a bit of prep work, that is.  

What you’ll need

Potential Caldecott contenders (preferably multiple copies) Voting ballots Stickers Pencils A projector (optional)  

Resources & Inspiration

Caldecott Medal homepage Horn Book's Calling Caldecott blog Mr. Schu's 2016 Mock Caldecott on Watch. Connect. Read. Goodreads Mock Caldecott 2017 public group  

Ideal Audience

Students or patrons in grades three to six.  

Program prep

Most of the work for this program consists of picking the books. I wanted the participants in my group to evaluate a wide variety of art styles, book lengths, and appeal factors. I started by researching and reading through several mock Caldecott lists, Betsy Bird’s Caldecott prediction list, blog posts, and even a Goodreads list. Many of the same titles were featured on various lists, which helped me narrow down the top contenders. I made our list available to the kids in my program ahead of time, both online and via email, but I noted that prereading was optional. Another way to share titles in advance is by creating a display with books for in-library reading only. I also ensured that I had read all the books in advance so I was prepared to read any of them to the group. Mock Caldecott ballots

These paper ballots, while not corresponding to the official ALA Caldecott voting guidelines, simplified the voting process for kids.

Program run time

On the big day, we met in the library in the afternoon. The entire program took roughly one hour, though organizers may find that additional time may be required to fully read and explore the books—the more contenders selected for discussion, the longer the program will take to complete.  

The Day Of

To start this program, we talked about the Caldecott award and its history. I shared a short presentation that broke down the criteria for the award. The kids thought it was neat when I told them that the people who choose the winner are mostly children’s librarians, just like me. Then, we read the books. A few kids had read them all already and enjoyed sharing their favorites with the group. All the titles were lined up at the front of the room, and I started by reading a couple of the funnier ones. I let the kids pick the rest. After each book, we talked about the artwork and compared it to that of the previous titles. We didn’t get to read aloud all of the selections, but I reminded the kids to look at the rest on their own and pick a favorite based on the best art and the criteria we discussed. Then we voted. Each participant got a paper ballot with spots for the winner and two honor books. Once they had turned in their ballots, they also added colored stickers to a copy of the book cover that was taped on the wall, creating a visual display of our favorites. After all the votes were in, a few kids helped me count the winners. They all provided a very loud drum roll as I announced each winner, and many of the titles got checked out and went home for future reading. Our participants selected Kevin Henkes's Waiting as the medal winner. There were also three honor books: Mordicai Gerstein's The Night World, Margarita Engle and Rafael López's Drum Dream Girl, and Ame Dykman and Zachariah OHora's Wolfie the Bunny. Mock Caldecott Contenders

A Powerpoint slide featuring the contenders from Holly's recent Mock Caldecott program.



I held my program in December; this was a great end-of-year program. Many library mock lists had been created by this time, so I had plenty of titles to choose from. However, librarians or teachers could implement this program any time of the year. Some might want to hold it in January or February, after the real winners have been determined. Others might want to wait until summer and cap off the voting by sharing a bit of the winner’s speech from ALA Annual.  

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