Saturday, October 15, 2016

What's it like to be on the Geisel committee? #2

A recurring feature on this blog will be reflections by previous Geisel committee members on their experiences. If you've served on the Geisel Committee in the past and would like to share your experiences, please contact one of the blog administrators.

Jenna Friebel is a Materials Services Librarian at the Oak Park Public Library. She was on the 2016 Geisel Award Committee and has been elected to the 2018 Printz Award Committee. She’s on twitter @jenna_friebel.
Picture provided by Jenna Friebel

Hello, my name is Jenna, and I was on the 2016 Geisel Award Committee. I still think this is the coolest statement I can make about myself. I am so proud of this award and all the work my committee did. There’s truly nothing like being in *the room where it happens.* But of course, the majority of the work happens outside of that room. It happens throughout the committee year reading book after book and listening to kid after kid.

Picture provided by Jenna Friebel
But wait, let’s back up. Before I was appointed to the Geisel Committee, I participated in the ALSC Bill Morris Book Evaluation Seminar at ALA Midwinter 2014. Fun fact: 5 members of the 2016 Geisel Award Committee participated in the 2014 Morris Seminar together. 3 of those members are the co-creators of this blog! Suffice it to say, the Morris Seminar draws in awesome people and leads to amazing opportunities.

Okay, back to my Geisel year. There was definitely a learning curve for me. I realized that although I had a lot of knowledge about children and about children’s lit, I didn’t know a lot about how kids learn to read. I hadn’t spent much time looking at early readers through the lens of how it would be for the intended audience. Reading and re-reading all the previous Geisel winners and honors was immensely helpful. I became more confident in my ability to judge what a good early reader is and threw myself into evaluating.

And then I realized my confidence was a bit misplaced. I learned my evaluations could completely change after hearing a child read the book. There were books I was confident would end up with stickers on them come January but after hearing them actually being read to me, I realized major flaws I failed to notice during my own readings. There were scenes and punchlines that children just did not understand. On the flip side, there were also books that I was indifferent to only to realize how well received they were by children and how confident they made them feel as readers.

At first, I second guessed myself. Maybe I just wasn’t good at this? And that’s why my initial evaluations were so off? But no. I learned this is part of the process. This is why we listen and seek out different voices. This is why we read and re-read and re-read again, trying to look at each book from many different angles. This is why the committee meets for hours and hours to discuss before the final votes are taken. It is all part of the process, and we are all on a learning curve.

Serving on the Geisel Committee was eye-opening and exciting. I am beyond pleased with our winner and honors. It was a year of awesome books and new friends, and I’m still sad that it’s over. But alas! Now it is time for me to wave hello to the 2018 Printz Committee! Wish me luck!

Picture provided by Jenna Friebel

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