Monday, December 4, 2017

Mock Geisel for Professional Development

Previously we’ve featured Mock Geisel events as an opportunity for working with kids and students, but Mock Awards – and Mock Geisel in particular – can also provide valuable professional development opportunities.

Goals for participation in a Mock Award program include:

  • Increased awareness of newly published book for a specific audience
  • Practice evaluation skills using a given set of criteria
  • Best practices for constructive discussions and consensus building
  • Insight into the committee process

The skills practiced inform collection development, reader’s advisory, and programming competencies

Why use the Mock Award framework, rather than simply training on the above competencies in a different way? 

The ALSC award selection process is established, connected, and respected. There’s no need to reinvent a process when the toolkit for conducting mock award discussion exists. And the list of mock results that grows each year on the ALSC Blog is a testament to how we are able to have a shared conversation across many groups rooted in common criteria. Holding Mock Awards for your staff encourages them to develop the skills necessary to volunteer to serve on the real award committees, representing your library system in contributing to the success of the profession on a national scale. But even if they never aspire to participation on an actual committee (although we here at Guessing Geisel highly recommend it), participation in a Mock Award program develops skills and knowledge directly applicable to the everyday work of many librarians and other educators.  

Why mock the Geisel Award specifically?

The Geisel Award has some of the most specific criteria of any of the ALSC books awards. And yet, it is often referred to as one of the most challenging to guess or predict. Often selections may catch people by surprise, with the loudest cheers in the room given for picture books choices and polite applause for the readers. Why haven’t we heard of the excellent titles from the beginning readers series before they’re recognized? Well . . .

  • Picture books are hardly ever reviewed through the lens of a successful experience for the independent reader. It is incredibly challenging to identify what books might work for independent readers based solely on reviews. So those seeking books for independent readers must rely on the series’ produced by the various publishers explicitly for that purpose. 
  • A bias exists toward these deliberately supportive books. Because they have been designed with intent for the independent reader, they may not be considered as potentially distinguished. We’ve talked about Caldecott/Geisel crossover before, but only with regard to picture books. Although readers may do what they do very well, it challenges us as adults to see them as artful instead of utilitarian.
  • Our more frequently mocked awards ask us to focus on one component of the book – text or art – while the Geisel places the successful reading experience at the fore and requires that both the text and art be considered as components of the whole.

     Particularly for adults who are more accustomed to evaluating whether a book is a satisfying read aloud in their day-to-day selection, whether preparing for storytime or selecting a gift, recognizing the excellence in a beginning reader title will be a real challenge.

Which is exactly why we should mock the Geisel Award.

If it’s challenging for those of us with specialized expertise in children’s literature, as librarians and teachers, how much more challenging must it be for a parent without that background?

Speaking from a Public Library perspective, when parents come in to support their emergent reader we want to be friendly and knowledgeable. Parents may be feeling vulnerable about whether their child is reading at grade level, progressing fast enough, or falling behind. This is a unique point of opportunity to provide good customer service and support grade level reading in our communities. Mocking Geisel gives us language to discuss options meaningfully with these parents and to make suggestions to offer their child the best opportunities for reading success. It informs how we organize and shelve our collections, making these titles accessible to parents who are browsing.

Newly emergent readers need books that are motivating to both practice reading skills and foster a love of reading even when it is hard, and they can find those books at the library if we help them. Mocking Geisel challenges us to see things through their perspective, to examine how we’re supporting the process of learning to read and improve our approach to better meet the needs of our kids. 

There’s also nothing quite like looking only at the books for beginning readers to realize how very much we need diverse books to be published each year.

Mock Geisel for professional development can take as little as a couple of hours for most participants, and yet it can have a yearlong impact on the knowledge and skills of your group. The Midwinter meeting when the real winner will be decided and announced isn’t until February for 2018, so you still have time if you'd like to hold a Mock Geisel for professional development this year.


  1. I am preparing my first and second graders for their Mock this year. I'm trying to instill in them the idea that books written for them matter, because these are the books that help them become the readers they will be the rest of their lives.

    1. I love that way of putting it DaNae. Well said! Our beginning readers deserve the best.


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