Sunday, October 30, 2011

Help Columbine book win Readers' Choice Award

Illinois high school students, teachers, parents, librarians and friends, you can help Columbine reach a wider audience in schools.

Columbine is a finalist for "The 2012 Abraham Lincoln Award: Illinois' High School Readers' Choice Award." Winners are chosen by students, and any Illinois high school student can vote.

Please consider voting and asking a student you know to vote. (Summary of how below.)

I have never lobbied for an award before, but here's why this one matters so much to me:

When the book launched, I was flooded with emails, but then soon after, Facebook started humming. It was students. Thousands of them were reading the book and sharing it. They said it felt real to them, like their life. It made them want to read.

That was the nicest thing I could have hoped to hear.

Teachers and librarians also became big supporters, because of the kids' response. They were reading by choice! And asking questions, wanting to learn more—wanting to learn. Music to a teacher's ears. And mine. They are thrilled at the way the kids are responding.

I had to give up touring to concentrate on my next book, but I've made exceptions for schools, because the impact is so powerful. (I know the kids electrify me.)

In the last two years, I have traveled to schools around the country and met with thousands of students, and skyped with hundreds more. In one week last month, I spoke to about 3,000 kids in four schools around Chicago. The enthusiasm has been overwhelming.

Hinsdale Central last month. More pix here and on Facebook.)

What's so invigorating is the way students are responding. They are excited about reading, asking, learning.

Students and teachers have become my prime focus. I created the Columbine Teacher's Guide and Student Guide—both free. I also created videos for students and class discussions, and do two free skype sessions per month with classes.

The Abe Lincoln Award will open the door
to more schools around the country using the book. It is sponsored by the state's school library association (ISLMA), which carries a lot of clout nationally. It will make administrators much more receptive to teachers who have been asking to use the book in class, or lobbying to get it on official reading lists.

So if you're an Illinois student and you liked Columbine, please vote, and encourage your friends. If you work with kids or parent them, encourage them to vote. (Or to vote for any book on the list they did like. And to read!)

How to Vote

One librarian or teacher at each school (usually the library media specialist) is designated to count all votes for the school and send them in. So just ask your librarian to record your vote.

If she/he is not familiar with the award, just give them this link, with all the info. (If your school is not registered to participate it has to do so by November 15.) And if your school library does not want to participate, you can vote through your public library.

Here's the catch: To be eligible to vote, you have to read four of the books on the list of finalists. There are 22 to choose from, so hopefully you can find three other books that interest you. And all books have been favorites of kids, so you are likely to find good reading material there. You might also be able to do a class project on the four books you choose.

You have through February of 2012 to read four books and get your vote in. Thanks. And spread the word.

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