I’ve had some time to reflect on the process of running a Mock Caldecott group. Through that reflection I’ve come up with some things I would change if I for next time. It seems like this might be one of the most important things to share with others who are starting their own groups. Knowing the pitfalls is actually one of the more valuable things to know. We can all dream big. We can’t all see what snags we are going to get tripped up on.
When the results of Mock Caldecotts across the country came rolling, I found that there is actually a book about hosting this kind of event. Before I do this again I’d like to get my hands on a copy of Newbery and Caldecott Mock Elections by Kathleen Simonetta, Nancy Hackett and Linda Ward-Callaghan (ALSC, 2001) I’ve also discovered that Library Sparks had an article in January 2004 called The Peasleecott: A Mock Caldecott Unit written by Nancy Keller. I’d also like to get my hands on that article.
Things that didn’t work as planned and should be changed:
1. The length of time it takes to read and evaluate a book should be looked at. I did not anticipate how carefully our participants would view each book and contemplate the features. This was good, but we did not start out offering them an appropriate amount of reward for their effort.
2. Going along with number one, adjusting the number of books to review and the schedule for that.
3. Rethink whether it would make more sense to make this a weekly meeting. While I felt that offering the group in a flexible format would be easier to manage, people seemed to have more difficulty with that. Sometimes having a set meeting time can be easier. Sometimes it is easier to leave an important task to go to a scheduled meeting than it is to leave it to do something that is perceived of as “having fun.” When that happens, the fun factor decreases and guilt takes over. Perhaps this could be run as a graduate class to pair the reward with the amount of effort required to be an active member.
Things that would add to the program:
1. Provide posters on the library wall featuring successful renditions of various techniques.
2. Along with the examples of successful techniques, the actual tools and techniques would be a plus
3. Vocabulary posted on the wall to go with the posters above. This would help with identification as well as writing prompts for students.
Management items to tweek:
1. Start keeping a database in January. Adding to it each month would make it possible to keep on top of it later in the year and have more time for reading the books.
2. Differentiate between reviews and starred reviews.
3. Make sure to get a copy of ALL the starred reviewed books early on.
4. If I start previewing books at the beginning of the year, some of the titles that are not contenders can be weeded out in advance and we can focus on the best. This would include finding those books with illustrators who are not eligible for the medal.
5. Make decisions about offering the class earlier in the year so that people can plan their activities for the season. Most of our people really wanted to do it so they participated on top of a heavy load of activities. It would have been easier for them if they had known in May.
6. Come up with a list of refreshments in advance. While it may seem an insignificant thing, I find that creating a festive environment for the project makes people buy into it in a different, more joyous way. This yields more results than one might think.
I'm already scanning the book reviews for next time around and dreaming of other ways I can improve this program.