There was a wonderful buzz around the library this past week.
We had read the 3 books shortlisted for the Jarul Book awards over the previous 3 weeks, the children had spent time reading them and barring a very few, most were clear about which was their favourite.
The Jarul Book Award is the only award in India that gives voice and choice to children. Students from Kindergarten to Grade 6 are given a chance to read and vote for the best book. At Abacus Montessori, we have children from Grades 2-6 voting for their favourite.
Since I work with mixed-age group classes of grades 2-4, the first to vote were the grade 4’s.
They then had the responsibility of guiding their grade 2 classmates who had only just moved up to elementary and had been back at physical school for just about a month. For many the little second graders, the library was a land of mystery, and then this library lady wants them to read, choose a favourite and vote!!!
What did it mean to ‘vote’?...many grappled with this.
The grades 4’s explained to their younger charges how they needed to choose only one of the three books, insisted that they cover the voting slips with their arms so that no one could peek. The vote needed to be a secret after all, and they then discreetly stepped away so that they didn’t ‘accidentally’ peek themselves.
The ‘ballot papers’...slips really, were entertaining to count. Some decorated their slips with boxes or clouds around their choices, some wrote them on the front and back of the slip, some scribbled one word from the title, while others wrote in beautiful cursive. Some emphasised their choice with capital letters, while others diligently added characters from the books to emphasise their choices.
The older elementary (grades 5 and 6) knew the drill, having voted before in 2019. We have been participating in the Jarul Book Awards for a few year and it brings a lot of excitement to our December library sessions.
These three books were very different from each other.
Fauja Singh Keeps Going...a picture book biography, Pickle Mania...a wonderful story laced with local flavour, food and intergenerational relationships, while The Germ Academy is a modern take on germs, starring 'Covie' or the Corona Virus.
I knew some of the children’s choices as they would ‘reveal’ their choice to me in staged whispers. I was not surprised with their revelations. Children who were more westernised with exposure to comics, cartoons and ‘cool language’ went for a certain book, children from more traditional homes clearly favoured another and the deeper thinkers, all gravitated towards a third.
Children will favour the books they identify with, the higher thinkers seemed to all favour one that opened out a window onto a story they had never heard before.
It was interesting as this unfolded before me. As a Library educator ,parent , or teacher , it is vital to know your students/children and to know your books. When you do, you can wave your magic 'book-matching-wand' and pair a child with just the right read.
How empowered they feel to know that their voice matters, that their vote will count!
Off they went, to show off their marked index fingers.