Proliferating Prizes, Jane Addams, Social Justice

I’m on the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award committee, and I’m really excited to read the books under consideration this year. I’m only reading for the younger category, but I’m really excited about the older readers books too! It’s going to be another exciting year and I’m looking forward to the discussion. Okay, I said “exciting” three times already. But really, that’s because I am 🙂

Anyway, thinking about awards in general – I’m reminded of Marc Aronson’s article “Slippery Slopes and Proliferating Prizes” from a few years back. Aronson was skeptical about the proliferation of so many different kinds of awards – awards based on quality of writing, quality of illustration, based on authorship (Black, Asian American, Latino/Hispanic, etc), based on peace and tolerance, based on translation, etc. Have we created too many medals for children’s books? When does it stop? Who decides? 

I honestly believe in our children’s books awards. The Newbery Medal and Caldecott Medal for obvious reasons, but I also want to point out that the Jane Addams Award is incredibly important too. Jane Addams was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize (1931) and she founded the Hull House, a social settlement in Chicago. She dedicated her life to fight for equality and social justice, especially for women and children. If children’s stories truly shape our world, as we say they do, then the types of stories we tell will impact our children and help them understand the world in which we live. Thus it is imperative, especially during this time of corruption, international chaos and social injustice, that we recognize those children’s books that “effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence.” So while some may question the importance and existence of so many different awards based on other criteria, I hope the Jane Addams Award‘s importance will never be questioned. 

Aronson, M. (2001 May/June). Slippery Slopes and Proliferating Prizes. The Horn Book Magazine, 77(3), 271-27