Arts & Humanities Society & Culture

Sightseeing bears, magical town win Georgia Children’s Book Awards

Bear Alert book award-h
Breaking News Bear Alert by David Biedrzycki was a winner in this year's Georgia Children's Book Awards.

Athens, Ga. – A picture book about bears who awaken from their slumber to go sightseeing and a chapter book about a young girl and her once-magical town are the winners in this year’s Georgia Children’s Book Awards, sponsored by the College of Education at the University of Georgia.

The annual awards, which took place last weekend as part of the Conference on Children’s Literature at the UGA Hotel and Conference Center, gave top honors to “Breaking News Bear Alert” by David Biedrzycki and “A Snicker of Magic” by Natalie Lloyd.

Winners for each award are chosen from among 20 nominees announced in February 2015 and then voted on by tens of thousands of children from across Georgia. Children in grades kindergarten through fourth grade vote on the winning picture book, while children in grades four through eight vote in the book award category.

Teachers and librarians share the nominated books with students throughout the summer and school year, said Jennifer Graff, associate professor in the UGA College of Education’s department of language and literacy education and chair of the picture book award committee.

“The voting took place this past January and February, so they have a full year to gain access to these books,” she added. “We also offer curriculum connections for the books, to provide additional strategies for use in classrooms and libraries.”

Recently, the voting process expanded to include public libraries. This gave children an additional venue to participate in the book award process.

“These are book awards for the state, and we want to recognize the invaluable role of public libraries in the reading lives of children,” said Graff. “We also want to be inclusive of all forms of learning; there are home-schoolers and other educational groups that may not be housed in formal schools, and we want them to have an opportunity to vote.”

The annual awards are part of the Georgia Conference on Children’s Literature, which is another opportunity to connect children, curriculum and the community through books. This past weekend’s event included professional learning and workshops for educators, media specialists, librarians and others who are interested in children’s literature as well as the state-level competition of the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl. This year’s conference featured past book award winners and nominees as keynote speakers, and a spotlight on North Georgia author Carmen Deedy.

Conference chair Joanne Ratliff, senior lecturer in the department of language and literacy education at the College of Education, said local authors play a key role in the conference. “The conference is a success because of the contributions of many people, as well as the quality of the speakers and workshop leaders.”