Friday, June 2, 2017

Mock Newbery Questions Answered (Part One)

Many of you are so excited to try and start your own Mock Newbery Book Club. But I get, you've got questions! I've been there. Without the help of other teachers, I wouldn't have had the courage to tackle a new book club (and all the reading) this past year! But, I'm here to help (hopefully) and give you the courage to try something new in your classroom or school.

What is Mock Newbery Book Club? Not sure what a Mock Newbery Book Club even is -- don't worry! I've got you covered in a post I wrote as I was figuring everything out last year! Check out the past post {Mock Newbery Book Club} to get you started! That post covers a lot of basics and gives you a lot of resources to start and visualize what a Newbery Book Club could look like for you!

What does Mock Newbery Book Club look like start to finish? How long does everything take? Do you continue reading after the awards in January? I'm going to be honest - Mock Newbery takes some work. There is quite a bit of planning, reading, and organizing that has to happen in order for you to get the club up and running. I tend to stress out - so I probably over plan and organize all the details. However, working with other teachers and utilizing social media can really help ease the burden and stress. Everyone's timeline is going to look a little different. The Newbery Award is announced every January at the ALA Mid-Winter Conference.

So, I started getting ready in January for the next year's Mock Newbery. This includes reading novels published in the new year and having students give input on recently published novels as well. My goal is to have a rough list together by the end of April/May so I can prepare for funding of books and give out a summer list reading to previous book clubbers. Over the summer, I read, read, read. And then read some more to try and read as many of the titles as I can before school starts back. This makes me a better book talker and helps me get the kids excited.

By August, I have a list of books prepared for my new students and we start Mock Newbery in September. We meet September - January. We met about once or twice a month. I set up dates and passed them out to students as bookmarks. We then voted in January on our winner and honor books. Our last official event was watching the awards together LIVE! (or sort of live if you have specials during the time of the awards! But don't worry, they record them and air them by that afternoon so that you can all watch together (sort of) LIVE!) Then the book club is technically over. However, I do ask for reading helpers and experts, to help me read the newest books to start a list for Mock Newbery next school year. I blogged about {Enlisting Expert Readers} in a past post if you want to learn more!

How do you choose books for Mock Newbery? How many books do you choose? There is no set list or number of books. You could easily choose four books or twenty-four books and it'd still be a great experience. You want students to be exposed to new, quality literature. So pick books that can start a conversation or books that have a unique point of view or style. I chose several books last year that I knew kids would LOVE. I knew they may not fit the term "distinguished" to an adult but kids would absolutely love them. Those books such as The Wild Robot and Weekends with Max and his Dad were kid favorites. I also chose books about topics I knew my students could connect with like Finding Perfect. There is no magical list or formula. I literally look at what others are reading and thinking about the Newbery. I also look at star reviews and try and pay attention to the National Book Award as well. The blog Heavy Medal has also really helped me get ideas for books and what to read.

How do I ultimately narrow down my list and pick books? I read. I read a lot. This year, I'm still reading but I also relied on friends on Twitter as well as the Goodreads Mock Newbery Shelf and book discussion group. I also choose books by authors I admire and I know are great at connecting with readers. I've also chosen books that are already released so I could start reading and ordering books NOW. I can always add titles later or give book talks on other great contenders as books are released. Here's my Mock Newbery List (as of now) for 2018.

Lastly before I set my list, I need to make sure books are appropriate. Just because everyone is raving about a certain title, doesn't mean it was meant for fifth graders. So, I ask friends and also try and do some reading on my own. For this current year, my goal is to connect our Mock Newbery with the Reading Without Walls Challenge so I also tried to find more diverse authors, titles, and genres for my students to explore. I tried to be really intentional about the books I chose. Most recommendations were from friends on Twitter and Goodreads.

Here's a peek at my reading list for 2018... 

How do you buy the books? Do kids purchase books? Do you check them out from the library? Buying brand new books is NOT cheap. Therefore some thought and planning does need to go into how you will raise the money to buy the books. A stocked book club could run you about $500 - $700 if you're looking for 2 - 4 copies of each book so that it can be an actual reading club. Last year, I submitted a Donors Choose for all of my book club novels. I did add The Girl that Drank the Moon and Gertie's Leap to Greatness and bought two copies of each with my own money. This year, I was able to get a grant for $500 dollars through my school to fund nearly all the titles on my list. I've also won several ARCs on Twitter giveaways (A Rambler Steals Home, The Someday Birds, and The Ethan I was Before) which give me some extra copies too.

For my remaining titles (books not yet released), I'm going to either write a Donors Choose or set up an Amazon Wishlist for friends, parents, etc. to buy to help support our book club. I'm also hoping that since many of my choices were books published in January/February our local library will have some extra copies come fall. Last year, I was also able to get some audio book copies of The Key to Extraordinary and Pax which also gave access to more readers as they could listen to the books with headphone splitters in the classroom. Teacher Tip: If you're willing to invest some of your own money, check out Half Price Books, Barnes and Noble Market Place, eBay or Thriftbooks for cheaper copies of "older" releases. Often, you can find gently used copies for nearly half the price!

I have never asked kids or parents to purchase books. However, I did have several parents buy books for their kids after reading our Open House letter because the kids were excited to be part of the Mock Newbery Book Club. Many of those students then let other students read their copies once they were finished.

Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow... 
I'll tackle some questions about checking out books and what to do during meetings!



  1. I LOVE your passion for putting up to date books in the hands of your students! Thank you for sharing your expertise! So lucky to work a few doors down from you!! -Litty ❤️

  2. Can you give some advice on how to connect with Authors or ARCs via Twitter? I am on Twitter, but don't always know who to follow. Love the Mock Newbery stuff! I have run my own for a couple years, but have some great ideas for improvement due to your blog! Thank you!

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