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Press Release Fun: Participate in a Bank Street College Award!

Bank Street College of Education, in partnership with School Library Journal, offers for the first time open participation in The Irma Simonton Black & James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature. Bank Street College is welcoming any librarian or teacher of first and second graders to read aloud and to discuss the four finalists, and to submit their children’s votes for the best picture book of the year.

The Irma Simonton Black & James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature (Irma Black Award) goes to an outstanding book for young children–a book in which text and illustrations are inseparable, each enhancing and enlarging on the other to produce a singular whole.

The Irma Black Award is unusual in that children are the final judges of the winning book. The winning book receives a gold seal and the other three finalists will be honor books with a silver seal, both designed by Maurice Sendak.

These are the finalists for 2010:

How Rocket Learned To Read by Tad Hills

Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown

A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea written by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Dust Devil written by Anne Isaacs, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky


How did we get to these 4 finalists?

·       From the many children’s books published each year, an adult group of writers, librarians and educators choose approximately 16 to 20 books that they consider the best candidates for the Award.

·       These books are then sent (in four sets) to the 3 rd and 4 th grade classrooms at the Bank Street School for Children. As part of their picture book evaluation curriculum, we ask these students to look critically at the art and words and whether these books would be relevant to younger children. Over the course of five weeks the children read and discuss all of the books before selecting four finalists.

Then what happens?

The four finalist titles are placed in 1 st and 2 nd grade classrooms or libraries in schools. The children in these classrooms read, examine, discuss, and re-read the books over a four-week period, before they select the winning book. Twelve schools in five states participated in the selection of the award last year with more than 2,500 children voting on the books.

This year any teacher or librarian can participate by registering at School Library Journal’s site . Registered adults will receive a link to a secured voting site.

Any teacher, school librarian or public librarian who works with 1 st and 2 nd graders or children ages 6 to 8 may participate. Remember only the children’s votes count.

A curriculum guide for leading a critical book discussion of picture books with children is available on the Bank Street College website

Where do I get the books?

Books are available from retailers and distributors throughout the country The Bank Street Bookstore is making a special offer to participating schools and Libraries:

A complete set of the four titles is available for $60.00 (a $10 discount) plus   $5.00 shipping ($65.00 total) by calling 1 800 724-1486. No tax will be charged for books shipped to schools and libraries.

When are the votes due?

All votes need to be registered by April 11 th 2011

The winner will be announced April 15 th , 2011

How do I get the silver and gold seals?

To receive a set of seals, registered participants may send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to

Bank Street College of Education Library

610 West 112 th Street

New York, NY 10025

Attn: Irma Black Award

The Irma Black Award will be presented during our Award Breakfast on May 19 th , 2011 at 8:30 a.m. at Bank Street College of Education.

Who was Irma Simonton Black?

Irma Simonton Black was a writer and editor of children’s books and a founding member (in the 1930s) of the Bank Street Writers Laboratory, which included such luminaries of children’s literature as Margaret Wise Brown and Maurice Sendak.

Irma Simonton Black & James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature, which commemorates Irma’s achievements, has been presented annually since 1973 by Bank Street College of Education. (The Award was presented in Irma’s name only until 1992, when James Black’s name was added in recognition of his ardent support of the Award.)

For further information about the Award visit our website

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I love the idea of teachers and librarians reading these books to children, discussing the stories, and then judging them. However, before I read the entire post I had some misgivings that it was only for 1st and 2nd. Being a fourth-grade teacher, I know how important picture books are to this age group as well. Fortunately, I read further and was pleasantly surprised to see that 3rd and 4th-graders chose the finalists. I would love to get my own students involved in something like this some day.

  2. This sounds like a great lesson and since I already have all four books, I am going to try it with my first and second graders. It should prove interesting to listen to their thoughts on these particular titles. Thanks for posting this, this will go perfectly with my plans to talk about story elements with them.