Monday, January 16, 2017

What Are The Alex Awards?

The Alex Awards are given annually to ten adult books published in the previous year that have high appeal for readers ages 12-18.  They are named in honor of Margaret “Alex” Edwards, who was a champion of what was in her era the new field of young adult library services.  Selections are made by a committee of nine librarians who spend the year culling recently published books for possibilities, narrowing those down into nominated titles, and analyzing their merit in group discussions. The ten award books and a list of vetted titles are then chosen by vote.  

Why have an award that highlights this niche? Although Young Adult literature has flourished in recent years, there are plenty of teen readers who for a variety of reasons are more drawn toward books published for adults.  There are the readers who read so much that they’ve read practically every YA book so they need more material. Or there are readers who have tired of the YA “problem” novel – the dystopias, the dead or troubled parent -- or teens who don’t want to read (another) 500 page book with a dragon on the cover. They need material that is presented in a different way, even if it might still be full of strife or dragons. And reluctant readers are sometimes drawn toward adult books more than ones written for their age group.  

The Alex Awards are a useful tool for those readers and the parents, teachers, and librarians who help connect them with books. Being an “Alex” means a book has met with hours of critical reading and discussion by librarians who work with youth. Part of the vetting process also often includes asking teen readers to give feedback on the books as a way to ensure that the appeal is not just what adults think teens “should” like.  Because Alex books cover a wide spectrum of genres, formats, topics, and styles, readers with diverse taste are likely to find something on the list that piques their interest. Books with appeal for this age group play an important role in cultivating lifelong readers as school gets more demanding and responsibilities and distractions of adult life threaten to overshadow the rewards of recreational reading.

The Alex Awards kick off the Youth Media Awards each year at the American Library Association Midwinter conference. Full of suspense and oohs and ahs as the announcements lead up to the big reveal of the Newbery Award winner, this event is a must-see for youth literature geeks. Super fun and live-streamed bright and early January 23rd this year.

by Joy Worland

JANUARY 28, 2017, 11:00 am to 12:00 pm: Join librarians and Alex Awards committee members Joy Worland (Montpelier, Vt.) and Francisca Goldsmith (Portland, Maine), and YA/Middle Grade author Aaron Starmer, for a panel discussion on reviewing books for this award as well as a talk about writing for and expanding the world of literature for teens.

This Bear Pond Books Educator Series event is free and open to the public. Click Here to register.

Aaron Starmer is the author of numerous novels for young readers, including "The Only Ones" and "The Riverman." His newest novel "Spontaneous" (Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2016) is a TIME magazine Top 10 YA & Children's Book of 2016! He lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.

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