November 21, 2008

Great Minds Think Alike

By sheer coincidence (I swear!) yesterday Stephen Krashen sent out some remarks in his e-newsletter about a study he and Joanne Ujiie did regarding the Newbery Problem:

Anita Silvey ("Has the Newbery lost its way?" October 2008) notes
that current Newbery winners, as compared to winners in the 1990's,
are not popular among children. Our research confirms that current
award winners are not popular: We found that Newbery and Caldecott
award winners and runner-ups for 2003 and 2004 were far less likely to
be checked out of Southern California public libraries than young
reader books on bestseller lists.

Prize-winning books were not particularly popular before the 1990's,
however. Linda Lamme, in a study published in 1976, reported that the
middle school children she studied “read few Caldecott or Newbery
medal winning books and few books on a standard list of good
literature …. Only in the sixth grade was even 5 percent of their
reading in medal winning books ….". Lamme also found that those who
read more "quality" books did not read any better.
We did a statistical analysis of this data and confirmed that
prize-winners had a lower than average rank on the popularity lists
for 24 of the 25 years studied.

So again I ask, what's the point of the awards anyway?  And I'm not just talking about Newberys here. I mean awards in general.  Oscars, Emmys, Teachers of the Year.  Who really cares?

Just askin'.  Thanks.