Youth Participation

Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Youth Participation

The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award selection committee is keenly aware that young people innately care deeply about issues of peace and justice and that they both can and need to develop an understanding of identity, empathy, courage, activism, and the common good. The perspectives of young people, their engagement, and their concerns are foremost in the selection committee members’ minds as they identify titles for the award.  Now, young people, with adult support, have the opportunity to read Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Finalist books and convey their perspective on these books to the committee! After consideration of three or more contenders, they are invited to answer this question. Which book is most important for all children to read or have read to them and why?


Steps for adults to take so young people can convey their perspectives:

Before November, acquaint your young people with previous Jane Addams Children’s Book Award winning and honor titles.

Introduce them to the award process, letting them know that winning titles must elicit dialogue (lots of talk!), passionate response (lots of feeling!), purposeful reflection (lots of thinking!), and deep questioning about one or more of the following:

Kid-friendly criteria questions:

  • How can we work together for peace— justice for all people?
  • How can we live together equitably and peaceably with all our different identities?
  • How can we go beyond being afraid and solve conflict nonviolently and humanely?
  • How can work together to end problems like prejudice, racism, war, and other ways people with power put down and hurt others?
  • How can we build respect for and understanding of the worth of all of us?
  • How can we work for equality for women and girls?

Tell your young people that the Jane Addams Selection Committee needs to hear from them, needs to learn their perspective! They are invited to compare and contrast some of this year’s Finalists and let the committee know which title they think is most important for children to read or have read to them and why.

Register to participate. Adults must sign up to receive access to the children’s survey.

Read three or more finalists in the category of Younger or Older Children. Discuss each! Look for dialogue and response. Every step along the way, ask, “Why?” to elicit the young people backing up their responses with evidence from the text they are discussing along with their own knowledge and experience.

Author Debbie Levy visiting with students and their mother

Once you have deeply read, compared, and contrasted as many titles as is possible, ask children to choose the book they think is most important for all children to read and have read to them. (Of course, they will have different choices! It is their perspective that is important and even more so why they hold their view.) Have them write about their choice, perhaps in the form of a persuasive essay, read their writing to others, and ask each other questions to push their thinking. Once they have revised their thoughts, have them condense their response to a short paragraph, simply stating why it is such an important book for all children to read or have read to them. (In essence, distill their writing to an extended thesis statement.)

Students may complete the survey. They will receive acknowledgement of their submission.

Stay posted to hear the winning and honor titles announced on January 15, 2021!