The Bangkok Book Awards

Global literature for children exists—but how to find it and connect it with readers? A group of librarians at international schools in Bangkok have developed a new student-choice book award program that 1) helps librarians exchange info about books by authors from around the world, and 2) acquaints students with their finds. Here librarian Kim Beeman tells us more:
The Bangkok Book Awards were founded by a group of international school librarians in Bangkok. As a school librarian, I have long looked to children’s books awards (like the American Newbery and Caldecott Medals, or the British Greenaway and Carnegie Medals) as a reliable source of excellent new titles and a wonderful way to find new authors.

In the past few years, I have shadowed the Carnegie and Greenaway Medals with students and teachers in the British-curriculum school where I work. Shadowing has been a fantastic way to build community around a set of books, and to introduce new stories and new characters. I have found, however, that these awards do not necessarily reflect the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the students in an international school.

The Bangkok Book Awards were created, in part, to fill this gap by identifying and promoting excellent global children’s literature. This year’s shortlists for picture books, juvenile literature, and young adult literature were drawn from suggestions made from school librarians in the area. The criteria were simple: the books must have been published in the last five years, and as a group, we agreed that we wanted to promote a diverse, global range of authors and narratives. The Red Dot Book Awards, a well-established children’s book award scheme in Singapore, served as a model and inspiration.

Participating schools will buy multiple copies of the books, organize reading groups, and eventually, vote on their favorite titles. In May 2017, students will come together for a special Bangkok Book Awards ceremony. The awards are designed to celebrate excellence in children’s literature while creating a local community of readers who know and love them, and can discuss and enjoy them within and between different international schools.

This year’s shortlisted books are set in America, Japan, Canada, England, China, and France. Three of the books (Issun Boshi, The Secret of the Blue Glass, and Bronze and Sunflower) are translations. The authors come from, or currently live in, America, England, Zimbabwe, Japan, China, and France. We hope that the Bangkok Book Awards will be a successful, ongoing local experiment in promoting and celebrating truly global children’s literature.
 
Kim Beeman is the Director of the Library at Shrewsbury International School in Bangkok.

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