Friday, November 9, 2018

The Three "D"s: A Simple Framework for Evaluating Sibert Medal Contenders, Part 3

For the last 2 weeks, Melody Allen, a retired librarian who served on the 2007 Sibert Medal committee, has been sharing the kid-friendly guidelines she developed for evaluating nonfiction books based on the ALA’s official criteria. Scroll down to read about Delight and Design. Today, she will discuss the third and final "D"—Documentation.

Fans of Grand Canyon, 2018 #SibertSmackdown
Why is documentation important? Because it gives readers confidence that the text is accurate. Members of the Sibert committee often seek out subject experts to provide feedback on the content of the books they are considering. For example, I consulted a ballet school director, a university professor whose research area was the Civil Rights Movement, zoo staff, and a state parks ranger trained in fighting forest fires. You probably won't do this with your students, but there are other ways of evaluating the content of an informational book.

Like the first two "D"s (Delight and Design), Documentation has three major components.

—Sources used

—Attribution of quotes

—Additional backmatter resources

Here are some questions students can use to decide whether an author used well chosen, credible sources:

—Is the author an expert in the topic he/she is writing about? Check the bio on the book jacket to find out.

—If not, has an expert vetted the book? That person will usually be listed on the copyright page or in the acknowledgements.

Quotations can add authority to a book or show that there are different points of view on a topic. If a book has quotations (including dialogue), the sources should be credited at the end of the book. As students review quotations in a book, they should ask themselves:

—If the book has dialogue, is it documented or was it invented?

—Is the person being quoted presented as objective or biased, i.e. representing a specific point of view on an issue?

The amount of backmatter in a book is not as important as its relevance to the topic and value to the reader. The following questions can help student evaluate a book’s backmatter:

—Is there a timeline?  A glossary?  An index?  If not, should there be?

—Are there suggestions for further reading and recommended websites and organizations related to the subject? 

—Is there an author’s note? An illustrator’s note? If so, do they include valuable information about their research and creative processes?

—What does the backmatter add to the experience of reading the book?
If a book provides solid Documentation, is well Designed, and Delights the reader with clear, engaging presentation, then it could be a contender for Sibert Medal. And that means it would be a good choice for the Sibert Smackdown or other Mock Sibert programs.

Interested in giving The Three "D"s a try? Here’s the handout I created for students.


Melody Lloyd Allen is a retired librarian who worked in public libraries and schools, and for 30 years, as the state children’s services consultant in Rhode Island. She also taught at the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Rhode Island, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, and the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. She served on the Caldecott Medal Committee twice and once on the Sibert Medal Committee.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all of this great info and insights into how Sibert books are chosen.It must be fun contacting the various experts!

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