Door County’s Young Readers Vote

T.J. Walker Middle School students were among the nearly 27,000 young readers of Wisconsin who have selected their favorite books for the state’s 2009 Golden Archer Award.

These young, Door County voters were not able to watch election returns on the nightly news; rather, they had to wait for their school librarian, Mary Ann Blahnik, to return from Madison where the winners were announced at the spring conference of The Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association (WEMTA). Although Blahnik serves on WEMTA’s Golden Archer Committee and is the official vote counter, she never reveals the results until they are official.

By a 4,500 vote margin, the primary students chose Chester, the story of a cool cat who repeatedly rewrites author Melanie Watt’s mouse story with his red marker. Intermediate students – like readers of all ages – enjoyed the antics of John Grogan’s dog, Marley:  A Dog Like No Other. Marley’s story, published in three versions, was made into a recently-released movie. Middle school and junior high school students’ accolades went to Jeff Kinney who hilariously depicted a year in the life of a seventh grader in Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  Greg Heffley’s Journal.

Authors Watt, Grogan, and Kinney can be envied for having hit the mark with their young readers, and that was what the founder of the award had in mind. The late Marion Archer, author, librarian, and college instructor at UW-Oshkosh, took to heart the complaint of her students in 1973, that awards for children’s literature should be selected by children rather than panels of adult experts in the field. She and fellow librarian Sally Teresinski convinced the university library and schools of education and library science to sponsor the new award, and they sent out notices to every school in the state. Two thousand fourth through eighth grade students responded and author Judy Blume received the first award in 1974.

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