The Flicker Tale Children's Book Award
Compiled by Paulette Nelson
Minot Public Library
The first children's book award given by the North Dakota Library Association was in 1978 under the name Children's Choice Award. This award was presented each year at the annual conference through 1985. The award was not given in 1986. In September, 1986 the name was changed to the current name: Flicker Tale Children's Book Award.
Originally the award was the winner of a popular vote in which the top ten recipients of votes by children for their favorite book were submitted for a second vote by children across the state and their #1 favorite book was thus determined. There was no set time for the voting process to begin. All children pre-school through eighth grade were eligible to vote at his school or public library. Children had until February 15 to vote for the book they considered to be their favorite. About March 1, each library would receive a list of books that children considered to be their favorites. Children were again asked to vote on this new list of titles. The second voting reults were due by April 15 and the winner was announced by May 1. In 1980 members decided to create a picture book category to get more pre-school and early elementary school children involved in the award. In 1983 members discussed the feasibility of continuing the award. Some of the members of the association felt that the award should be changed or discontinued because "quality literature" was not being chosen and this reflected upon the librarians. Others felt that the titles should be chosen by librarians and then voted on by the children. This was not changed, however, until 1986. At that time members of the NDLA Children's Roundtable started nominating ten titles they know to be popular in their library. A ballot of the top ten nominated titles in each category was prepared and the children voted on these titles. The titles were displayed and promoted for several months so that children had the opportunity to read them and vote for their favorite book.
Titles can be nominated more than once for an award, but the policy has been that once a title has won, it cannot be nominated again. Since the purpose of the award is to recognize literature that children like to read, the promotion of the titles and the vote by children is an integral part of the process. The librarians have, however, wanted this award to also recognize popular "new" works so the criteria for nomination changed from an unlimited copyright field to the current requirement that a nominated title must have been published in the last five years and it must be popular within the library nominating it; thus the change from the children making the nominations to the librarians making the nominations. This has allowed newer authors and newer works by established authors to compete with some of the tremendously popular older works.
At first only members of the Children's Roundtable could submit nominations. Nominations were solicited in August or early September and the ballot was distributed at the NDLA conference in late September. The books were promoted in libraries across the state and voted on until March 15. The results were available to librarians by National Library Week. The libraries and winning authors were notified. The award was not presented, however, until the NDLA awards banquet in September. Authors were invited to attend the conference to receive their awards. Since 1897 a good number of the authors have been able to attend the Awards Ceremony. In all instances, airfare to the conference has been paid by their publishers. They usually do not charge an honorarium but NDLA has been responsible for the food and lodging.
In the fall of 1991, the Children's Roundtable received a $15,000 grant from the North Dakota Humanities Council so that the Flicker Tale Nominees could be distributed to school and public libraries throughout the state. At this time the list of nominees was reduced to 5 titles per category. The first year the grant was in place, books were offered to librarians across the state for a mere $45 for a set of ten books. One hundred fifty sets were ordered and sold. (The grant subsidized the remaining cost of the books.) In addition, three children's authors were invited to tour the state the first year. Bill Martin Jr. visited the Minot area, Laurie Lawlor visited the Grand Forks region, and Avi visited the Bismarck/Hettinger area.
Each library that participates in the program is asked to: 1. submit the voting results to the Flicker Tale Chair, 2. file an in-kind report, and 3. nominate books for the following year when returning the ballots in the spring. By doing this the Flicker Tale list is available when school starts the next fall.
The North Dakota Humanities Council has supported the project since 1991. The grant has been reduced in amount. The Library Association now orders 200 sets of books which are sold for $75 per set. Order blanks are sent out to all public libraries in the state, all school libraries, and all superintendents of schools. Also ordered are special nominee and winner stickers which are affixed to the book so that everyone is aware that this is a "special" book.
Books are sent to one library and a committee of volunteer librarians packages the books, ballots, stickers, and book talks. The book talks are written by volunteers and they are copied and distributed with the books so that librarians and teachers can promote the books.
The grant also makes it possible for children's author's to visit the state. The Flicker Tale Committee has tried to reach all areas of the state. Children's book authors who have visited North Dakota through the Flicker Tale Grant include: Bill Martin Jr., Laurie Lawlor, Avi, Tedd Arnold (twice), Janet Stevens (twice), Rafe Martin, Mary Jane Auch, and Hadley Irwin. Author visits are usually scheduled in small rural areas where children often do not have the opportunity to interact and visit with real live authors.
Through the years the program has grown. Over 15,000 children participate annually in the program. Because of the grant small, rural libraries and schools can now participate in the program because the books are easily attained and affordable.