Next year’s Red Dots – 2017-2018 – the game plan….  

This is the 8th year of the Red Dot Book Awards, run by our international school librarians’ network here in Singapore.  (For a full list of similar awards by other international school librarians, see this list.)

Our first set of four lists (8 titles each in four age-range categories) was announced in November 2009 — and the first winners were announced in March 2010.

Since then we have progressively been trying to perfect the timing.   The ideal is to have enough time for a group of us to find and agree on the best 32 titles, then to source enough copies, and then to get them into the hands of children so they will have time to read and consider them.  All before it’s time to start all over again.

This past year we finally managed to get our shortlists announced on June 1st (via Padlets (early / younger / older / mature) — just to our members, if not on the official Red Dot website.  At least that gave us time to order books over the summer break.

The goal for this coming year is to announce our shortlists by May.

We’ve been tripping over ourselves in the past — what with having the Readers Cup competition in May and trying to set the next year’s list of Red Dot shortlists.  It’s all too much at the end of an academic year.

This year we are taking a one-year break from the Readers Cup competition, in order to potentially re-imagine it.  And that means this is the year we should be able to devote time to discussing our Red Dot books in plenty of time to get those shortlists settled by mid-May.

So here’s my proposal for the coming year — as chair of the Red Dot committee.  Especially as I think us coming together in-person in  a book-club kind of setting is important.

1)  Log any good books in this ISLN Google Spreadsheet — use the FORM to submit and this LINK to see what has been submitted — for whichever Red Dot category — starting now. 

Use GoodReads or whatever else you want to be recording what you’re reading and thinking.  (For example, here is my personal “Potential Red Dot” bookshelf on Goodreads….)

2)  Tuesday, November 29th – Open evening social at The American Club, 5:30pm onwards — hosted by Kate Brundage and/or Susanne Clower — come with a list of books that you have read and want to rave about.

3)  Tuesday, Feb. 21st – Open evening social at The American Club, 5:30pm onwards – hosted by Kate Brundage and/or Susanne Clower — come prepared to talk about more books you are excited about.   We have a network meeting on February 28th at ISS — and we should have good progress to report on the Red Dot shortlists coming together.

4)  Tuesday, March 21st – Open evening social at The American Club, 5:30pm onwards – hosted by Kate Brundage and/or Susanne Clower — come prepared to finalize our shortlists.


When I was in Prague for the School Librarian Connection conference in September, I was interested to meet with librarians working in Switzerland and Germany — and to hear how their network awards are run.

Judith Bows gave an overview of The Golden Cowbell Awards in Switzerland — see her slides here — — and something they do which we have never taken very seriously here in Singapore — is to create something to give to the winning authors.  They literally cast a giant cowbell and raise (find) funds to ship it to the winner whenever they might live.  (See the photos of Cece Bell accepting her award!)  Frankly, we’ve been so focused on getting kids to read the book, to determine a winner, and to then hold a Readers Cup competition — that contacting authors was low on the priority list.  (A missed opportunity!)

I was also surprised to learn that the Swiss books are chosen mainly by a series of ballots by members — with not much face-to-face discussion.

As I have argued in a past blog post, the balance in the baskets — in terms of diversity, genre, appeal, etc. — is key to what we perceive as the strength of our award.  Successive votes by ballot wouldn’t necessarily guarantee that.  For us at least in Singapore, it has required us sitting together and hashing out the place of each title, genre, and country of focus or origin on a list.  To leave it to a succession of ballots without active discussion seems harsh.  But then we have the luxury of living in a small country where all of us can easily get together.

The Hansel and Gretel Awards in Germany is another recent entry in the field that I hadn’t heard about before — and one that differs from others in that some old favorites are allowed in the mix.

I personally believe the 4-year-window of recently published literature is important — as it’s the library’s way of influencing the currency of the class libraries and refreshing our group reading cupboards.  All those extra copies get re-purposed in a wonderful way.

Repeat of Red Dot criteria

The Red Dot categories are roughly based on readers, rather than book formats or school divisions.  (NB: It is up to every librarian to determine which books are right for which classes in your school to read.)
  • Early Years (ages 3-7) — formerly Picture Books
  • Younger Readers (ages 7-10) — formerly Junior) — (where Captain Underpants and Geronimo Stilton are the assumed reading level)
  • Older Readers (ages 10-14) — formerly Middle) — (where Inkheart and The Lightning Thief are the assumed reading level)
  • Mature Readers (ages 14-adult) — (formerly Senior) —  (where Twilight and The Book Thief are the assumed reading level)
Shortlist titles are chosen by a committee of teacher-librarians from recent children’s literature (first published in English within the past four years), with the goal of offering a range of books from around the world

Criteria in choosing books:
  • Mix of genres, e.g., fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic format
  • Balance of boy/girl main characters
  • Balance of nationalities
  • Published (in English) within the last 4 years (i.e., for the year 2015-2016, books published in 2012, 2013, 2014, or 2015)
  • The shortlists will consist of 8 books at each level
  • Preferably only #1 if in a series
  • Preferably no repeat of an author from previous years
  • Preferably books that encourage Text-Text, Text-Self, and/or Text-World connections for students (i.e., books worth talking about)

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