Teachers! Librarians! Parents! There is a big change coming to Manitoba for young readers! Hopefully you are familiar with the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award (MYRCA) where students in grades 5-8 can read from a list of 18 Canadian titles and vote for their favorite. If you are looking for ways to encourage your kids to read independently, MYRCA is a great way to get started.
For 2017, Manitoba students chose Allan Stratton’s The Dogs as their favorite book. Our kids clearly have good taste as The Dogs has won both Saskatchewan’s Snow Willow Award and Ontario’s Forest of Reading’s Red Maple Award. This September, MYRCA together with Thin Air, the Winnipeg International Writer’s Festival have arranged to have Allan Stratton appear on their main and school stages. Young readers never forget meeting their favorite author, and their energy is palpable. Schools whose students have voted are also invited to a special ceremony when Allan will receive his 2017 MYRCA Award, hosted by Lisa Ferguson’s students from Victor Mager School.
Lately, the MYRCA committee has noted the difficulty in finding appropriate titles for the full range of ages we serve. Students’ reading interests in grade 5 are vastly different than students in grade 8. The same holds true for their reading levels. Having a long list of 18 books, MYRCA selectors have always hoped that there is something on it for everyone, but in reality, there are always a few books that are too “low” for the grade 8’s and too “high” for the grade 5’s.
With this in mind, MYRCA has decided that now is the time to change! Starting in 2019, MYRCA will offer two lists of 10 books each; one for grades 4-6 and one for grades 7-9. In this way we are expanding our readership into grades 4 and 9 and will be offering titles that are better suited to those ranges. The MYRCA voting system will remain the same, with participants voting once if they have read 3 or more titles and twice if they have read 6 or more. Teachers and librarians report this to be very motivating for their students, as many will read “just one more” to get that extra vote. As such, MYRCA hopes to encourage all young people to become readers for life.
Although this change is still a year away, you can still participate in this year’s MYRCA. You can start reading the fantastic titles on the 2018 list of nominees in several ways. If you like good old-fashioned print books, WPL has all of the titles in hardcover or paperback. For the more technology oriented, you can find most of the titles in eBook and/or audiobook through WPL’s Overdrive app. If you need a great read-aloud for that long summer road trip, you can do that too! Kids are required to have read (or been read to) 3 nominees to be eligible to vote. Here are the three I would recommend starting with:
Written in verse, Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles by Shari Green is evocative and deeply moving. While their parents attend a marriage counselling camp, Bailey and her younger brother Kevin are spending the summer with Nana Marie, whom they barely know. Bailey is struggling with anxiety and looks for solace in the strangest of places. She sometimes finds the face of Jesus in her pancakes and a piece of driftwood is certainly a magical mermaid. But the idyllic seaside town has mysteries of its own and Bailey finds herself hoping for a miracle.
A Boy Named Queen by Sara Cassidy is a short novella about Evelyn who is just as surprised as her classmates when they are introduced to the new boy at school whose name is Queen. The boys in her class tease him but she tries to be nice. What she discovers along the way makes for a great discussion starter about being resilient and staying true to yourself.
For graphic novel lovers, The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks introduces us to an Asian-inspired city that has been repeatedly conquered and renamed so many times that the original name has been lost. The divide between the wealthy military elite and the poor population is apparent to Kaidu, a general’s son and Rat, an orphaned Indigenous girl. Together they try to rescue the city in the only way they can. This is the first in a trilogy and is being made into a television series.
So, get those kids reading and see you at Thin Air!