"These awards are a part of Missouri heritage, and we want them (children) to know their vote counts," said Sikeston Public Library children's librarian Ann Thompson.
Children's choice book awards have never been implemented in Sikeston, noted Thompson.
So for the next couple weeks, Thompson will visit Sikeston public and private schools to tell students in grades one through eight about two state book awards -- the Mark Twain Award and the Show Me Readers Award -- in which they can vote for the winner.
Sponsored by the Missouri Association of School Librarians, the Mark Twain Award nominee list of 20 titles was selected by a committee. Missouri students grades four through eight must read or have read to them at least four of the titles on the nominee list in order to be eligible to vote for their favorite book.
Show Me Readers is for children in grades one through three. Students must read or have read to them five of the 10 nominated books to be eligible to vote.
"Our hope is to encourage students to read; these books are so wonderful and a lot them are bibliotherapy-type," Thompson said.
For example, in "Surviving the Applewhites" by Stephanie S. Tolan a young man in about the seventh or eighth grade level has been kicked out of school, and he has to choose between going to juvenile hall or living with another family.
"It turns over a new leaf for them and their outlook on life," Thompson said, adding the book is very funny. In another nominated book, "Wenny Has Wings" by Janet Lee Carey, a little boy's sister is killed and it is about how he dealt with death at his age, Thompson explained.
"Some are funny and some are more intense than others," Thompson pointed out about the books. "The characters are all about kids their age and things they're experiencing so I think they can really relate to them."
Thompson decided to promote the optional program in all Sikeston schools and even with home schoolers after discussing the program with Sikeston Middle School librarian Melanie Wood, Thompson recalled.
Thompson is also promoting the Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award, which is administered by the Children's Services Round Table of the Missouri Library Association, for children ages birth to 5 years. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to read aloud to the children, and the children should vote for their favorite illustrator and author.
The Scott County R-4 (Kelly) School District has participated in the Mark Twain and Show Me Readers Awards for several years -- and they've been very successful, said Beth Rolwing, Kelly Elementary School librarian.
"We've had some students who have read all 20 of them," said Rolwing, adding the school provides incentives for the students to participate. "We have really pushed it this year because of election year and vote like parents do."
Rolwing said the schools hasn't had any problems with the books.
To monitor whether or not the students actually read the books, schools use a computer program called Accelerated Reading, which tests students on books they've read.
"These are award-winning books and the students are getting exposed to some of the newest literature out there, and the copyrights are fairly new."
Kelly High School also participates in the Missouri Association of School Librarian's Gateway Readers Awards for students in grades nine through 12.
Students have until March 10 to cast their ballots. Thompson will then tally the votes and send them into the Missouri Association of School Librarians.
In 1990, more than 90,000 children participated in choosing the winner of the Mark Twain award.
"This will be in Missouri history," Thompson said about the awards. "And they'll (students) be able to look back and hopefully say, 'Hey, I voted for that.'"