The Cook AwardI love picture books, despite that fact that I’m significantly older than the target audience for most of them. Good words accompanied by good pictures create a synergy, a whole greater than its parts. Great words accompanied by great pictures create a whole new world.

Since my post about STEM education, I’ve been doing a little research on the use of picture books in teaching science, technology, engineering and math. It’s a hot topic. Lists are springing up online with suggestions for picture books to use in classrooms when teaching STEM subjects. And there is even a brand new award, The Cook Prize, to honor the best science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) picture book published for children aged eight to ten. It is the only national children’s choice award honoring a STEM book.

“Engagement with picture books while we are young forms the basis for becoming a literate adult, one who not only decodes words accurately but also enjoys reading and takes the time to read.” — Mary Renck Jalongo, Young Children and Picture Books, National Association for the Education of Young Children

Studies show that picture books and reading aloud are key to developing good reading skills. But there seems to be a movement away from picture books, as some parents believe that it’s important to steer young readers away from picture books to chapters books as soon as possible. There is also a trend in picture book publishing to “shorter, character-driven story, with fewer contracts going to stories featuring longer, more detailed narratives and plots.”

So The Cook Prize seems to bucking both trends, rewarding books aimed at somewhat older (8-10 year old) children, and written about STEM topics. The 2012 winner of The Cook Prize is Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by author/illustrator Melissa Sweet.

Another award, the Science Book & Film (SB&F) Prize for Excellence in Science Books, has been sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Subaru since 2005. The 2012 SB&F picture book winner is Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm.

And since we’re celebrating picture books, congratulations to the 2013 (75th) Caldecott Award winner and honorees. Check out the winning books here.

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