Behind the Scenes of the OTTER Award

By Heather

The OTTER Award is one of five book awards that the Washington Library Association (WLA) presents each year.  As a current member of the OTTER Award committee, I would like to give you a peek into what the OTTER Award is all about.

First a little background:

The Our Time To Read Together (aka OTTER) Award began as a discussion between two school librarians in which they discovered they shared a similar need for their students—a list of new easy chapter books to share with schools, parents and kids. Thus, the OTTER Award was born.

The OTTER Award nominees are specifically selected to be books that kids want to read…not books that the adults in their lives think they should read. In addition, the books should have a not-too-small font size, a good amount of white space and illustrations that enhance the story. 

Kids are invited to nominate books to the OTTER committee, which in turn informs the committee’s reading and nominations. Even though adults are welcome to suggest titles, having the gold seal of approval from kids makes the OTTER Award special. 

Behind the scenes:

  • Last winter, a call went out for applicants to join the WLA Book Award committees. Having had past experience working with book challenge events I applied. In January, I got the great news that I was selected to join the OTTER Award committee.
  • I quickly began reading books that fellow committee members (all school librarians) had read and adding a few of my own. We rated each book from 1 to 4 (with 4 being the highest) on an online spreadsheet and noted what we liked about the book, what kind of reader it would appeal to and the reading level.
  • In the spring, the OTTER Award Committee met via Zoom to select our six nominees. To ensure a balanced slate, we also track how varied our selections are based on genre and the main character’s gender and background. This whole process took about 2 hours.
  • Once the books were selected, they were sent to the WLA, and we pulled together resources like author videos and activities to add to the reading experience. In June, we announced the winner of the 2022 OTTER Award, Red Panda and Moon Bear by Jarod Roselló.

If it isn’t evident yet, the OTTER Award is a great way to find books that might interest your new-to-chapter-books kid in your life (or if you would like a fun and easy read!). To aid your search, here is a list of past OTTER Award winners and if you would like to see all of the books that have been up for the award, check out this list of past OTTER Award nominees. Happy reading!