The Indiana Center For the Book recently announced Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won as the winner of the 2016 Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award. The Indiana State Library wanted to show its commitment to early literacy and felt it was vital to have an award that celebrates reading for children ages 0–5. It modeled the Firefly Award after New Hampshire’s Ladybug Award in 2015 and gave the first award to Don’t Push the Button by Bill Cotter.
What is special about the award is that the winner is decided by the children themselves. Because many of the participants can’t even walk or talk yet, the voting process can get pretty interesting. “The voting process can be determined by each participating location,” explains Suzanne Walker, director of the Indiana Center for the Book. “One library gave each child a large circle of construction paper. The books were laid out on the floor and the children each had to put their ‘dot’ on one of the books; their favorite. The librarian then just had to tally all the votes for books” tells Walker. Those dots, along with lots of other votes from fifty-one counties across the state, made Won’s Hooray for Hat! the big winner. Hooray for Hat!, in addition to winning the Firefly Award, has also been named a NPR Best Book and Huffington Post’s Best Read-Aloud of 2014. Readers might also recognize Won’s work as the featured art on this year’s Children’s Book Week poster.
With a young child of his own, Brian Won understands the challenges of creating a book that appeals to a young audience. “If the story doesn’t grab my six year old by the third spread, he’s ready to move to the next book. On the other hand, young readers can also be die-hard fans of a book. My wife and I have read Peggy Rathmann’s GOODNIGHT GORILLA so many times the visuals are etched in my brain. We are grateful that the book has only ten words.”
Hooray for Hat! has a similar appeal of joyful simplicity. Walker says of Hooray for Hat!, “It’s fun and it showcases the idea that if you wake up grumpy, you don’t HAVE to stay grumpy all day. Also, the pictures and layout are clean, enjoyable, and well proportioned.” In addition to being lots of silly fun, the story includes Every Child Ready to Read practices throughout, a requirement for nomination. Every Child Ready to Read emphasizes the important role parents play in helping their children the early literacy skills essential to reading success. Walker explains how Hooray for Hat! can make learning those skills a good time:
Talking: “Children can talk to their parents about ways to deal with feeling grumpy. They can talk about how the hats in the book affect each of the characters mood and what it’s like to get a surprise.”
Singing: “This book has some great repetition of the phrase ‘Hooray for Hat’ which can be chanted by the children, inviting them to play with language.”
Reading: “It’s a great story to read aloud with a group or one on one.”
Writing: “Writing with children as it relates to Every Child Ready to Read can also be thought of as practicing fine motor skills. As with any book, a child could practice turning pages, pointing to the animals, and it would be easy to make crafts based on this book, giving children even more opportunities to practice their fine motor skills.”
Playing: “Children are encouraged to play dress up or with their stuffed animals after reading this book. This would be a great book for a simple readers theatre [sic] as well.”
Even if you don’t live in Indiana, Hooray for Hat! would be a great addition to your library collection! Be sure to also look out for Brian Won’s new releases, including Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes (Candlewick Press) written by Tim Wynne-Jones (to be released June 14) and Hooray for Today! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), the sequel to Hooray for Hat!(to be released in September 2016).