MD Blue Crab Young Reader Award

Honoring the best beginning and transitional fiction and nonfiction for children

Nomination Form | 2018 Award Winners | Winning Book Extension/Program Ideas
2009 Blue Crab Bookmark

View Blue Crab Video (Windows Media Player - 22MB)

Past Winners

2018 - pdf brochure
2017 - pdf brochure
2016 - pdf brochure
2015 - pdf brochure
2014 - pdf brochure
2013 - pdf brochure
2012 - pdf brochure
2011 - pdf brochure
2010 - pdf brochure
2009 - pdf brochure
2008 - pdf brochure
2007 - pdf brochure
2006 - pdf brochure
2005 - pdf brochure
2004 - Beginning Reader brochure | Transitional Reader brochure

The Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award was created in 2004 in an attempt to stimulate interest in books for the beginning reader and the emergent independent reader. At that time, there were few books produced in this niche, and it was hoped that an award that could garner national attention would encourage authors, illustrators and publishers to produce better quality books in this niche.

Since the inception of this committee for the Maryland Library Association (MLA), other organizations have begun to offer beginning reader awards as well. For example, the American Library Association (ALA) established the Geisel award in 2004 in response to this need in children's publishing.


  • Identify and promote the best fiction and nonfiction books published at the K-2nd grade reading level (early readers) and at the 2nd-4th grade reading level (transitional readers), both for children reading at grade level and for reluctant older readers.
  • Provide teachers, librarians, and caregivers with a resource list of excellent books for beginning readers.
  • Encourage publishers, authors, and illustrators to create high quality books for beginning readers.

Each year, 1 (one) winning book and up to 3 (three) honor books will be selected to receive an award in each of the following categories:

  • Beginning Reader Fiction
  • Beginning Reader Nonfiction
  • Transitional Fiction
  • Transitional Nonfiction

About the Committee


The Blue Crab Award Committee offers members a unique opportunity to impact what children read as well as to influence publishers to produce more books for new readers. The committee members take an in-depth look at an important genre in children's literature and child development. By participating in an evaluative committee that promotes books for beginning readers, each member will gain skills in collaborative programming, book annotation, and the selection of age-appropriate materials. These new skills will be put to use by each member of the Blue Crab Award Committee during workshops presented at Kids Are Customers, Too and at the MLA annual conference, both of which are sponsored by the Children's Services Division (CSD). In addition, committee members can incorporate these skills into service with fellow staff members and the public.

The committee is made up of at least 8 members and a Chair. The Chair is selected by the CSD Steering Committee each year at its January meeting. The members of the committee are chosen so that a variety of experiences and skills sets are represented and so that the geographical diversity within the state is reflected. The desired makeup is:

  • 1-2 Maryland Association of School Libraries (MASL) members
  • At least 1 children’s materials selector
  • Remaining spots to be filled by MLA public library children's staff members

Committee volunteer forms will be made available at Kids Are Customers, Too and if possible at MASL and MSEA (Maryland State Education Association) conferences in order to establish a pool of interested volunteers. Committee members will serve an 18-month term, and may not serve on concurrent Blue Crab Award Committees (e.g. the 2004 award AND the 2005 award). Committee members will earn 30 CEUs at the end of their term.

Current Committee Members

Jean Boone, Chair
Howard County Library System
Miriam DesHarnais
Towson University, Albert Cook Library
Pamela Hamlin
Prince George's County Memorial Library
Tamarah Nuttle
Howard County Library System
David Piper
Anne Arundel County Public Library
Liz Saniga
Anne Arundel County Public Library
Shannon Storm
Calvert Library Prince Frederick
Faith Tydings
Charles County Public Library

Committee Schedule


May–Jan: Meet to discuss and consider nominations.
February: Vote on award winners and honor books.
Mar-Apr:  Winners are announced and annotated list distributed at the Southern/Western Conferences.
April-Oct: Committee Chair alerts award winners, arranges author visit to Kids are Customers conference.
October:  Authors appear at Kids Are Customers, Too conference.

Criteria for Award

  1. The committee will consider the following criteria in judging whether a book is deserving of the award or inclusion on the honor list:Appropriateness for target age group.
  2. Overall child appeal.
  3. Appropriateness of text to support the needs of beginning readers:
    1. Sentence structure
    2. Legibility of font
    3. Appropriate spacing of text and use of white space
    4. Number of words per sentence
    5. Appropriateness of vocabulary
  4. Presentation of information, including accuracy, clarity, and organization.
  5. Literary merit.
  6. Quality of illustrations and how they support or extend the text.
  7. Visual appeal, including text, layout, and graphic style or design.
  8. Delineation of characters and setting.
  9. Appropriateness of support matter (glossary, pronunciation key, etc).
  10. The "total package" or overall spirit of the book.

Not every one of these criteria will apply to every book, but each award-winning and honor book should be found excellent in all aspects pertinent to it. Text and illustrations will be given equal weight.

Eligibility of titles for consideration

  1. Nominated titles must have been originally published in the United States, with a copyright date that falls within the year that the committee begins its deliberations. (Example: The 2004 award would consider titles published in 2003.) Books published by a foreign publisher simultaneously in the US and another country will not be eligible.
  2. The reading level of the books must be at the K-2 level for the Beginning Reader categories and at the 2nd-4th grade reading level for the Transitional categories. In the event of debate on this point, the Spache Readability Formula will be used to determine whether titles fit the requirements.
  3. Nominated titles may be geared to children of any age, as long as they meet the reading level criteria listed above. Nominations of books that would appeal to older elementary age reluctant readers are encouraged.
  4. Nominated books may be fiction, nonfiction or graphic novels.
  5. Nominated titles must be self-contained entities, not dependent upon other media such as CDs or DVDs for their use.
  6. Books in series will be considered individually for the award and list.

Title nominations process

  1. Any Maryland library staff member, MLA member, MASL member, or the MSEA member may make nominations.
  2. Nominated titles must meet the eligibility criteria outlined above.
  3. Nominations must include: title, author, publisher, copyright date, and can include a supporting statement of no more than 100 words explaining why the title is worthy of consideration.
  4. Nomination forms will be available in print or online through the CSD page of the MLA website.
  5. The committee will accept nominations from May of the year it begins deliberations until February 1 of the following year. (Example: The 2004 award committee would accept nominations from May 2003-Feb 1, 2004.)

Last updated 25 March 2014.