The International School Librarians Group in Japan has in recent years introduced a reading program for students in international schools across Japan that encourages students to read recently published books of literary quality from around the world. The Sakura Medal begins in the new school year, usually around October (each school decides their own launch date) and finishes at the end of April. The winners are announced in early May. Students choose and read books and at the end of the program if they have read at least 5 books from a list they are entitled to vote for their favourite book on the list. The votes from all participating schools are tallied and the winning authors are presented with a medal, certificate and some student art work.
We have several lists the students can read from. There are four English book lists and two Japanese book lists:
Japanese Picture Books
Elementary Chapter Books
Middle School Books
High School Books
Japanese Fiction for Middle and High School
The lists can be viewed on LibraryThing via the Sakura Medal Group
Each school implements the program a little differently with prizes, incentives, activities and parties that promote the reading.
At Tokyo International School, students in Grades 1 through 8 participate in four of the lists – Picture Books, Elementary Chapter Books, Middle School Books and Japanese Picture Books. We have several incentives and activities. Every child that reads five books on their list is entitled to go to our Sakura Medal party at the end of the school year and they earn a flower with their photo that goes on our blooming Sakura tree.
We offer free library passes for those who read at least fifteen books and for the students who read every book on the list a gift certificate for local book stores – alas not a great selection of Enlgish books available in the bookstores here!
The students are very enthusiastic about the Sakura Medal books and we never have enough copies to go around!
This year at TIS I introduced a Sakura Medal Ning which the students in Grades 4-7 joined and shared their thoughts about the books. As well as learning how to use a social network in a safe closed environment, the students enjoyed watching and listening to book trailers, and author video and audio clips. We had fun sharing on the ning! If you visit the Ning you will only see the front page.
At the moment I am experimenting with a Sakura Medal netvibe and then I’ll decide which tool to use for next year’s program. For more about Sakura at Tokyo International School visit our web page Sakura Medal Blog
This years winning books were recently announced:
by Polly Dunbar
Elementary Chapter Book
The Name of this Book is Secret
by Pseudonymous Bosch
by Neil Shusterman
The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss
Japanese Picture Book
Japanese MS/High School
The Sakura Medal Program is gaining momentum every year as more schools join and we shake out the kinks. It certainly is a way to encourage our kids to read outside their comfort zone!