The National Council of Teachers of English wishes to recognize and foster excellence in children's poetry by encouraging its publication and by exploring ways to acquaint teachers and children with poetry through such means as publications, programs, and displays. As one means of accomplishing this goal, NCTE established its Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 1977 to honor a living American poet for his or her aggregate work for children ages 3–13.
The NCTE Poetry Selection Committee gave the award annually until 1982, at which time it was decided that the award would be given every three years. The next award will be given in 2009.
The award is presented by the Poetry Committee Chair during the Books for Children Luncheon at the NCTE Annual Convention in November every three years. The winner receives a plaque and an invitation to be the featured speaker at a special Poetry Award session.
Literary Merit (art and craft of aggregate work)
Imagination, authenticity of voice, evidence of a strong persona, and universality/timelessness are essential. In short, we're looking for a poet who can write clean, spare lines; use language and form in fresh ways; surprise the reader by using syntax artistically; excite the reader's imagination with keen perceptions and sharp images; touch the reader's emotions. A maker of word events is what we're looking for.
Aggregate work, evident potential for growth and evolution in terms of craft, and excellence are considered.
Evolution of the Poet's Work
Technical and artistic development as evidenced in the poetry, evidence of risk, change, and artistic stamina, and evidence of different styles and modes of expression are considered.
Appeal to Children
Although the appeal to children of a poet's work is an important consideration, the art and craft must be the primary criterion for evaluation. Evidence of students' excitement for the poetry and evidence of childlike quality, yet poem's potential for stirring fresh insights and feelings should be apparent.
Best Poetry Books
The NCTE Committee on Excellence in Poetry for Children is charged with “exploring ways to acquaint teachers and children with poetry.” One way of doing that is to highlight the wonderful poetry being published for children each year, calling attention to new titles and new poets that children are sure to enjoy. Thus, the 2003-2006 Committee has highlighted some of the best poetry books published during their three-year tenure. Read "Best Poetry Books for Children 2003-2006" in Language Arts, Volume 84, Number 6, July, 2007.
A collection of poetry books of all winners of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, past and future, is sustained and preserved at the University of Minnesota Children's Literature Research Collections (CLRC) / Kerlan Collection at the Andersen Library.