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What I've Learned From My Committee Year

All throughout the past year, people have asked me how my reading and committee work has been going. Even though I expected it to be a lot of work, a lot of reading, and yes, some stress, those things still surprised me as they came. As my committee year is coming to a close-(make sure to watch the live Youth Media Awards Announcement on Monday January 28!) I thought I'd share some things I've learned throughout my year. A lot of these I knew going in, but I still had a learning process as I had to experience them for myself. It's one to hear from others what it will be like and another to experience for yourself!

-It's a lot of work. Yes, that seems like a given, especially since you know going in it's going to be a lot of work. And it's what anyone who has served on a committee before will tell you. But you don't seem to realize it until your mailbox is overflowing, you're faced with a huge TBR pile, and a deadline on top of working full time. You have no more free time-and if you do, you have to schedule it very well. This might mean skipping out events or leaving early. Luckily for me, I have amazing friends and family who understand when I have to leave a party early or can't come hang out. Having an awesome support system around you helps a lot!

-Take some reading breaks and refreshers. One of the best pieces of advice I got before I started was to make sure to take time to read something other than what I have to read for committee. Read picture books or adult books-just something different to refresh your reading. I typically shy away from adult fiction, but this year I've loved it because it's been a nice reading refresher for me.

-Once you start critical reading, it doesn't leave you. In between all my committee work, I still had other things I needed to read for work or as a reading break. I was reading a middle grade book for a book club at the library-far from what I was reading for committee. As I read, I noticed myself taking mental notes of the book-what was working, what wasn't, characterization, setting, story-everything. I had to remind myself as I read that I didn't need to be taking notes! It had become such a habit to read critically that even when I tried to read for pleasure, I still had a critical mindset.

-You must be open about your reading.-Committee work means setting aside your personal favorites and being open about your reading. There are some genres that I love and others that aren't my personal favorites. But as a committee member, I have to read everything-even if it's something I might not pick up to read on my own. Your reading has to be much wider and open. I've loved this aspect of my committee year because it's forced me out of my reading bubbles and made me explore more.

-It's OK if you get tired of reading. I heard from so many other committee members who have served previous years on various committees who said "oh, I  didn't touch a book for six months after we were done!" At first that idea sounded so odd-how could I not want to read?? But let me tell you, after January 28, I might not touch a book again for several months-and that's OK! It's OK to feel tired (that's why reading refreshers are so great!) but it's also OK to take a break to something that's not reading-again, this is where managing your time well comes in handy. Find what's a nice reward for your hard work-I love playing Just Dance or playing board games. Give yourself time to refresh and then it's back to work!

-Don't stress-and when you feel like you're stressing, reach out to that awesome support community. I am very lucky to have amazing friends and family support me throughout this year. When I've felt stressed, I've vented a bit about how I don't think I can do it and there's so much reading still looming. The response back from my cheerleaders-in person and online-has been wonderful. It's so great to hear from others that you can do it-and you know you can!

-Enjoy it. Yes, it's overwhelming. Yes, it's a lot of work. Yes, it's a lot of reading. Yes, you might not have a social life at times. Yes, you might get tired of reading. Yes, you may feel stressed. But is it all worth it? Yes. And I would do it all again in a heartbeat.


  1. Though my state book award committee probably involves a lot less reading (we read about 100 books) I find myself nodding my head and agreeing with every one of your points. When I am done with my committee in November, I plan to have no TBR pile "plans" for at least a few months and will just pick up whatever stray book hits my fancy. Let it fly in the wind. De-stress!! But, like you, too, I would do it again. It's definitely worth it. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing thoughts on your experience. It seems like it would be a great way to challenge yourself with regards to genre and go beyond what you typically try.

  3. This may be a weird question ... how/where did you learn to read critically? I'd like to start writing more critical reviews instead of "I loved it and so will the teens". Or any advice for learning on my own would be great also. Thanks!


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