The History of the Grand Canyon Reader Award

By AzLA Newsletter

By Shirley Berow, Grand Canyon Reader Award Co-chair

The Grand Canyon Reader Award (GCRA) originated in 1976 as the Arizona Young Readers Award. The first awards were given in the spring of 1977. The early awards were sponsored by the Elementary Education and Library Science Departments at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona. 

Although the wording has been revised over the past thirty years, the purpose of the awards has not changed: “To encourage Arizona young readers to become better acquainted with recently published quality books and to honor favorite books and authors.”  Although the categories of books, the number of books, and when the award is given has changed over the years, the major aim has remained the same: to stimulate and encourage cooperation among administrators, public and school librarians, and classroom teachers in broadening reading programs at all instructional levels.  

The intrinsic values of the program are considered much more important than its competitive nature.  Librarians, educators, and families throughout the state are involved in a mutual interest: promoting reading and lifelong reading interests for young people.

Initially, a list of twenty nominated titles was proposed every two years by the children of Arizona with the award being given in odd-numbered years. The initial list included picture books, chapter books, and young adult titles. This single list was eventually divided into five picture book titles, ten intermediate, and five young adult titles.

Over the years, the number of titles in each category has changed as did the number of categories and awards. In 2008, the YA list was divided into a tween book division (more for the junior high/middle school grades)

 and a teen list for high school age youth. Until 2016, the illustrator of the winning picture book was given an award along with the book’s author. In 2016, the number of titles in each category was increased to ten and a separate category for nonfiction was added. Beginning in 2023, the teen category will be dropped. 

The award is now sponsored by the Arizona Library Association and presented annually.


• The winning book in each category is determined by the vote of young readers in Arizona.
• To be eligible for nomination, a book must be a title most often read and requested by children, have a strong appeal for the age group for which the nomination is made and have been published in English within the previous five years and still be in print.
• The titles in the appropriate categories are read and voted upon by the state’s children during the period from announcement through the voting deadline: children may read (and vote for) books in more than one category.
• To become qualified votes, young readers must be exposed to at least five of the nominated books in the picture book and nonfiction category by having read the books themselves or having the books read to them.  In the intermediate and tween categories, students must read at least three out of the ten titles in order to vote.
• Qualified voters are allowed one vote in each category.  
• One tally is then submitted for each participating library, classroom, or school. 
• Children attending public library programs and homeschooled children may also submit a tally.
• Total votes and nominations for the following year are due on April 1.  Only five nominated titles may be submitted by any school or library for the following years nominee list.

For more information, visit the Grand Canyon Reader Award website:

The GCRA co-chairs extend an open invitation to anyone who wants to serve on an award committee. To reach us, please use the contact for on the GCRA website.

Leave a Reply