The Sakura Medal Launch

The Sakura Medal Award program, a large collaborative effort among students, teachers and librarians from various international schools in Japan, has officially begun! Each division kicked-off the program in their own way. For background information on the Sakura Medal Award, visit our previous ASIJ News post: “A Sakura Medal Story.”


This year, the elementary school is going to ROCK THE VOTE! With record numbers of students participating last year, we anticipate that more Sakura books will be read this year than ever before. Since the program’s launching on November 3, the elementary library has not been able to keep this year’s Sakura chapter book nominees on the shelves. Students from all grade levels have been eagerly coming to the library, daily, during recesses to read Sakura picture books. (Tamara Pretz, ES Librarian)

The middle school launched this year’s Sakura Medal Award program in late October. Students in grades 6, 7 and 8 were introduced to the 20 MS English books through a QR code mixer. Eager readers brought their own devices to the launch and scanned QR codes linked to animations, book trailers, book talks, book reviews and author websites. They then rated each book on an interest level scale. This year, middle school students can read 24 Japanese language books as well. Students have until April 7 to read at least four Sakura books and write a short review on each one in order to be eligible for voting. Students who read more may submit more than one vote. Find out more in the MS library or watch this short video. (Tanja Kerbs, MS Librarian)

In August, the high school English Department brought their 9th graders to the high school library to choose their first free reading books and the librarians introduced them to this year’s Sakura Medal nominees. Before choosing their books, students participated in a game of literary speed dating, during which they sat in circles of four or five with Sakura Medal nominated titles in the middle. Students then each took a book and looked it over for two minutes—reading a several paragraphs, checking the blurbs on the flyleaf and passing the book on to their neighbor. After getting to know each available book, they participated in group discussions.
9th grade speed dating 2

The Japanese classes have also been reading Japanese Sakura Award books. Beginning Japanese students are reading Japanese picture and chapter books while the more advanced classes are reading middle and high school books.

In order to keep track of the number of books read, students are learning how to post reviews in the library’s Destiny catalog . Reading and reviewing three books will give each student a vote and an invitation to a voting party. In addition to book reviews and votes, each review adds the student’s name to a “hat.” Participants will also receive a point for posting their review on the Sakura Medal website. All of the reviews and voting are in preparation for the May prize drawing with goodies such as Amazon gift cards, Kindles and a grand prize iPad supplied by the PTA.

Upcoming Sakura Medal events include the Puzzle Challenge and a Sakura Scavenger Hunt. There will also be an art competition starting March. Each division will submit three pieces of art for each reading category to a larger competition between all the participating international schools. When the students vote for their favorite books they will also vote on artwork. The winning artwork is sent with a diploma to the winning author. (Linda Hayakawa, HS Librarian)