Sakura Medal​ in the Middle School

ASIJ students, along with students from about 20 other international schools across Japan, recently participated in the annual Sakura Medal Book Awards. Every year, the Sakura Medal is awarded to one book from each of nine categories (picture books, graphic novels, chapter books, middle school, high school, Japanese picture books, Japanese chapter books, Japanese middle school and Japanese high school). Tanja Kerbs (middle school librarian) and two middle school students reflect on voting day and their experience with Sakura medal.


Students involved in the 201​8​ Sakura Medal ​​program voted for their favorite Sakura book on the week of April 30 during our Sakura Voting Pizza Party. This year, ​45​ ​middle school readers attended ​to vote on 21​ ​middle school ​English book titles, chosen by international school librarians in Tokyo. Students ​who qualified to vote ​read at least ​three books and wrote​ ​three​ short reviews. ​This year, many eighth graders read selected high school Sakura titles as well and voted in the Sakura high school category.

The winners of this year’s middle school Sakura Book Award is The Novice by Taran Matharu, and the high school winner is Scythe by Neal Shusterman.

Following that initial voting session, over 65 middle school students ​attended our Sakura build-your-own-sundae celebration on Wednesday May 2. These students participated in Sakura Medal in different ways: either by reading, entering artwork in the Sakura art competition or by creating book trailers for our Sakura book trailer contest. At the celebration, we announced eighth-graders Tristan Bennett and Tristan Datoc’s Running Full Tilt as winners of the book trailer competition. Sixth-graders Sabi Turkii and Sofia Ciancimino’s The Last Boy at St. Edith’s trailer placed second.

Matthew Kang (Grade 8) writes on his Sakura Medal experience:
“Sakura is a great experience! People should participate in Sakura as it exposes them to a variety of books. A lot of times, many of my peers have trouble finding a book which suits them. They eventually stop reading due to this difficulty. Sakura introduces students to a wide range of books, and lets students easily choose books. This helps students become interested in reading.

I participated in Sakura as I wanted to read a wide range of books. Often times, I stick to reading one genre for a long period of time before moving on. Sakura allowed me to read many genres, and also inspired me to try some new books that I don’t usually read.”


Anna Armstrong (Grade 6) also shares her thoughts on the program:
“I think that participating in reading Sakura books is a really fun opportunity. I have always found reading them enjoyable. If you participate in Sakura Medal, you may find a great book that you enjoy, and find more like it.

I think Sakura Medal makes it even more fun to read, and that everyone should try to participate even if they don’t enjoy reading. Sakura has already funneled down your options to a smaller number of great books. You might even find yourself staying up all night reading an amazing story. Sakura lets you find books that you usually wouldn’t pick off of the bookshelf. It’s also good because at the end of the season, you get to take part in voting for your favorite books.”

The PTA Sakura grant and the middle school library budget support the program in supplying Sakura books and Amazon gift certificate prizes. A huge thank you to the PTA, who generously sponsors the Sakura program each year.

If you would like to understand the Sakura Medal program more in-depth, check out our post, A Sakura Medal Story.