I have been following the debate about changing the criteria for the Newbery and I wanted to contribute my opinion. I am a ten year old middle schooler, booklover, and HUGE Newbery nut, so I will be in the age range of this debate for a few more years. I also want to say for the record that I read all kinds of books: kids books, YA books, and adult books. My parents let me read anything I want, so I am not too good at deciding which books go in which catergory. This has come up this year about some of the books I picked for my Mock Newbery; some people thought they were too YA. It seems like people say that when there is sex or another controversial issue in a book, which is silly because I think you can talk about any topic in a kids book.
But, awards need criteria and I think the top age should stay the same. At the beginning of the year, most 8th graders are 13, but by the end almost all are 14. It would be nice to clarify the actual age, but I think it should go to 14 to include all of middle/junior high school. Since that is not an option, I would leave it at 8th grade and maybe next time this is up for debate 14 will be an option. This makes sense because it would go all of the way to the end of middle school instead of cutting some middle/junior high school kids out. It will also allow for more time before I am out of the age range of the Newbery for people to come to their senses and put me on the committee. :)
As for the beginning age, I say birth is the best way to go. I could read by myself by three (maybe a little earlier than most children, but still). Since my brother was born (before I was), my parents have been reading us great books. My point is that kids want to have good books to read from a very young age. Board books and books meant to be read aloud to young children could be made more available to children by winning an award because all bookstores want to have the Newberys.
I hope you enjoy following the rest of the debate and take my opinion into consideration.