Children’s Book Awards: A Golden Anniversary Celebration

‘I treasure my Children’s Book Awards….it is the children who have done the choosing and that means so much to me, to know that a book has been that much loved’

Sir Michael Morpurgo, four times Overall Winner and former Children’s Laureate

Each year, the FCBG holds the Children’s Book Awards, inaugurated in 1980, and the only national award voted for solely by children from start to finish.

Each year over 150,000 votes are cast, over 1,000 books are read and 12,000 books are donated to local charities. Many of the children who participate in the award do not have regular access to new books and the award is appreciated by their schools, families and the children themselves. Here are some of their stories. 

Stories from our Tester groups and their children

Working with disadvantaged children in Yorkshire

Marilyn Larner of Harrogate Children’s Book Group works with a Pupil Referral Unit in York, reading books for Younger Children and easy short novels with their primary age children. Marilyn says: ‘I make sure all the books I send are suitable – nothing pink and cutsie!’ Marilyn also takes books into Special Schools and has worked with Harrogate hospital in the past.

Working with reluctant readers in Plymouth

‘I was amazed at the transformation in the reading habits (of the boys)’, says a Literacy teacher who works with Year 4 children. ‘Participation in the award encouraged an element of competition among the boys to see who could read the most books and at times they have almost come to blows over who was going to read a particular book next!’

The children always enjoy the opportunity to read a wide range of books and to give their opinions about what they have read. They are always really excited when the next set of books arrive and keen to get their names down for books they think they will particularly enjoy.

‘The award provides a wonderful incentive for children to read and to share their reading with their peers…thank you for helping me to instil a love of reading in the children I teach…’      

The joy of the Children’s Book Award, according to a Learning Resource Centres Manager in Plymouth

‘The unique aspect of the award is that the readers themselves vote for the winners, as opposed to an adult panel…the flexibility of the award is that young people can vote on what they choose to read not what they are told to read…and the possibility of being chosen to attend the ceremony is a huge draw for students who never get the opportunity to travel. They return excited, enthusiastic and eager to tell everyone about their experiences…Despite what some people say, there are still many avid young readers out there.’

A major contribution to reading: working with children in a highly deprived area of Dundee

Reading for pleasure is an essential part of literacy and the emotional development of children. Testing books in the Children’s Book Award is, says librarian Clare Huxley, a fantastic way of encouraging reading for pleasure. Each new book that arrives to be tested is read consecutively by up to 7 children and there is great excitement when the new bag of books arrives. These children, half of whom are on free school meals, experience the excitement and satisfaction of getting truly engrossed in reading – an experience they will carry with them through life. These stories enrich their emotional development and allow them to see life through others’ eyes and to share their reading with their peers. With volunteers in Dundee delivering nearly 1,000 books a year and garnering over 9,000 votes that is a major contribution to the amount of reading for pleasure.

Any sponsor will have their name associated with reading for pleasure and will therefore be widely recognised in the schools of Dundee and by the teachers.

Transformational experiences for traveller, ASC[1] and under-privileged children in West Wales by the County Literacy Adviser

Building trust within the traveller community and widening opportunities for their children has been one of the most positive results of participation in the Children’s Book Award, when a young traveller child was allowed to travel to the Award Ceremony in London – a rare occurrence.

An ASC child was so enthused by one of the shortlisted books, that he led a group reading discussion about the book with great exuberance and independence. This child was usually entirely reliant on his Teaching Assistant for all communication but his enthusiasm for this book was truly transformational and highly moving.

‘A purpose for reading can change reluctant readers into purposeful readers, willing to discuss and validate their opinions’.

The opportunity for children to meet authors has been hugely enriching, always memorable and a major factor in establishing lifelong reading. Meeting authors they have voted for makes the process of reading far more meaningful and has lasting impact. It also gives young people the chance to rise to the occasion when they present the authors with their prizes: ‘never underestimate what a young person is capable of’ says Eva John of Pembrokeshire Count Council. She adds:

‘Use books with teachers on their courses, ensure they keep abreast of the latest authors and illustrators, learn about riches that might not have been promoted, tune in to pupils’ enthusiasms and exploit these in the classroom. We all feel privileged to have been involved with the Children’s Book Award’.

Lincolnshire takes books into highly book-deprived communities

Lincolnshire has impoverished library provision and few bookshops; participation in the award offers schools and families access to a wide range of recently published books they will not be able to get elsewhere, where only supermarket shelves offer a limited range of the books they can purchase. The award encourages children to read and introduces new authors, helping children to expand their reading tastes. Working with families encourages literacy at home and helps parents and carers to share new books. Opening teachers to new books gives them the confidence to expand the horizons of their children in a highly rural and insular county.     

There are a host of other stories that can be shared on the benefits of participating in the Children’s Book Award. As founder of the award, Pat Thomson said:

‘When prizes for children’s books were being given by grown-ups to other grown-ups – are they still doing it? – I thought an organisation like the Federation of Children’s Book Groups should be able to do better. We only exist to bring children and books together so any Award would need to involve them. Not just involve them, in fact. Anyone can run a few of the books past the kids. They would have to be at the heart of it….Everywhere we heard of cuts in spending on books in libraries and schools and rumours of crises…It seemed that children’s fiction was an easy target. It was an act of faith, an act of solidarity with all the authors, illustrators and children’s publishers. We got our Book Groups organised and set up a nationwide system of getting children to read, judge and vote. So there we were. We had no money, so no gold medals were likely. What we did have were all the letters, reports and pictures sent in by children about their favourite books. We stuck everything into a rather grand album and that was the prize. These days we have a truly beautiful silver trophy but if our winners do have a wobbly voice moment, it tends to come when they open the portfolio full of children’s responses that still accompanies the trophy. After all, they write for the children and this is the children themselves saying, “You’re the best”. ‘

Any school, library, family or children’s organisation can take part in the Top Ten – just visit the children’s book award web site and click on Vote.

There can be no greater honour than to be selected as the winner of this prestigious award by children and young adults themselves’,

Malorie Blackman, Overall Winner 2002 and former Children’s Laureate

[1] ASC = Autistic Spectrum Condition

 

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