Throughout the year we will be reporting on the variety of work being done by our local Children’s Book Groups. All of the FCBG Book groups are passionate about bringing children and books together and each have developed their own way of doing this. In the first of the series, FCBG member Sue Wilsher explains how the North Somerset Teachers’ Book Awards came to be set up. By highlighting some of the great books currently available, this fantastic initiative is helping to broaden local teachers’ knowledge about children’s publishing which means that the children in their schools and classrooms are going to encounter a much wider range of great books. Furthermore, their effective use of social media (regular blogging and tweeting) has resulted in their infectious enthusiasm and book recommendations reaching a much wider audience.
I decided to start a book award about ten years ago when I was at a meeting of teachers who led English as a subject in their school. As an avid reader myself, I was very surprised to find out how many of my colleagues didn’t read- and if they did, didn’t read children’s books. The children’s books/authors they could name were largely those of their childhood, those they read to their own children or the ‘big’ names which can be found everywhere. It seemed there was a need to share and discuss all those lovely books out there! But I had no idea where to begin…
A small group of us decided to start a teachers’ reading group and this soon became very popular with regular meetings (with lots of cake and biscuits!) and great feedback from colleagues about how useful it was to help them choose books to use and read in school. JAB (Just About Books) had been going for about 6 years, when I suggested we become a FCBG group. Everyone was excited and we started to get schools involved with the Children’s Book Awards, National Non-fiction November and several of us have attended their Conference. Our school membership numbers grew and we were reaching more children and more teachers, but that niggling idea about a book award would not leave me.
So one book group meeting, I shared this with the others. The fact that they unanimously went along with the idea and have offered nothing but support and encouragement just shows what a lovely bunch they are! We started to gather books and meet to discuss them more frequently, creating our (very!) long list and decided to start our website (http://www.northsomersetteachersbookaward.com) which launched on the 4th August 2015.
Over the past three years, the awards have grown rapidly and our third, held last November, saw over eighty authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians, support staff and friends gather to celebrate the love of reading. It was a wonderful occasion!
I won’t pretend it’s easy. We all work full time and have busy family lives so posting daily, trying to attend as many book-ish events and visit as many book-ish places as possible and read as widely as we can is a true labour of love. There is no budget for any of our events- we rely completely on the goodwill and generosity of our members and supporters without whom we could do nothing, but it is so satisfying to see the books we love and recommend being shared with children.