Children are quick to judge

Four thousand eager young readers have joined judging panels for the Children's Book Awards, writes Gillian Macdonald

Every education authority in Scotland has signed up for the Royal Mail Scottish Children's Book Awards, with 4,000 children now enrolled on judging panels in schools and libraries across the country.

This is the first year of the awards, which are organised by BRAW, the children's arm of the Scottish Book Trust, and sponsored by The TES Scotland.

"Our target was 1,000 kids, so it's amazing to get 4,000," says Anna Gibbons, manager of BRAW. "It's really nice to be giving kids all these new Scottish books."

The judging panels are split into three age groups - seven and under, young readers and teenagers. The children in each group have to read the three shortlisted novels in their category and vote for the best one. Voting closes on November 13 and the national winners will be announced on November 27.

"Most of the entries are in secondary; they're so geared up to reading groups because of the Carnegie book awards or school libraries. But there are quite a few in early years.

"In some places it's being done as a whole-school event, while others are fitting it into their paired reading scheme," says Ms Gibbons.

Denny Primary in Falkirk is one school where children have been joining in with enthusiasm. Literacy in the area is quite poor, says principal teacher Julie McKenna who has organised the judging, "so anything to raise it is welcome".

There are six books for primary-aged children - The Sea Mice and the Stars (Kenneth Steven), Little Lost Cowboy (Simon Puttock) and Charlie Cook's Favourite Book (Julia Donaldson) for the youngest ones (age seven and under); and Deep Water (Debi Gliori), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (JK Rowling) and The Sign of the Black Dagger (Joan Lingard) for the older ones (eight to 12 years).

All the books have been made available in the school library for P1-P7s.

Children can go along, take the books back to class or take them home, and then chat about them with their classmates and friends.

Teachers also encourage them to discuss the authors and compare them. If pupils want to write a short review, they can, and it will be posted up on the library wall, says Ms McKenna.

Children at Denny have library time once a week and the school has been trying to build up its stocks, so free copies of some of the best of Scottish children's books published in 2005 have been most welcome.

The Denny pupils vote by putting the official ballot papers in a tray in the library.

"I liked the range of books," says Ms McKenna, "and the fact that it goes from picture books for wee ones right up to books that the older ones could really get their teeth into.

"Some are beautifully presented, like Deep Water. It's a beautiful book to handle and precious to the kids.

"Most of the older ones had read Harry Potter and the younger ones jumped on Charlie Cook's Favourite Book because it's so like The Gruffalo.

"It's a super book choice, a really good selection."

Another way in which Ms McKenna tries to stimulate reading is through an annual book fair in the school hall. "Scholastic comes to the school with huge metal containers that open up. In addition to the books, we have pencils, sharpeners, posters of authors.

"The children come in on the Tuesday and each class has the chance to browse around. If they see a book they like, they bring some money from home to buy it on the Wednesday.

"From that, depending on how much we raise - we get a small amount per book - we put any profit back into books for the library."

Ballot papers for the book awards have to reach BRAW by post or email by November 13. For further details see

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