The best children's books of the year – according to teachers

15th May 2017 at 13:39
Shortlist for award will now be decided by teachers who are members of reading groups

Who knows better what books children like than the people who read lots of books to lots of children?

This is the premise behind the North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award, an annual children’s book prize judged entirely by teachers. (It is also the premise behind the weekly Tes class book review.)

The award's organisers have just announced their longlist, which covers six categories: picture books, poetry books, read-aloud, information books, quality fiction, and moving on (Year 6-8).

Among the books on the longlist are Adder, Bluebell, Lobster, by Chrissie Gittins; Wolf Hollow, by Lauren Wolk; Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World, by Kate Pankhurst; The Book Shop Girl, by Sylvia Bishop; and Penguin Problems, by Jory John.

Talking about books

The award was set up by a teachers’ book group, which meets regularly to read, discuss and recommend children’s literature. The group’s reading material ranges from picture books to young-adult fiction.

“I loved that people had cottoned on to the fact that so many new children’s books come out that are fabulous,” said the award’s founder, Sue Wilsher. “We wanted to keep talking about books, so people didn’t keep reading the same books, year on year.”

Then, when group members found themselves repeatedly approached for classroom – and home – reading recommendations, they decided to set up a book award.

Cakes and trophies

“We wanted to have that seriousness behind the recommendations that we were making,” Ms Wilsher said. “We wanted to do something more than just saying, ‘This is a lovely book’.”

The award-winners, however, are decided by a federation of teachers’ book groups, throughout North Somerset. Any member of these groups can undertake to read the longlist – or just one of its categories – and vote for the books they think should be included on the shortlist.

The shortlist will be published at the start of September. And the category winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in November. Last year's ceremony was attended by most of the authors on the shortlist.

“We do it all ourselves – we book a hall and give the winners a trophy, engraved with ‘Teachers’ Book Award’,” said Ms Wilsher. “And we cook all the cakes at the ceremony.”

Photo credit: Emily Beale

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