Book awards are not exactly hard to come across these days: the Man Booker, the Costa, the Carnegie Medal, and many more. But what about the Brilliant Book Award? This is one that we in Nottinghamshire should be proud of, involving as it does a large number of our young people in local schools. Now in its 11th year, this award is run annually in over 35 schools around the area, and the pupils themselves are the ones who vote to select the winning book. The Award is organised by the team at Inspire’s Nottinghamshire Education Library Service, with support from independent bookshop the Bookcase at Lowdham. Although the award process happens in Nottinghamshire, the books are selected from titles published that year in the UK.
This year’s winner, announced today, is Kim Slater for her book A Seven Letter Word. Kim is a local author as it happens, and her books for Young Adults use their Nottingham settings to good effect. This is her second time to win this award; two years ago her book Smart was the book that made it to the top. A Seven Letter Word has that something that engages young readers, dealing with serious issues like bullying and racism, but never letting that dominate over believable characters and a good story. And it’s about Scrabble! Runner up is Ross Welford with the intriguingly named What not to do if you turn Invisible.
But the winning book, well deserved as it is, may not be the most newsworthy thing about this award. It is the involvement of so many children, and their enthusiasm and engagement in reading, which is its real achievement. And getting youngsters together with the shortlisted authors at a variety of events is a great way of developing that enthusiasm, and creating readers for the future.
The award was launched this year with an event at Mansfield Library in December, attended by 170 pupils from 10 schools across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. The previous year’s award was presented to Christopher Edge, and the new shortlist announced, with appearances from authors Paula Rawsthorne, Kim Slater and Dan Walker, who chatted to children and signed books. Previous to this, of course, a lot of hard work had gone into selecting a quality shortlist. The librarians at the Education Library Service, along with a panel of local qualified school librarians, read all the eligible books, before selecting the shortlist of 6. Opinions of children in the schools are also taken into account.
The reading then begins in the participating schools, with teachers and librarians running reading groups, and, in some cases, whole year groups getting involved. The target age group is Years 7 and 8, and reviews are posted on the website, as well as further visits from shortlisted authors helping to keep enthusiasm running high. This year, 3 of the authors have visited the area, and met children across the schools.
Creating such excitement and enthusiasm around books and reading is priceless.
Youngsters who took part in the awards came up with comments like “I liked discovering new authors and trying new genres. It also made me read more”. And “I enjoyed finding out the shortlist and seeing all the different authors. I also loved the quiz and the books themselves”. The quiz is another element that keeps the excitement going each year. This brings together teams of children from a range of schools, to answer questions (cunningly devised by the school librarians involved) based on the shortlisted books. A competition with a prize adds to the excitement: last year’s “Book in a Jar” was an ingenious idea: think of the ingredients in one of the books and create a picture to portray that story. Take a look at the website at https://bba.inspireculture.org.uk to see the reviews posted by young readers, as they worked their way through the shortlist.
At a time when concerns about the literacy levels of our young people are being voiced both nationally and here in Nottingham, this is one initiative which deserves to be celebrated, along with our congratulations to Kim Slater and Ross Welford. Creating such excitement and enthusiasm around books and reading is priceless.
Thanks to Rachel Marshall (Development Librarian at the Nottinghamshire Education Library Service) for her help in compiling this article.