Monthly Archives: July 2014

Volunteering for the Summer Reading Challenge


Yesterday I cycled into Bradford on Avon and I was inducted into the finer details of the awesome 2014 Summer Reading Challenge, Sarah McIntyre’s Mythical Maze.   This means that I am no longer an observing parent but an official volunteer at the library and can find out, face to face what children between 4 and 11 like to read and help them choose the next book in the challenge.

I know I meet children all the time in schools, but this is different.  This isn’t about suggesting my books, it’s about suggesting all books and hopefully because I read so many children’s books I can recommend books that they’ll like and they can come back and tell me about them later on in the summer.

So I’m really looking forward to it.  It’s a little like bookselling – another thing I totally love.


Since yesterday I know that:

Children under 4 don’t do it, but they can do the Booktrust Bookstart Bear Club.

I know that there are scratch and sniff cards in the librarians’ box of rewards

I know that there’s an app that parents can download and that the children can then get extra little stories from special posters dotted around the library.

I know that there’s a special wristband reward for reading 4 books

I know that if you go on holiday you can visit a different library and get the books signed off but you have to go back to your own library so that they can officially enter your achievements in the register.

I know that the medals for six books are pretty awesome.

I also know that loads of children have already signed up, but that there’s plenty of room for more.

And that’s just for starters.


As I cycled home, I wondered if any other children’s authors or editors had volunteered for the Challenge, because if you’d be even remotely interested, you may find your local library still has gaps in the schedule, and they’ll probably welcome you with open arms.

Or, there’s always next year.





NOT Birmingham New St Station again?

I’ve been lucky enough to be shortlisted for a few book awards recently. SHRUNK! was up for the Heart of Hawick, debut award. Dear Scarlett made it to the finals of the James Reckitt Award in Hull (you can find out about it here on Liz’s blog) and also to the last 5 of the books put forward for Our Best Book Award in Leicester.

Sadly none of these places are very near Bath.  In fact, Hull is a snappy 5 and a half hours train ride away, so I had plenty of time for thinking in both directions.

On the way up, I mostly thought, why am I doing this?  Am I mad? Someone else will win?  (which they did in all cases, congratulations to Rob Lloyd Jones, Rachel Carter and Tom Palmer) But on the way back I thought about what a totally dedicated bunch librarians are because in every case they were charming, helpful, hospitable, soothing, enthusiastic, hard working, going far beyond the call of duty, and they were passionate about books and reading.

I asked how the awards were put together and I discovered that at Hull and in Leicester, huge piles of books are being read through the year ready for the longlist. Reviews are combed, blogs are read, covers examined.  Age ranges carefully considered  – books included or rejected.  It takes most of the year so between that and the Summer Reading Challenge it’s fairly full on.  And then, in addition to that, they have to organise the actual ceremony.  Persuading us authors to come, hiring buildings putting together activities for children liasing with schools.

All this is in response to a potential or actual drop in reading or achievement locally. The idea is to get the children to vote themselves – give them some power over us, the authors – get the authors up to meet them, engender passion and excitement about reading in the children.  Increase attainment, lifelong love of learning and reading.

At Hull there were 400 children, in Leicester 300 but they’re only the tip of the iceberg because each school could only send a few children – back there, out of sight were masses of children who couldn’t come to the award ceremony, but who, as a result of the awards, had a strong sense of ownership.

It was great.  And even as I passed through Birmingham New Street Station for the fourth time in a fortnight, I gave thanks for librarians, for libraries and for award ceremonies and all those who work so hard to put them together.

You’re all pretty incredible.