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.