UKLA Academic Book Award 2023

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UKLA is delighted to announce that the winner of the UKLA Academic Book Award 2023 is On the Write Track: A Practical Guide to Teaching Writing in Primary Schools byJames Clements, published by Routledge.

The judging panel felt this book offers a thought-provoking, refreshing and distinctive approach to teaching writing. It has a pleasingly supportive authorial voice. The opening two chapters, about engaging critically with research and developing a personal philosophy rather than simply being told ‘what works’, provide humane, non-judgmental encouragement. A key idea is that there are many ways in which rail tracks can be laid down but, in this book, the author suggests ‘write’ (rather than ‘right’) ones. The judges, despite varying experiences across all phases of education, agreed that the book contained many interesting ideas which would not only support young people learning to write, but also act as a resource for any teacher wishing to develop their professional knowledge.

One of several distinctive strengths of the book is the way in which it promotes diversity, for example in its descriptions of varied classrooms, teachers and students; via a range of researchers and disciplines; and, of course, through a host of recommended texts – poetry, fiction, film or non-fiction. The book as a whole has the potential not only to encourage developing writing of all kinds but provides diverse classroom activities through which to do so. It also stresses the need for writing teachers to acknowledge and draw on young people’s multifarious personal interests. Panel members loved the different approaches shared within the book, often in fascinating detail (such as Sam’s journey with his teacher through various stages of a poetry-drafting process towards his lively blue tit poem with which he was evidently very pleased).

Overall, panel members were in no doubt they were going to develop ideas from the book, not least encouraged by the author’s invitation – to them and to young writers – to think ideas through for themselves. On the Write Track thus seems likely to be a staple for many years to come, not just for early years and primary teachers but also secondary English teachers, initial teacher education students and teacher-researchers. Children learning to write in the classrooms of anyone who engages with this publication will undoubtedly benefit from its benign but robust advice. It is a worthy winner of the UKLA Academic Book Award 2023.

UKLA would also like to thank the following authors and publishers of the other four books shortlisted for this award:

Reading Teachers: Nurturing Reading for Pleasure edited by Teresa Cremin, Helen Hendry, Lucy Rodriguez Leon and Natalia Kucirkova, published by Routledge

Bringing Forth the Bard: A Guide to Teaching Shakespeare in the English Classroom by Zoe Ensor, published by Crown House Publishing Limited.

A Poetry Pedagogy for Teachers: Reorienting Classroom Literacy Practices by Maya Pindyck and Ruth Vinz, published by Bloomsbury.

Integrating Children’s Literature in the Classroom: Insights for the Primary and Early Years Educator by Rosemary Waugh & David Waugh, published by Open University Press.

Chair of Panel: Gabrielle Cliff Hodges

Panel Members: Andrea Balein, Sarah Brownsword, Susan Chapman, Velda Elliott, Theresa Gooda, Penny Manford, Elizabeth Robertson, Rebecca Simpson-Hargreaves

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