UKLA Book Awards 2017 Winners Announced!

Teacher judges acknowledge the power of pictures amongst awards celebrating language, image and imagination


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The unique UKLA Book Awards are the only awards to be judged entirely by teachers. Their choice of winning books which, according to the criteria, can “enhance all aspects of literacy learning” clearly demonstrates the fresh perspective that class teachers bring to the judging of book awards. They are able to share the books with their classes and discover what genuinely works with young readers in each of the three age categories. For the first time ever a picturebook has won the 7-11 category. The judges found that The Journey by Francesca Sanna provoked a powerful response from children of all ages. This Kate Greenaway Medal shortlisted book has, of course, just been awarded the 2017 Amnesty CILIP Honour; and remarkably, due to differing dates for eligibility, the 2016 Amnesty CILIP Honour winner, There’s a Bear On MY Chair by Ross Collins has also won the UKLA 3-6 category demonstrating that human rights are a very current classroom topic. The ‘teachers’ Carnegie’ judges, like the librarian judges, also reflected a very transatlantic flavour in their choices this year with The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen by Canadian author Susin Nielsen winning the12-16 category and American author and illustrator, Brian Selznick’s The Marvels being Highly Commended, further demonstrating that the power of pictures does not diminish as students get older.

For UKLA, giving classroom practitioners the opportunity to read a number of new quality children’s books is as important as finding an overall winner. Research carried out by members of UKLA (Cremin et al 2008) clearly demonstrated the links between teachers’ knowledge of children’s books and the likelihood of pupils becoming successful readers. Despite this evidence, teachers are seldom given time to read new books or funding to purchase them when they do. As Awards Chair Lynda Graham said: It was very moving to hear the teacher judges, from all across Scotland, describe the impact within schools of their being involved in these awards. Not only did it open their eyes to the value of picturebooks for all ages but it galvanised their pupils’ enthusiasm for reading.”This makes these awards particularly useful for co-sponsor Peter Crawshaw, Director and Co-founder of Lovereading4kids who said:

“Lovereading4schools and its sister site Lovereading4kids are delighted to support the UKLA Book Awards. The fact that the teacher judges reflect on their students’ responses to the books gives the award huge credibility and trust that schools use to know the books will be loved by their own pupils. The awards are equally valuable for parents who cannot fail to be impressed by these excellent winners”

The Award winners for the book categories 3 to 6, 7 to 11 and 12 to16+ years will be announced and presented at a wine reception at the UKLA International Conference at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow on June 30th.

Andrew Lambirth, President of UKLA said ‘We know that literature broadens the reader’s experience of the world and sense of the possible and thus should have a central place in classrooms and educational contexts. Children need access to a rich range of high quality literature and our awards highlight some of the very best literature currently available to children and young people in the UK. We are proud to be celebrating these truly outstanding winners at our International Conference ‘

The winning book in the 12 to 16+ category is The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen by Susin Nielsen. Published by Andersen Press

‘A really good book changes the way you see the world’ and this book demonstrated that powerful effect in the judges’ classrooms. This is indeed a remarkable book: with a diary format that is a gift for engaging with reluctant readers and for creative writing; multi-faceted authentic characters that evoke empathy and provoke intense class discussions of relevant topics such as bullying, divorce and family breakdown; and yet is also warm, humane, sensitive and funny,

The judges also presented a Highly Commended award toThe Marvelswritten and illustrated by Brian Selznick. Published by Scholastic

This beautiful and special book provides a unique experience for the reader and the judges wished to commend a unique method of telling the story: first through cinematic wordless pictures then by narrative text. With the immediately accessible images you create your own narrative and this engages the interest of even the most reluctant of readers in fiction and the power of story.

The winning book in the 7 to 11 category is The Journey written and illustrated by Francesca Sanna published by Flying Eye Books

The judges reported that this important book for our times was used throughout their schools and had impact and meaning for all ages and abilities. This story of a mother seeking a safe refuge for her family really demonstrated the power of pictures to inspire discussion, empathy and creative writing. The powerful simple language was both challenging without being intimidating and the whole book provoked such rich responses from children that it was truly outstanding

The winning book for the 3 to 6 category There’s a Bear on MY Chair by Ross Collins published by Nosy Crow

A superb example of how interesting words and evocative pictures should work together and one which also demonstrates a very clever use of design; with differing font size and colour expressing tone, emphasis and volume. The clever rhyme reads aloud very well and the perfectly expressive and humorous illustrations really engage young children in discussing the story and the issues of restorative justice that it raises, providing a wonderful stimulus for dramatic re-telling.

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