The ‘Children’s Book Award’ is an award for children’s books Essay

The ‘Children’s Book Award’ is an award for children’s books, books considered of a reading age range of infancy to the early teenage years. The award is owned and run by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, a charity whose mission is to encourage children to read and share a love of children’s literature. Unlike other children’s literature awards, it is the only national award voted for solely by children from start to finish.

The founder of ‘The Federation of Children’s Book Groups’, Anne Wood, set up the first Children’s Book Group in 1965, to raise excitement surrounding children’s books.

By 1968, through Anne’s magazine ‘Books for Your Children’, groups had sprung up across the United Kingdom and the Federation was created as a way of linking these groups together. Many of the original groups established are still active decades later, but more have been created with the aim of inspiring each generation of children to enjoy books.

The primary focus of this case study, the ‘Children’s Book Award’, is a Federation initiative. The ‘Children’s Book Award’ has been running since 1980, and was created as a way of allowing children to vote for and acknowledge the books that they truly enjoyed, rather than having adults choose for them. It was briefly known as the ‘Red House Children’s Book Award’ during its 14-year sponsorship by the company ‘The Book People’.

The ‘Federation of Children’s Book Groups’ is an independent charity, as well as a non-for-profit organisation, meaning they’re not trying to profit off of the winning books or trying to use them as advertisement, unlike book awards arranged by large business such as Waterstones and Costas book awards, which shows that there is a sense of genuine praise for winning authors. The organisation is run at a national executive and local level through groups, and is entirely volunteer run. The current Children’s Book Award Coordinator is Sarah Stuffins. On speaking about the award, she says: “I’m passionate about the Children’s Book Award […] I have been involved with the FCBG for 14 years now, since meeting members of the Exec at the Hay Festival in 2004 which led to us setting up the Reading CBG. At the time I was very keen to find out about new authors for my children to discover and I’ve stayed involved because I’m passionate about giving others the chances they had to read and share a love of reading with their families and friends.”

There are two voting stages to the Children’s Book Award: Full testing and top ten testing. The full testing involves the reading, reviewing and rating of books published each calendar year in the UK. Twelve of the Federation Children’s Book Groups participate, organised by the Children’s Book Award Co-ordinator Sarah Stuffins, and only Federation members are able to participate in this voting. One copy of every submitted book is sent to each of the twelve groups, paid for by participating publishers. The group coordinators then take the books to member schools’ libraries for the children and young people to read, review and rate. The top fifty are then finalised and the shortlist Top Ten is chosen, a process which takes an entire year from January to December.

Top Ten testing leads to the selection of the Category Winners and Overall Winner. Any child or young person across the UK can participate in this element of the award, voting on-line. This process takes three months from February until May. There are three age-related categories: Younger Children (Picture Books), which has four nominations in the top ten, Younger Readers (ages 6 – 11) and Older Readers (ages 10 – 18), both which have 3 nominations in the top ten. Overall, fifteen hundred votes are cast a year, over one thousand one hundred books are read each year, and over one hundred publishing imprints submit books to the award.

In 2011 The Federation of Children’s Book Groups won the Eleanor Farjeon Award – an award given to an organisation in recognition of excellent service to the world of British children’s books. The Children’s Book Circle and the Eleanor Farjeon committee presented the ?2000 gift to the then Chair Adam Lancaster during an award ceremony. Receiving the award, Mr Lancaster spoke: “Everyone involved in the Federation is a special person. They are the ones on the front line, working with tens of thousands of young people each year, doing those things that politicians and suited board men talk about. To be awarded this honour is to recognise all those people who over the years have played a part in igniting that spark and fanning those flames of reading. Books change lives. The Federation changes lives.”

The ‘Children’s Book Award’ has a good reputation with librarians and booksellers as it is a truer indication of what books UK children are enjoying rather than a matter of prestige or awarding authors based on previous success. Though it is a small award, it is one that is recognised for its value as genuine and honest, and I could find no controversy or bad press surrounding it. However, though it lacks bad press, it is arguable that the award lacks much press at all. The award is little known – perhaps because it doesn’t hold ‘big-name’ panellists for the media to deem it worthy of attention, or because it is volunteer run. I would argue, though, that with the growth of the award over the last decade this may change with time.

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