5 tips for creating a fun and engaging book award in your school

Published on: 15 January 2019 Author: Lucas Maxwell

Former School Librarian of the Year Lucas Maxwell shares another exciting idea for helping students to read and love books. Here's how to get everyone talking about who should win your school's book award...

This will be the third year in a row that I’ve run a book award at Glenthorne High School. They are a lot of work but also a lot of fun. 

Here are 5 tips that I’ve learned, which will help you set something up at your own school: 

1. Give students control

First, I let students choose the name of the award. Our book club call themselves The Booklings so the award we give out is simply called The Bookling! Also, having a physical award to give to the winning author is a must.

Secondly, students choose the books. The only rule is that the books must be current. For example, the books chosen for the 2019 Bookling were all published in 2018. We start off with a longlist of 20 books and then we narrow it down to six through borrowing statistics, student opinion and a survey monkey that Years 7-10 take part in. That said, the majority of the books are aimed at ages 11-13.

2. Promote it

Once the shortlist has been finalised, I alert the authors and publishers on Twitter, Instagram and on email, congratulating them on being shortlisted. The responses are always really great and I always share these with the students. We Skype with all of the authors who are shortlisted and ask a few to come in person as well. 

I create a special display in the library just for the shortlisted books and purchase five or six copies of each book to make sure that multiple students can be reading them at once. I also bring in staff to borrow the books (with homemade brownies as bribery) and get them to write reviews of them to display around the Library.

3. Turn it into a competition

I link the Bookling Award with our ongoing Reading Challenge. To sweeten the deal, I tell students that anyone who writes a thoughtful review of the books will have their name entered in a draw to win a Waterstones voucher. Six books means six chances to win – which means the books are never on the shelves.

4. Use the books in lessons

One of the shortlisted books, Pages & Co. by Anna James, is about a girl who gets transported to the pages of her favourite novels. To promote the book and to have some fun in library lessons, I asked students to stop their silent reading and share with the class what they’d be experiencing if right that second they were magically sucked into the plot of their novel. It really got students talking and more interested in Anna’s novel in general.

5. Have an award ceremony

The award runs from October to March, with the winner announced near World Book Day. We live-tweet the event so the authors can follow along, creating a special hashtag just for the event. We have cake, quizzes and prizes. It’s a lot of fun and drums up a lot of excitement. 

I'd really encourage anyone to start a book award in their school. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected]

Read more from Lucas Maxwell: 5 ways social media can connect students with authors they love

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