The Whales on the Bus picked by families as this year's BookTrust Storytime Prize winner

Published on: 25 January 2022 Author: Catriona Wightman

Families attending BookTrust Storytime sessions have picked The Whales on the Bus as their favourite book for sharing with children.

A child enjoying a BookTrust Storytime session at their library

The families and librarians involved in BookTrust's ambitious BookTrust Storytime pilot have chosen their favourite new book for sharing with babies and young children.

The Whales on the Bus by Katrina Charman and illustrator Nick Sharratt has been picked as the winner, based on how families and young children responded to a shortlist of six books during special library sessions.

This fun new take on a familiar rhyme was praised for its appealing cast of characters, its bright and bold illustrations, the way it introduces new words and its ability to get the whole family joining in with a singalong.

It was crowned the winner by Waterstones Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell during a special virtual celebration today (25 January).

The other books on the shortlist were Arlo, The Lion Who Couldn't Sleep by Catherine Rayner, Lenny and Wilbur by Ken Wilson-Max, I Really Really Need a Wee by Karl Newson and Duncan Beedie, Octopus Shocktopus by Peter Bently and Steven Lenton, and No! Said Rabbit by Marjoke Henrichs.

Supporting families to visit the library

Families enjoying a BookTrust Storytime session

For the first time, the BookTrust Storytime Prize shortlist was incorporated into a new library experience pilot, in an attempt to find different ways to support families with young children - especially those who are disadvantaged after BookTrust research showed that only 49% of families in poverty with children aged 0-5 are registered with a public library.

Every library in England was offered copies of the six shortlisted books to share with families, while over 300 libraries across the country held storytime activities such as weekly sessions where they would enjoy one of the books and accompanying resources and activities.

The storytime sessions and activities aimed to encourage families to get in the habit of making repeat visits to the library, building their confidence and enjoyment of sharing books with their children.

Savanah, mum to 9-month-old Elvis, said: 'We've really enjoyed BookTrust Storytime. It's opened our eyes a little bit too. It doesn't have to be a big, long, boring book. It can be short and sweet, but a lot of interaction with colours and pictures and things. We're all encouraged to get involved and demonstrate to the children as we go through it.

'It's a really positive environment. The library team have been great, so as I think we've got to know them, we come to a place where it's really comfortable and everyone is happy.'

BookTrust worked in close partnership with libraries, local authorities, families and organisations including ASCEL, CILIP and Libraries Connected to design the pilot, and will now be evaluating the experience and its impact on families, libraries and local authorities.

'Sharing stories is invaluable for young children'

Families enjoying a BookTrust Storytime session

Beth Southard, Early Years Community Librarian at Norfolk Libraries, said their libraries had received 'really good feedback' from families who had taken part.

'They've really enjoyed the content and the fact it's a whole package,' she said. 'It's not just that they are coming for stories and then going home. It feels like there's a whole thing to unlock with it. I think that it's something that's had people coming back each week.'

Diana Gerald, CEO of BookTrust, explained that the BookTrust Storytime pilot is part of the charity's ambition to bring the benefits of reading to children in the greatest need.

'Sharing stories is invaluable for children in their early years and creates lifelong positive impact on their health, wellbeing, creativity and education,' she said.

'We are incredibly grateful to all the local authorities, library services and shortlisted authors and illustrators who have embraced the pilot, using their experience and expertise to engage local families and bring stories to life and inspiring families to pick up their next book.

'There is much we can learn from the pilot about how best to support children and families to make reading a regular and long-lasting part of family life and it's a great pleasure to congratulate Katrina and Nick on their charming winning book. The Whales on the Bus is a very worthy winner of this year's BookTrust Storytime Prize.'

Meanwhile, The Whales on the Bus author Katrina Charman said: 'Our local library is where I developed my own love of books and reading, and I am so grateful to librarians who continue to enable those who may not otherwise get a chance to have access to books, the opportunity to do so.

'BookTrust is such an important organisation, and having mine and Nick's book play a small part in encouraging more families into libraries and making sure that children have access to wonderful books is very humbling.'

Find out more about BookTrust Storytime 

Download the full press release

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