Book awards scheme launched in Richmond and Kingston

A new primary school children’s book awards scheme has been launched in Richmond and Kingston, alongside a new fund that aims to raise money to help low-income families buy books for their children.

Coombe Hill Junior School headteacher, Mark Clutterbuck, teamed up with Debbie Thomas, a lead school improvement adviser for English from Achieving for Children, to launch an awards programme that will help promote reading and writing.

Mark Clutterbuck, said: “I planned to start this last March and then Covid stopped everything. But soon I realised that, above all at this time, pupils need exciting stories and a sense of community.

“By bringing together so many schools in a massive reading event, we can offer them both.  In the end, I decided that now was actually the very best time for such a project.”

Over 50 books have already been submitted and there are books for children aged four to seven, seven to nine and nine to eleven, and authors still have the chance to submit their books for them to be considered.

A team of judges which include teachers, librarians and local booksellers, will shortlist the books to a list of four in each category and children from the two boroughs that have signed up to the scheme, will then be invited to read the books next spring and vote on their favourite ones.

Parents are asked to check that their primary school has signed up, and if not to contact the Spark! team.

The winners will be announced in May.

The new Spark! team have also launched an online fundraiser to ensure that those children from low-income families can also participate and have access to the books, residents are invited to support the scheme and donate online.

Cllr Penny Frost, chair of the children’s and schools committee for Richmond Council, said: “Across both boroughs, there are over 35,000 children who can benefit from this project. For many young people, reading provided a vital escape during lockdown. We want to harness that enthusiasm, whilst recognising high quality contemporary authors.

“It is also important to remember that some children and young people do not have the money to buy their own books, therefore I welcome the new fund that Spark! have created that will ensure that this exciting programme is accessible to all.”

Thomas added: “There are so many great new books being published all the time. However, because teachers, parents and pupils do not always get the chance to find out about them, we want the Spark! Awards to bring everyone together, so families and teachers can all discover some great new writing.”

The project is being supported by Achieving for Children, which runs education in the two boroughs as well as the library services and local bookshops.

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