Children’s Choice Award: Judging the School Library Association’s Information Book Award

Post by Chris Routh

Judging the SLA IBA has become an annual fixture for Year 7 and 8s at Leighton Park School in Reading. It is an ideal opportunity to focus on quality non-fiction, to encourage students to develop their ability to review and rate good books, and to stimulate some great book talk. 

As one of the judging panel for the award, I already have copies of the ten shortlisted books – but discounted packs are available from Peters or if you’re lucky enough to have a School Library Service or local public library, you could request loan copies. (Perhaps something to think about for next year). At Leighton Park we look at all of the age categories as it encourages our students to think about selecting books for younger children. With this in mind, each session starts with a discussion about the important role of illustration, appropriateness of language for an age group and whether the book would stand up to being read aloud or shared many times over.  We also talk in general about other criteria for selecting non-fiction, including navigational features (contents, glossary, index), up-to-dateness and accuracy. In this session, however, we are not looking for books to suit a particular (educational) purpose – it’s much more to do with highlighting books to read for interest and pleasure. 

We count ourselves lucky because we have access to all of our Year 7 and 8 classes during their fortnightly 55 minute library lessons. But we have also run the activity with our Year 9 Book Club and we will be looking at the books in the two younger age categories at the November meeting of Reading’s Children’s Book Group. Another way of getting children involved in the award (in schools or public libraries) would be to put up a display and provide score sheets and a voting box. 

Because of time constraints, each lesson is by necessity pacey. We start with the discussion about criteria and then divide the class into three groups. Each group looks at one of the age-related shortlists, working in pairs (or threes), and each student scores each title on their own score sheet. The shortlists are then rotated, until each group has seen all three. At this stage we do a class vote for each category, followed by a vote for the overall winner. The class’s choices are then submitted on the Children’s Choice voting page on the SLA website. And if we’re lucky there is still time for students to talk about their choices or spend more time dipping into the books.

If you visit the website page you will find suggestions for curriculum linked activities inspired by each title. These will be useful beyond the voting process and particularly if you have bought copies the books. For Leighton Park, however, the main benefit of the SLA IBA Children’s Choice Award is that it promotes an interest in some fantastic new information books and thereby reading non-fiction for the sheer pleasure of it.

Voting closes on 1st November 2019 and the winners will be announced at the Award Ceremony in London on 12th November 2019. All will be revealed here as part of our National Non-Fiction November celebrations!

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