There are lots of children’s book awards, but the Doncaster Book Awards is special. That’s because children decide not only which books they want to win, but even which ones are on the shortlist.
Doncaster is in Yorkshire, in the north of England. Lots of schools in the area, alongside many home-educated kids, register and take part in the awards. First, the children select the shortlist for different categories of books, and these are then voted on by all the schools and the children. Sometimes book publishers ask to get their books on the list, but the answer is always no. This one is by children, for children!
The DBA was founded in 2004 by a group of school librarians, who wanted children to find reading as fun and engaging as they had found it as children.
The DBA also runs poetry competitions, holds dance, animation, writing and illustration workshops, and have held events such as an ‘Olympics Event’ at the Doncaster Race Track, at which races themed around books were held.
Ever year they hold the award ceremony and have had quite a few famous authors attend, such as Darren Shan, Charlie Higson, Helena Pielichaty, Narindher Dhami, Nadiya Hussein, Alan Gibbons and Andrew Cope. The writers meet the children and give readings, as well as receiving the awards.
Our writer Tina Price-Johnson spoke with her twin sister Lynne Coppendale, who is the Schools & Home Education Co-ordinator for the Doncaster Book Awards (DBA).
How did you get involved with the DBA?
I was a member of a group called Doncaster Secondary School Librarians Group when I used to be School Librarian. We were unhappy there were no child-led book awards and we wanted to set one up. We organised groups of children to meet and help advise us. They decided how books should be judged and also designed our logo!
We used information from public libraries about which books were borrowed most to decide which books should be shortlisted. A shortlist is a list of books that will be voted on by the children. We used the date they were published to decide if they were able to be voted on in that year. We now use information from the national popular book shop Waterstones as too many libraries have closed to make the information useful.
This means that the awards are based on books children are actually reading and are not chosen by adults or the publishers of the books. We are always surprised by the authors who are chosen this way; lots of new authors as well as very popular well-known names. We believe under-18s are very good at making choices.
What are your responsibilities?
I am the Schools and Home Education Coordinator and this year am also going to be the Safeguarding Coordinator. This means I manage the details of the people, schools and educators who are involved in voting and in attending the annual award ceremony. I also do the seating plans for the awards and organise our volunteers for the event, who volunteer for us through the Community 10K Initiative.
Who is the favourite guest you have ever had?
We had a comedian called David Baddiel who is very well-known. Probably the most famous person to come to the Awards ceremony is Dermot O’Leary who was very nice and bonded with my husband Jon over their love of the film Star Wars. All of our guest have been fabulous and often very, very funny.
Who would be your dream guest to have at the Doncaster Book Awards?
I would love for JK Rowling or Jacqueline Wilson to come to our awards as our children love both of them. For me, I would love to meet SES Hinton, as her books had a big effect on me as a child and teenager.
How can our readers get involved in the Doncaster Book Awards?
Borrow the books from a library and read them! We love it if children submit reviews of the books they’ve read to post on our website. All reviews are read by the committee first but we don’t amend or edit the reviews unless we have to, to make sure people can understand them properly.
If they want a copy of the reading list, they can email me too and I can help arrange for the parent or guardian to help them get the books. The mailing list is for adults so they will have to ask their parent or guardian or their teacher to apply to it. The Awards are inclusive so there is no charge to anyone who wants to come. We want everyone involved!
What are your future plans with the Doncaster Book Awards?
We hope to continue long into the future as long as we can find funding; luckily that isn’t part of my job! My plans are to stay with the Doncaster Book Awards as long as possible because I love it.
How can people/schools get in touch with you to get involved?
They can email me at email@example.com, or follow our page on Facebook and look at our website at http://www.doncasterbookaward.net/. Ask an adult to help you to join, as you will need permission to give your details.
Have a look at the Doncaster Book Awards website. The launch event for the 2019 Awards is on 11th October 2018, and the list of books for these awards is already on the site. Don’t worry if you miss this one, it’s held every year. Time to start reading!