Tag archives: Little Rebels Award

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Children’s and teenagers’ reading: recent news and views

monkey readingI love this picture from a museum in Orvieto in Italy. A great illustration for my latest round-up of reading news and articles.

Finland has just been named as the world’s most literate nation, while the UK is ranked 17th.

The National Literacy Trust has published a new survey about early literacy practices at home.

A poll for International Children’s Book Day revealed that half of parents think reading a book is the best way to develop empathy.

The Reading Agency has launched a scheme to support young people’s mental health through books in public libraries.

Teen author Alex Whale considers whether reading children’s books can help tackle knife crime.

Author Natasha Carthew has written an important piece on the lack of working class culture in children’s books.

Ross Montgomery explores the difficulty and importance of writing diverse children’s books.

School librarian Barbara Band’s blog Reading schemes or reading for pleasure? is well worth a look.

There are good ideas here for promoting reading through the school library.

The Publishers Association is looking to recruit 10,000 ‘reading amabassadors’ to promote reading for pleasure.

Joy Court is very interesting on the impact of the Carnegie and Greenaway awards shadowing scheme on reading.

The shortlist has been announced for the Little Rebels Children’s Book Award.

Teenage reader Ayesha suggests the way to halt the decline in reading for pleasure is to give books a go.

‘The reality of reading to toddlers’ is entertaining and useful.

Finally, an article on why listening to podcasts helps improve reading skills.


Monday, 12 May 2014

Little Rebels Book Award and children’s books that raise important social issues

After-TomorrowI very much enjoyed attending the Little Rebels Children’s Book Award ceremony on Saturday, and two fascinating panel discussions prior to it. The award celebrates children’s fiction on issues of social justice. It’s administered by the wonderful Letterbox Library. Gillian Cross was this year’s worthy winner for After Tomorrow. These were the other books on a very strong shortlist (the last two are picture books):

Deborah Chancellor, Real Lives: Harriet Tubman

Gill Lewis, Moon Bear

Geraldine McCaughrean, The Middle of Nowhere 

John Boyne, Stay Where You Are

Andrea Beaty, Rosie Revere Engineer, illustrated by David Roberts

Nicola Davies, The Promise, illustrated by Laura Carlin

IMG_0513Wendy Cooling interviewed shortlisted authors Gill Lewis, Deborah Chancellor and Geraldine McCaughrean. They spoke about the importance, and the difficulty, of transforming research into stories children will want to read. All are clearly driven to write books that alert children to important issues.

IMG_0522Ann Lazim chaired a debate on the characteristics of radical children’s books, and how to ensure children have access to books that expose them to big ideas and foster independent thinking. Authors Alan Gibbons and Catherine Johnson, academic Kim Reynolds and many audience members spoke passionately about the need for books in which all children can find people like themselves, still less easy than it should be, and for books that challenge stereotypes. Letterbox Library offered to set up a facility on its website through which people will be able to upload and to find sources of information. I’ll post a link to this once it is up.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award, Azzi In Between and diversity in children’s books

I enjoyed the Radical Book Fair on Saturday, particularly because it hosted the award ceremony for the first Little Rebels Award for radical children’s books. Sarah Garland was the worthy winner for Azzi In Between. Here she is with part of her prize, a picture of ‘little rebels’ by Ros Asquith. Azzi is a powerful graphic novel about a refugee girl and her family. A great book for refugee children to find themselves in, and a valuable insight into how it feels to be a refugee or asylum seeker for children fortunate enough not to have had to flee their home and country.

Garland talked in an earlier session about the inception of the book. She was living in New Zealand, and met lots of Burmese families who had undergone desperate journeys to reach safety. Since the library had no children’s books that explored their plight, she set about writing one. Usually her books spring purely from her imagination and her experience, but she did huge amounts of research for Azzi, and got help from teachers, librarians, and families. Azzi is based on a Burmese child (although the child in the book is middle eastern) who was closed down emotionally for a long period, but who over time started playing in school, and whose face changed as she did so. In reality, many refugee families lose relatives, often in horrible circumstances, but Garland decided to temper that reality because of the book’s intended audience. She chose graphic novel format to reach as wide a readership as possible. Having encountered families where parents can’t communicate about the trauma they have been through, she wanted refugee families to be able to share the book together, so needed a format where the text was not absolutely necessary. I loved talking to Garland after the ceremony, especially as her books were firm favourites with my children. I was delighted in her reaction to the fact that I showcase a number of her titles, including Azzi, on courses for teachers and librarians.

I was also very interested in what Jeanne Willis said about her shortlisted book. Wild Child is a clever, thought-provoking picture book about the last wild child. It arose from Willis’s passionate belief in the need for children to experience freedom, and not to be constantly rule-bound and organised by adults. ‘Wild Child faces extinction’, she said. ‘She needs protection.’ An important book.

The other titles in the running for the award were The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne, which I reviewed, and Hans and Matilda by Yokococo.

It was great to see lots of inclusive children’s books at the fair, thanks to the wonderful Letterbox Library. ‎ I was involved in exciting discussions with them and other organsiations about the possibility of a conference on diversity in children’s books. Fingers firmly crossed that it comes off, and also the joint training Letterbox and I are currently planning. (If you haven’t seen it, I recently blogged about a very good session on equality and diversity in children’s books.)

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Equal measures: ensuring equality and diversity in children’s books

I went to a great seminar at the London Book Fair on equality, diversity and inclusion in children’s books, chaired by Alexandra Strick, disability children’s book consultant.

Verna Wilkins told us the history of Tamarind Books, which she founded in 1987. At that time, it was all but impossible to find books with black children in, something I remember all to well, as a librarian in Brent then. She was horrified by the consequences of invisibility, and determined to redress the balance. She was a beacon then, and she remains a beacon now. It was wonderful to see her again. Dave and the Tooth Fairy is my favourite Tamarind book.

Beth Cox, children’s books consultant and co-founder with Alex of Inclusive Minds, Fen Coles of Letterbox Library and PhD student Erica Gillingham then shared their views on the extent to which children’s books are representative of the diversity of society.

Fen reflected on how far there is to go on this issue. This is the first year of the Little Rebels Children’s Book Award. Some publishers submitted books purely on the grounds that they had a black character. More books feature black characters now than when Verna founded Tamarind, but not nearly often enough as chief protagonists. Gendered marketing is ubiquitous. (I am very aware of this as a children’s book reviewer, and have blogged about it.) Are books about football the answer to getting boys reading? Must gay and lesbian characters in picture books really be animals rather than humans? Where are the books that show the real lives of refugees and asylum seekers? Where are the books about transgender characters, looked-after children, mental health issues, different social and economic backgrounds, Traveller, Roma and Gypsy characters? I would add books featuring characters with learning disabilities.

Erica spoke eloquently about the paucity of books with LGBT characters in the UK. We are way behind the States, she said, and there are consequences. She is particularly concerned about the lack of books with bisexual and transgender characters.

Beth regrets the lack of understanding of the terms diversity and equality. ‘It is not enough just to put a wheelchair here and there.’ She highlighted the fact that diversity is important for all children. (Tamarind books have frequently been turned down by booksellers on the grounds that ‘we don’t have those sorts of children here’.) Beth assured publishers that there is a real demand for inclusive books, and urged them to be brave. Inclusive books will not earn them millions, but they make good business sense. Publishers were also urged to avoid promoting negative stereotypes, to think about the use of language, to be authentically inclusive, not to over-sentimentalise or sensationalise, and to ask for help.

I so agree with all of this, and I am delighted to be in discussion with Inclusive Minds about ways we can collaborate in future, and that Letterbox Library and I are working on training ideas.

In the light of this seminar (which will be available soon as a podcast on the Booktrust website), I was fascinated and saddened today by a piece on the Rhino Reads blog. Why are crocodiles only boys? is a useful exploration of gender inequality in children’s books.