#FocusOnReading – No3. Children’s Book Awards

This week, as part of our #FocusOnReading we hosted a Reading Conference featuring reading expert James Clements. The event was attended by English Subject Leaders, Leaders of Reading and Senior Leaders from schools across Coventry and Warwickshire. They have unanimously told us that it was an inspirational day which has left them with a multitude of ideas to apply back in school. One area of reading practice that James drew our delegates’ attention to was the role of the literary competitions in helping to promote a love of reading in a school. Primary English has a long history of promoting children’s book awards so this advice from James fell on very welcome ears indeed.

Here in Coventry we have the annual Coventry Inspiration Book Awards. These awards cater for all ages and tastes from birth to 80+. Just like the national book awards there is a website with voting facilities, shadowing events in schools and a lavish award ceremony attended by dignitaries and lovers of literature. We’re immensely proud that for several years we were part of the shortlisting committee for the school-age categories of this fabulous book award and that our director Charlotte Reed has presented awards to winners several times over the years.

So, in the week that the UKLA 2015 Book Awards Longlist has been released and in the month when the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards reach the classrooms of Coventry we turn our attention to one book that has found its way onto both of these lists, Blackberry Blue and Other Fairy Tales by Jamila Gavin.


Our Director, Charlotte Reed gives us this short insight into why she recommends this book for use with children in Upper Key Stage 2.

Earlier this year Richard Dawkins suggested that reading Fairy Tales to children is harmful.  Now this is not something we agree with here at Primary English HQ. We are VERY much in favour of the use of Fairy Tales with children and are pleased that we’re not on our own in taking this stance. We look to the way they give us the foundations of  good story structure, teach us morals, help us to solve problems and show us how to triumph in the face of adversity.

Fairy Tales sit comfortably in the KS1 curriculum but also have their place in KS2 where we look at the structures, themes, characterisation and storytelling metaphors of traditional stories. The problem facing many KS2 teachers who look to use Fairy Tales is that the children have encountered many of the best tales in previous year groups. This is where Blackberry Blue and Other Fairy Tales is a useful addition to any KS2 teacher’s literary canon.

Late last year, Rachel Clarke and I were privileged to be present at the launch of this beautiful book. Naturally, we were suitably starry-eyed at meeting author Jamila Gavin and both have signed copies of the book nestling on our bookshelves. Our giddy over-enthusiasm aside, Blackberry Blue is perfect for use in Key Stage 2. It provides teachers with a set of new Fairy Tales rich in cultural diversity and with a voice that will connect with children who bring a breadth of literary heritages to the classroom. These are Fairy Tales that all children, not just those from European backgrounds, can connect with and say, “That could be me”.

In the story of Blackberry Blue itself children will recognise elements of
Cinderella. This link-making across and within texts is essential for comprehension at the higher levels, showing how this collection of Fairy Tales should be available as a class read or guided reading text in Year 5 and Year 6 classrooms.

Blackberry Blue is a beautiful book. Jamila Gavin’s lucid prose is accompanied by stunning pencil drawings by Richard Collingridge ensuring that the book, as well as it’s contents, is something to be treasured.

We have a Pinterest Board with links to the major children’s book awards and many more boards to help you choose books to help your school #FocusOnReading.

Rachel Clarke and Charlotte Reed – Directors, Primary English.

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