Reading Ahead

As you may know, I'm the treasurer for the Doncaster Book Awards (www.doncasterbookawards.net). This year marks our thirteenth anniversary - we're a volunteer organisation with the goal of getting every child in our town reading for pleasure. The authors attending DBA events are becoming increasingly high-profile, with comedian Julian Clary (author of ‘The Bolds’, about a family of devious hyenas trying to blend in in suburbia) and his illustrator David Roberts launching this year’s awards programme at The Dome on 5th October. “We moved to The Dome last year as audience numbers were increasing so rapidly,” says my friend and DBA Chair, Lesley Hurworth, “Just short of 1000 children from around the borough attended last year when David Baddiel appeared, and similarly with Liz Pichon who writes and illustrates the ‘Tom Gates’ books. Schools know that seeing and meeting authors gets kids reading, and that’s what we’re all about.” Last year, the Book Awards were recommended as ‘Best Practice’ in the Education Foundation’s ‘Future Doncaster’ report, which the DBA volunteers are rightly proud of: “It just proves how important it is for us to encourage children to enjoy reading. The books long-listed in the awards are chosen by the children so they cover every possible genre and style, appealing to all kinds of readers. We try to show children the world that books and reading can open up for them.” Indeed, it doesn’t just stop at reading for the Doncaster Book Awards - all art forms are incorporated into their free events and workshops. Through a typical year, children can explore stories through drama, animation, crafts, dance - even sport! “One of our most popular events tied books in with the Olympics,” Lesley continues, “There were zombie races, treasure island long-jumps and bunnies playing badminton - all showing children how much fun they can have with literature.” In January next year, Talegate Theatre Company are working with the DBA, touring schools with a workshop based on my book ‘Discover Doncaster!’ - it will be a Horrible-Histories-style play about our town, which will appear at Cast in April, this time entitled ‘Disgusting Doncaster!’. Over the year, children read, review and vote for their favourite new books. Recently, authors named as the children’s favourites have received an award specially commissioned from Doncaster-based ceramic artist, Emily Rowley, usually featuring the author’s characters relaxing on a sofa. “The authors love winning an award created by Emily,” says Lesley, “They are fast becoming sought after in the publishing world, meaning that we’re attracting some big name authors at our events - with more to come this year!” Schools and home educators can find out more by visiting www.doncasterbookaward.net .

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