Teachers in Renfrewshire primary schools are in the midst of a book-reading bonanza for a prestigious UK book awards competition.

Back row – Left to right: Lynn Ferguson, Pamela Gray, Jess Anderson, Jacqueline McBurnie, Jacqueline Hayward, Carol Cooke
Front row: Left to right: Craig Carson, Kayleigh Loughlin, Tracey Millar, Audrey Simpson.

Craig Carson and Kayleigh Loughlin of West Primary, Paisley; Pamela Gray and Jacqueline Haywood of St Anthony’s, Johnstone, and Tracey Millar and Audrey Simpson of Newmains Primary, Renfrew are working their way through 21 books long-listed in the UK Literacy Association’s 2017 annual Book Awards.

The Renfrewshire six are among the 50-plus teachers across Scotland invited to become part of the judging process for the UKLA Book Awards, the only books competition in the UK to be decided entirely by teachers.

They’ve been taking part in regular lively after-school meetings since October to discuss the merits of the 21 books which are up for honours in the 7-11 year old category.

Joining them with supportive input are their three Head Teachers  – Lynn Ferguson, West Primary, Jacqueline McBurnie, of St Anthony’s Primary and Carol Cooke, of Newmains Primary, along with the Renfrewshire UKLA Book Awards Panel Team Leader, Jess Anderson, a Research Associate with University of Strathclyde’s Department of Education. Two other teachers are shadowing the judging panel – Rea Chisholm from East Fulton Primary, Linwood, and Gillian McGowan from St Anthony’s.

The three schools with the six judge panellists are members of the UKLA which, along with its Book Awards, aims to promote a broader understanding of literacy and literature for children in the UK and other countries.

This is also the main focus of the Renfrewshire Literacy Approach, a ground-breaking partnership between Renfrewshire Council and the University of Strathclyde to improve pupil reading standards and encourage a love of reading and books from an early age.

The initiative – launched in September 2015 – has seen more than 800 primary teachers plus staff from secondary schools take part in a high quality professional programme to enhance the knowledge and skills of teachers and head teachers in the teaching of reading.

UKLA regional representatives in the University’s Faculty of Education’s built on links with the existing literacy partnership to recruit the Renfrewshire panel to its pool of teacher judges for the 2017 Book Awards.

Prize-winning titles in all age categories will be announced at the UKLA’s International Conference from 30 June – 2 July 2017, which will be hosted by the University of Strathclyde. Around 400 teachers and academics from across the world, including the USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, and Europe, are expected to attend the event on the theme ofLanguage, Literacy and Class.

Jess Anderson, UKLA Book Awards Judging Group Leader for Renfrewshire, said: “There’s a real buzz about reading in Renfrewshire and having teachers judging this competition has added to that.

“Schools recognise the importance of reading for pleasure, with more and more teachers in Renfrewshire seeing the benefits of having a wider and more-up-to-date knowledge of children’s literature.

“Children get genuine choices in what they want to read – and that lays the foundations for young people to become lifelong readers.

“They are reading the books too and that’s generating a lot of enthusiasm and chat between themselves, their teachers and their head teachers.

“The fact that the Head Teachers of all three Renfrewshire schools are sitting alongside the class teacher judges to read and discuss all 21 books on the long list is a fantastic show of commitment to raising literacy levels locally.”

Pamela Gray, of St Anthony’s Primary, said: “It’s a fantastic experience to be involved in judging the awards because we can see how good books have the power to make children really want to be involved in learning.”

Tracey Millar, of Newmains Primary, said:  “Getting through 21 books has been no hardship – I’ve loved every minute of reading them and it’s great to see the children so enthusiastic about what I’m reading.”

Councillor Jacqueline Henry, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Education and Children Policy Board, said:

“Renfrewshire Council is determined to give our children as many opportunities as possible for a bright and happy future and to help them “learn” their way out of poverty and deprivation. Encouraging a love of reading is the first vital step on that journey.

“The fact that Renfrewshire teachers are helping to judge this national children’s book competition is testament to our determination to succeed in changing lives.

“I’m delighted to see our teachers have been selected to take part in judging these Awards and am very proud of their enthusiasm and dedication to play their part in giving our children the best possible start in life.”