Changing the culture of reading

Today we announce The Booktrust Best Book Awards with Amazon Kindle—a truly momentous day for us at Book House, where there’s a sense of excitement around what we’re embarking on.

So why are we launching the Best Book Awards? The short answer is to celebrate the very best children’s books each year. We want to change the culture of reading in this country. An ambitious task? Certainly. Can we do it? Absolutely. It won’t happen overnight, but we’re in this for the long haul.

At the moment, books are facing a battle with the major players of the entertainment industry—games, film and music. Vying for children’s attention alongside these giants of ‘cool’ is no easy task. But our goal is to see children pestering their parents for Malorie Blackman’s latest book alongside their pleas for One Direction tickets.  

In order for this to happen, children must be in control of what, when, and how they read. Whether it’s Harry Potter on an e-reader during a rainy camping holiday, or poring over a graphic novel with beautiful illustrations and sumptuous endpapers in the playground, it all works. And the array of marvellous options should all sit alongside each other.

So The Booktrust Best Book Awards with Amazon Kindle are all about choice, flexibility, and the reader themselves. We’ve catered for a wide range of tastes, with categories including fact, fiction, humour, picture books, and digital for under-14s. Parents, schools, libraries and booksellers can register to get involved in the awards from today, and there’ll be resources and point of sale available to support these different audiences from next year. The selection process will be managed by Booktrust, which has pulled together a panel of independent experts, and the shortlist will be announced in March 2014.

Next, it is up to the children to decide—they will be invited to read the books, take part in activities and vote for their favourites online. There will also be a lifetime achievement award for a children's writer or illustrator.

This is a celebration of the very best books each year. Of course, there is a wide range of wonderful children’s book initiatives out there already, but Booktrust’s 92 years of experience in children’s books—gifting them, recommending them, and just generally making it our business to know about them—uniquely positions us to deliver these awards. The combination of our expertise in prize management, strong relationships within the trade and the work we do with schools, means that our real trump card is sheer scale—we deliver campaigns that reach every child in the country.

Booktrust and Amazon Kindle share a common goal—to get children reading, and without their support, this brilliant project would not be possible. Just as publishers and technology companies seek resolutions on the digital debate, we too are responding to exciting changes within the industry, and indeed, to what children want themselves. A recent competition run by Booktrust revealed that children chose to read in both physical and digital formats—the split was almost 50/50.

The great thing about e-reader providers is that they’ve created a further arena for reading to take place, a space that is compatible with the world in which children now live, a world that includes smartphones, computers in schools and gaming devices. So let’s celebrate these options which children now have.

We’ve seen from so many studies—most recently one from the Institute Of Education, published last week—that reading for pleasure changes lives. With that in mind, The Booktrust Best Book Awards with Amazon Kindle have one aspiration at their heart: to borrow the phrase of the Children’s Laureate: to get more children reading more.

The Booktrust Best Book Awards with Amazon Kindle is a new national awards scheme for children’s books. For more information visit www.booktrust.org.uk/bestbookawards.

Viv Bird is chief executive of Booktrust.