I’ve been running a book award for three years now and always enjoy promoting the books, reading them and discussing them with students. The rules of the book award are pretty simple, I just ensure that they are current. For example, the books nominated for the 2020 book award must be published in 2019.
I choose the longlist in October, this is usually fifteen to twenty books. These are books that our book club, who call themselves The Booklings, help me choose. I also use borrowing stats and word of mouth from other students.
We hold the award ceremony in March during the week of World Book Day.
From here The Booklings narrow it down to six books. All of the Booklings read the longlist and provide feedback. I also ask staff members at the school to read as many books as they can and tell me which ones they enjoyed the most.
I try to make the book award a bigger and better event each year. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way that have made ours fun and engaging for everyone.
Create a Name for your Award
Naming our award wasn’t too difficult because our book club call themselves The Booklings. Therefore, they wanted the award to be called The Bookling Award. I liked this as it has a nice ring to it and has the same connotation as “The Oscars” or “The Emmys”.
Promote the Award
This goes without saying but here are some ways we’ve spread the word about our award.
I have a coffee morning for staff to promote the books. We serve coffee, doughnuts and brownies in the Library so staff can come, relax and find out about these great books. Staff can also borrow the books so we can get even more feedback from them.
We create a social media hashtag for the award. Every time I tweet anything book award related, I use the #Bookling hashtag to ensure we can keep track of what we’ve done and other people can also follow the award. During the award ceremony, nominated authors can also follow along as to who has won.
The Booklings also make bookmarks using Canva, we do alternative book covers and place the shortlisted titles in the staff bulletin and on posters around the school.
During library lessons, I promote the books continuously and run research lessons around the books when possible. For example, one of our shortlisted books is Catherine Bruton’s No Ballet Shoes in Syria therefore while promoting the book and showing videos of Catherine reading from the book, I run a responsible research lesson on Syria and the refugee crisis.
We also hold book review writing contests with them in lead up to the award ceremony.
It’s impossible to get every student in the school to read all of the books but I’m able to get a big proportion of them to vote on aspects of them. I create a Survey Monkey where I ask students to vote on their favourite covers and blurbs. If they have read them, all the better, if not, it gives me a well-rounded idea of what book is the most popular. I do this survey for over seven hundred students.
Involve the Authors
We always try hard to interact with the authors. In the past we’ve had students involved in Twitter chats and Skypes. Some authors have also visited in person which is an amazing way to promote the award. I also interact with authors on social media, primarily Twitter and Instagram. This has proven to be a very effective way to spread the word about the award and get more people interested in these books.
Create an Event Around the Award
Every year I live tweet the award ceremony. We announce the winner of “Favourite Cover” and discuss the quiz that I always run. Of course, we also announce the winner of the Bookling. In addition, I purchase a small trophy with the winners’ name and book title engraved on it. I then mail this to the author after the event.
We make the event into something special by bringing in pizzas, drinks and other snacks. Combined with the quiz and the revealing of the winners, this event takes place over a lunch hour and is very exciting for the students.
About the Author
Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, Lucas Maxwell has spent the past five years as Head Librarian at Glenthorne High School in South London, UK. He is a contributor for Book Riot and has written for School Library Journal & the School Librarian Magazine. In 2017 he was fortunate enough to be named the UK’s School Librarian of the Year by the School Library Association.
You can read Lucas's previous blog: Celebrating World Book Day at Glenthorne High School