Have you ever applied to be a judging panel for the Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Prize? Well done to those of you that are nodding, perhaps you will apply again. Those of you that have no idea what I’m writing about need to read on.

Each year the Royal Society shortlists a fabulous selection of science books aimed at 8-14 year olds that are then sent to judging panels in schools and youth groups up and down the country in May. Each judging panel’s lead teacher can decide how many children get involved and how the judging panel will run in the school. Guidance is given by the teachers so that the children can take the lead and organise themselves, very democratic and empowering for the children.

Students from the Hockerill Anglo-European College and their judging sheet for the 2018 Young Peoples book prize.

Students from the Hockerill Anglo-European College and their judging sheet for the 2018 Young Peoples book prize.

As a teacher this is a win-win activity, it promotes reading for pleasure, it encourages children to read non-fiction texts, in some books children are encouraged to interact with the book they are reading, it increases science knowledge and understanding, it increases science capital and encourages an interest in (and hopefully a love of) science.

After reading the book the children have the chance to judge it, explain which book they enjoyed and why. You get a judging chart and stickers provided by the Royal Society, and the children can record their scores on here, sending the final result to the Royal Society by October.

A final score sheet from Carnalridge Primary School.

A final score sheet from Carnalridge Primary School.

This can lead to great discussions which improve scientific literacy, explanations and justifications – all great science and literacy skills. I found that some reluctant readers were not so reluctant and asked to re-borrow books – they actually wanted to read more! Children often disagreed and began to realise that their opinions needed evidence, evidence that they had engaged and read parts of the book and it was okay to have different opinions.

It is then up to you, as the teacher, if you and your group want to create a video, an assembly, or how to explain to the rest of the class/school what they have been doing. Mine wanted to make a video! They planned, produced short scripts, rehearsed and acted to explain key ideas from the books. They videoed and videoed and yes re-videoed their scripts. They laughed and smiled and worked as a team. They felt special, grew in confidence and self-esteem and realised that books aren’t just about stories. They couldn’t wait to see if the rest of the country agreed with their ‘star’ book. There was immense excitement in November when the winner was revealed and jubilation as the result was the same as theirs.

So if you haven’t applied to take part, please think about those children in your class or school that this could benefit. I can assure you it is worth the effort of completing the application form and fingers crossed you might get chosen. Even if you don’t get chosen, think about the benefits a Science Book Club might have – it really is well worth organising, and not too much work to put in place.