Books, gold coins, glass jars, voting and very small children!

by Sue Jakob, Coombe Hill Infants' School

04 May 2023

Voting tokens
Voting station

This is our third year of involvement in the Spark! Book Awards and I was delighted to have the privilege of being on the shortlisting panel. My October half term holiday was made even more enjoyable by curling up on the sofa and reading 30+ children's books!

Part of the reading for pleasure culture

If you are looking to start to build a culture for reading for pleasure in your school or wish to enhance your existing offer, being part of the Spark! Book Awards is a must! Getting involved in the awards creates so much excitement across the school including allowing children and teachers access to authors and illustrators (at a time when our budgets are so tight), competitions, opportunities for book talk and so much more. At our Infant School, the Spark! Book Awards adds a little sparkle to our already strong reading for pleasure culture - so joining in with the Spark! Book Awards was a natural step for us. 

Launching to the whole school family

As soon as we received the shortlisted books, we launched the Spark! Book Awards in a whole school assembly. The children in year 1 and 2 were so excited - they know what it means to take part and they know that soon we will be voting for our favourite book with our golden coins (more of that to follow). As part of the launch, we awarded copies of the books as prizes to children who were demonstrating excellent listening skills - our behaviour focus that term.

We informed parents about the shortlisted books and we had a really good uptake of pre-orders. Each class has been given a set of the books and the teachers are reading and re-reading each title to the children regularly - I know this because I can hear all the book talk as the children pass the Voting Station (again, more of this to come). The books are prominently displayed in each classroom and the children are also encouraged to read the books themselves.

Building up the anticipation

We keep publicising the event and the books on our website and the children enjoy receiving letters from me asking them to remind (i.e. nag) their teachers to read the books to them. 

Dear children,

I hope you are enjoying the Spark! Book Awards shortlisted books? 

Please, please, please remind your teachers to keep on reading the books to you over and over and over again ! We want to find out which one is your favourite book.

Ask your teachers about joining an online interview to meet the authors.

We will be voting at the Voting Station on Monday 15th May 2023. You will all get a golden coin to place in the jar of your favourite book. We will then count the coins to find out the winning book at Coombe Hill Infants’ School. 

I will send our vote to Spark! and, then, in the Spark! Award Online Ceremony on Thursday 15th June, we will discover which book is the favourite in the whole of the United Kingdom! 

I wonder which book will be the most popular?

Keep on reading!

Obviously, I am hoping to get a few replies to my letter, especially from the Reception children!

Books, gold coins, glass jars, voting, democracy and small children

So this is the part where we get to the gold coins. 

The Voting Station is set up ready for us to start voting on 17th May - the books are displayed and the glass jars are ready for us to put the gold coins in. As the children pass The Voting Station, we can hear them discussing their favourite book and which jar they are going to put their gold coin into. 

On the voting day - a great way of teaching the children about this democratic process of one coin, one child - the children come to The Voting Station and we remind them of the importance of voting for their favourite book rather than following what their friends do, which is quite a difficult thing when you are only 4, 5, 6 or 7 years old. Our Spark! Book Awards helpers proudly wear their badges and hand out a coin to each child. The children take it very seriously. Throughout the day, you can hear the children discussing which jar has the most coins, estimating the number of coins and chatting about which book will be the winning book. When all the votes are cast, some of the year 2 children help us count the coins to establish the favourite Spark! Award book at Coombe Hill Infants’ School. We announce the result to the whole school and then we submit our vote to Spark!. All of the children look to watching the online Award Ceremony.

After the success of the first Spark! Book Awards, we have continued to use the Voting Station to generate excitement, book talk and a love of books and reading - we have voted for our favourite poems, nursery rhymes and Michael Rosen books... which leads us to books, gold coins, glass jars, voting and very small children!