The S.L.A. Information Book Award – a celebration of nonfiction for children

The eighth School Library Association Information Book Award ceremony took place at Carmelite House London, the home of Hachette Children’s Publishers on Wednesday 7th November. This annual event shines a light on the very best information books for children from the youngest readers to secondary pupils.

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A few years ago when as a school librarian I bought factual books for the primary school library I was often asked why, ”when everything is on the internet now.” It has been fascinating to watch how children’s authors, illustrators and publishers have fought back against this trend and made today’s nonfiction books for children so engaging, informative and attractive. That ‘Facts Matter’ has been brought home to us all over the last couple of years and well written information books can be relied upon to provide children with facts they need on many different aspects of life.  This year’s wonderful shortlist contained books that dealt with wide ranging subjects including deafness, food, refugees, prejudice, science and dinosaurs. The judges had the unenviable task of selecting one winner in each category and an overall winner. There was also a children’s award winner for each age group and an overall winner.

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For the Information Book Award 2018, the overall winner chosen by the judges was Look I’m a Scientist published by Dorling Kindersley; whilst the Children’s Choice overall winner was 100 Things You Should Know About Food published by Usborne and illustrated by Parko Polo and Mariani Federico

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More about the winners in each age group category and further details of the background to the award can be found here 

 

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It was heartening to attend an event where nonfiction books were celebrated with the enthusiasm and importance usually seen at fiction award ceremonies. All reading, both of fiction and non-fiction, is valuable and is how young readers are encouraged and created. The most important factor is that children are enjoying what they are reading and for many it is information books about a favourite subject that opens the door to the world of reading and the wide range of books available to them. As a former primary school librarian I believe that fiction and nonfiction work in tandem as a means to enable young people to learn about the world around them. Often a well written novel will prompt a child to try to find out more about a particular historical event, a far away country or a situation they have not experienced. It is then that a high quality factual book can fill in the gaps in their knowledge. At last night’s ceremony the author Nicola Morgan said that both fiction and nonfiction contain truths about our world that enable children and teens to learn more both about themselves and others. As librarians and teachers we frequently talk about how fiction encourages empathy but it is nonfiction that provides young people with the facts that support them in the use of empathy in today’s world.

I have watched children poring over information books together at lunchtime in the library and then sharing what they have learned with others. Sometimes an eager child would rush up to me clutching a book to say, “Mrs. T. Did you know….?”  That is the magic of an information book, that sudden spark of interest and understanding that with help could grow to become knowledge used to create, solve or assist.

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A highlight of the evening on Wednesday was the presentation of the Hachette Children’s Group Award for Outstanding Contribution to Information Books to Nicola Morgan. Nicola’s books have been influential in helping children and teenagers learn how to cope with mental health issues and stress. Her work is greatly valued by secondary school librarians across the country. That this particular author received this award is an indication of how very important information books are to young people and not only for finding out facts but also for learning about themselves.

Information books provide children with a window to the wider world but also an insight into themselves and others. Definitely a cause for celebration.

This month is National Nonfiction November and if you would like to find out more the Federation of Children’s Book Groups have lots of details and resources on their website.

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