This time last year we looked forward to a return to normality, and though that wait continues, schools, libraries and communities across Scotland have stepped up to deliver amazing work through the First Minister’s Reading Challenge. Despite the quarantined library books, the stage bubbles and a winter lockdown, children have continued to enjoy reading in creative and fun ways as staff tirelessly championed the power of reading for pleasure.
This year’s submissions reflect the dedication and ingenuity of Scottish schools and communities as many adapted, experimented and flourished in unprecedented conditions. The judging panel faced a difficult task and we have a number of highly commended submissions joining the winners.
We are delighted to present the winners of this year’s Reading Challenge with this video from the First Minister. Scroll down to find out more about each winner and the highly commended entries too!
School Reading Journey
Grange Primary School in Angus is our national winner for School Reading Journey. The panel felt that Grange Primary School were worthy winners with their diverse entry that was full of joy. Starting with clear responsive plans, they covered lots of ground and the impact on families was clear to see. During lockdown they set fun home challenges, and children enjoyed 'writing my story book in my den before reading it to Granny and Grandpa on Facetime, they loved my illustrations' and 'talking about books with mum and dad.'
The judges were so impressed with the entries for School Reading Journey that they also selected two highly commended schools.
Annbank Primary School in South Ayrshire had a clear commitment to an inclusive reading culture with an exceptional approach to dyslexia awareness. They forged strong partnerships with the whole school community.
'I never used to finish books, because I found them hard or got bored. Or I dunno, maybe I was a bit lazy. But this year I'm really enjoying them. My current Dork Diaries book has over 300 pages and I'm really enjoying it.' – Pupil
Newton Farm Primary School in South Lanarkshire submitted an entry full of enthusiasm and creativity. The children clearly enjoyed their progress and felt the benefit across other subject areas.
'I used to not be a big reader at home, I’ve now got into being a decent reader. I didn’t know what genre I liked. Now I read football stories.' – Pupil
Gaelic Medium Education Reading Journey
Goodlyburn Primary School in Perth and Kinross is the winner for the Gaelic Medium Education Reading Journey. This Gaelic school entry had a clear pupil voice and mission statement with careful consideration of all aspects of their projects. The judges enjoyed the inclusive approach especially the Mother Tongue to Other Tongue project. The pupils used social media to share their love of books and were contacted by some authors they liked.
Again, the standard of submission was so high this year that the judges also awarded a highly commended entry in this category.
Condorrat Primary in North Lanarkshire were highly commended for the great effort they put into reading in school and at home. There was whole school involvement from nursery to P7 and clever use of technology to involve non-Gaelic speakers.
Pupil Reading Journey
We are pleased to award five prizes in the Pupil Reading Journey category.
Primary 1 from Carmuirs Primary in Falkirk enjoyed a reading journey that was made real through worldwide connections. By being responsive to the children’s favourite books, the teacher created great enthusiasm and engagement.
'Their love of books has become so powerful that it is now the basis of most child led planning and has led to social action.' – Class teacher
Primary 2 from Oakgrove Primary School in Glasgow created a comprehensive project with great links between feelings and mental health. There were lots of positive social aspects to their work with Dave the Monster!
Primary 4A from Newington School in Dumfries and Galloway worked hard to connect with the community at home during this difficult year, with the children interviewing friends and family about everything books and reading related.
'We have had a different school year but we have kept reading.' – Class teacher
Finn, P5, home-schooled in Angus impressed judges with his enthusiasm and determination to read during the pandemic. He developed his knowledge and interest in farming by reading the Farmer's Guide Magazine and being interviewed by them regarding his egg business.
'I think that it is important for everyone to read because it is so much better than sitting on computer games all day.'
Caleb, P6, Findochty Primary School in Moray impressed the panel with his initiative and determination to improve his reading skills so he could read the same books as his peers. This was directly influenced by the school’s involvement in the First Ministers Reading Challenge in previous years.
'I enjoy reading now. I have read the first two Harry Potter books and that is the magic of reading!'
Two entries were also highly commended by the judging panel.
Mallku, P2, from Udny Green School in Aberdeenshire showed a clear love and enthusiasm for books, which the panel found inspiring from a child so young.
'At first I thought the book was too big, but then I liked it and finished it.'
P6 at Crossford Primary School in Fife took an innovative approach by making the most of their author pen pal – Barbara Henderson, who involved the children in the final editing process of her latest book, The Chessmen Thief.
'The next time I see it it’ll be an actual book!'
School & Community Partnership
The School-Community Partnership Challenge was a very difficult category to judge due to the high quality of submissions.
Elphinstone Primary School in East Lothian is the national winner with a fantastic example of how one project can have a big impact. The Elphy Tales project involved working with a local storyteller to embed storytelling into everyday school life, which in turn helped to create a positive reading culture. Their work was stellar in terms of reach and clearly impacted on the children and their love for reading and writing.
'I was inspired to write my own story after listening to Tim's stories.' – Pupil
The judging panel also decided to highly commend Cowie Primary School in Stirling, who developed and nurtured a partnership with their local library. This engaged parents out of school hours and had a positive impact on library use.
'P2/3 had lots of fun at the library with Matthew Fitt. It was braw!' – Class teacher
Reading Inspiration Challenge
Preston Lodge High School in East Lothian were selected as the winners of this year's Reading Inspiration Challenge after the efforts of their superstar school librarian. They developed a school library that truly inspires readers, introducing initiatives which clearly brought joy to the young people. The whole school were involved and the great ideas, from lockdown library clubs to their Virtual Library Escape Room, were engaging and fun. Their work was well-planned and structured, and their next steps well-thought out.
'The school library is a hugely positive, welcoming, inclusive environment.' – English teacher
Two schools were highly commended by the judging panel in this category as well, after a difficult decision with so many excellent entries to review.
Forfar Academy in Angus responded to COVID by planning a targeted project on transition into S1. This had clear aims and the partnership with primary schools had a focussed target and meaningful impact at these difficult times.
Dunfermline High School in Fife were commended for their strong submission with clear links to health and wellbeing across the school. Creating audiobooks for the local nursing home had a strong and meaningful impact on the young people. Their project, 'Lockdown Lifelines' also encouraged reading by sharing book suggestions between age groups.
'I love doing things like this because it combines my love of books with my creativity!' – Pupil
Community Reading Culture
Heriot Mini Book Bank in the Scottish Borders were highly commended in the Community Reading Culture Challenge last year, and have gone on to win the national award this year. They showed a high level of innovation and creativity to keep reading alive in their rural area by taking reading on the road on their Book Bike!
Kinghorn Community Library in Fife were highly commended for their brilliant entry. The judges noted they clearly put in a lot of love and commitment to their project, with really creative ideas to take reading outside their building due to closures.
Pupil & School Reading the Most Books
Crosshouse Primary School in South Lanarkshire read the most books in Scotland this year, with a whopping 3648 books and Camryn from P7 at Seaton School in Aberdeen is the young person who has read the most books this year – an amazing 49 in total!
Congratulations to all of our winners and highly commended schools and groups. Thank you to everyone who submitted an entry to the challenge – we thoroughly enjoyed hearing about your reading journeys and look forward to showcasing more of these at our Reading Challenge Shared Practice Showcase in September. Booking is now open for the showcase, so be sure to register your place to hear more about the inspiring projects featured in this year's submissions.
Registration for the First Minister’s Reading Challenge 2021/22 is now open, and until the new school year starts, happy reading!