Each year the Royal Society (a fellowship of many of the world’s most eminent scientists and the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence) celebrates the best books that communicate science to young people through their Young People’s Book Prize.
The Prize aims to inspire young people to read about science and promotes the writing of excellent, accessible books for under-14s. This year – to my utter delight and great excitement – I’m part of the panel of adult judges who will be choosing a shortlist of six books, to be announced in May, before the winner is chosen by groups of young people in judging panels across the UK.
Past winners of this award include Utterly Amazing Science by Robert Winston, Eye Benders: the Science of Seeing and Believing by Clive Gifford and Look Inside Space by Rob Jones.
It’s a huge honour to be joining Professor Dame Julia Higgins DBE FREng FRS, Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Investigator, Department Of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London, Dr Robert Pal, Royal Society University Research Fellow in the Department of Chemistry, Durham University, author and Blue Peter Book Awards Winner 2015 Andy Seed and Head of Science at the Harris Academy Coleraine Park primary school Shirin Sheikh Bahai on the shortlisting panel.
Being invited to join the judging panel for this prestigious national award for science-themed books for children is really like a dream come true. Not only will it keep me out of trouble for the next few weeks as I read through all the eligible books which have been submitted, I’m sure what I’ll read will delight and inspire me.
The whole experience will be a treat for me, but what I really want is for lots of children to be amazed and excited by brilliant writing about science and so it’s truly wonderful that once the panel has chosen six books for the shortlist, we hand over the judging to kids up and down the UK. 125 school and youth groups will receive a free set of shortlisted books and then they vote for the winning book – it’s really a great opportunity to enthuse and excite children about science and books at the same time.
Perhaps your class would like to help choose the winning book? Maybe you facilitate a children’s book group that would like to try something different? Or perhaps you help run a club for young people (eg Scouts) and would like to spark their curiosity about science? If so, why not register now to become one of the judging panels for the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize?
Judging panels can be in schools, libraries, science centres or youth groups: participation is open to any group able to read and discuss the shortlist and vote for what they think is the best book. Each judging panel (overseen by an adult) mirrors the short-listing panel, electing their own Chair, holding judging meetings, discussing the merits of each book and submitting their vote and comments. All participating groups have an equal say in deciding the winner. Each group receives a judging pack with all the information they need to take part. The results from all the groups are then collated by the Royal Society to determine the winner.
To become a judging panel for the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize you’ll need to complete this online registration form. Registration to become a judging panel will close on Monday 25 April 2016.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to get involved! Last year, over 70% of the children who voted said the process changed their attitude towards both reading and science in a positive way and 100% said the experience was ‘enjoyable’ or ‘very enjoyable’. Here’s to great books and getting children and young people excited about science!