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Press release: Children’s Laureate announces winners of the First Minister’s Reading Challenge 2021

Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell announces the winners of the First Minister's Reading Challenge 2021

First Minister's Reading Challenge 2021 trophies

The winners of the First Minister's Reading Challenge 2020-21 were today (Wednesday 16 June) announced online by the Children's Laureate and bestselling author of the How To Train Your Dragon series, Cressida Cowell. Now in its fifth year, the First Minister’s Reading Challenge is run by Scottish Book Trust, the national charity changing lives through reading and writing. The awards recognise the efforts of schools and pupils to support reading for enjoyment and create a reading culture in their school, home or community. All those who submitted this year will receive book tokens, with the winners also receiving a trophy.

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“Reading is something that always brings me joy, and no matter how I am feeling there’s something to match my mood. During the pandemic, it has been a lifeline, and I know it has been for countless others. The reading challenge was launched to inspire as many young people as possible to discover a joy of reading, and I have been so impressed with all the innovative work schools and communities have been doing this year, rising to the challenge of doing this during these extraordinary times, and doing so with great ingenuity.

“Huge congratulations to the winners, as well as everyone who submitted incredible entries.”

The national winner, receiving the School Reading Journey Award, was Grange Primary School in Angus. Their submission was full of fun and innovative ideas, from moving their Reading Café to pupils’ homes to their virtual book fair. The impact on families and pupils was clear and the work of the support staff was highlighted for their dedication.

Victoria Tweed, Acting Headteacher at Grange Primary School said:

“We have a real culture of reading for pleasure here at Grange Primary School and it’s very much led by the children, which makes us super proud to have won the School Reading Journey part of the First Minster’s Reading Challenge.”

The national winner for the Reading Inspiration Challenge was Preston Lodge High School in East Lothian. Their entry was put together by their superstar school librarian and promoted reading with a variety of events despite the school closure. They ran a Virtual Library Escape Room and lockdown library clubs and the panel commended their creativity and resilience on trying new ideas to keep the whole school reading.

For the School & Community Partnership Reading Journey Award category, there were some fantastic community engagement ideas, despite the challenges with Covid-19 restrictions. The national winner for the School & Community Partnership was Elphinstone Primary School in East Lothian. The judges felt that the partnerships this school built around reading for pleasure were incredibly meaningful and placed reading at the centre of their community with their Elphy Tales project. They worked closely with a local storyteller to embed storytelling into everyday school life, including during lockdown.

The national Gaelic Medium Education (GME) Reading Journey was awarded to Goodlyburn Primary School in Perth & Kinross. The judges felt that they had gone above and beyond since winning the category in 2018, introducing an exciting and inclusive project called Mother Tongue to Other Tongue and integrating popular genres across their work. The school worked hard to embed books and reading across their GME curriculum.

The Community Reading Culture award celebrates the groups who work outside of school to give young people further opportunities to read for pleasure. The national winner of the Community Reading Culture award was Heriot Mini Book Bank in Scottish Borders. Their entry stood out to the judging panel due to the creative ways they managed to keep their reading culture going in such a rural area, despite all the restrictions. When they had to close, they took reading on the road in their very remote community with their Book Bike and held an inspiring virtual author event.

This year, the Pupil Reading the Most Books award was won by Camryn from Seaton School in Aberdeen, who read 49 books. The national winner of the School Reading the Most Books was Crosshouse Primary School in South Lanarkshire. With a pupil role of 401 they have read 3868 books over the course of the Reading Challenge.

For the Pupil Reading Journey award category, there were five national winners:

The First Minister's Reading Challenge was launched in 2016 for Primaries 4 to 7 and expanded to include all primary and secondary schools as well as libraries and community groups in its third year. Scottish Book Trust, the national charity changing lives through reading and writing, delivers this exciting reading initiative on behalf of the Scottish Government and every school in Scotland is invited to take part.

From Monday 14 June to Friday 18 June, Scottish Book Trust will host the First Minister’s Reading Challenge Festival, with digital events that schools can join online via their website. Events include creative writing with Patrice Lawrence, a draw along with Ross Collins and a wildlife walk with Hamza Yassin. Events will be available to watch on demand until the end of August.

Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, said:

“Congratulations to all our First Minister’s Reading Challenge awardees. It’s wonderful to see schools across Scotland reading for pleasure and building reading cultures in the classroom and at home. Thank you to our funders for making this programme possible, and to Cressida Cowell for announcing our amazing winners. We hope everyone will enjoy our first ever celebration festival, which can be joined from our website.”


Notes to editors

For more information or images of the winners please contact PR and Marketing Manager Keara Donnachie on keara.donnachie@scottishbooktrust.com(this will open in a new window) or 07956 773749.

Full list of awards:

School Reading Journey Award

National winner: Grange Primary School, Angus

Highly Commended: Annbank Primary School, South Ayrshire

Highly Commended: Newton Farm Primary School, South Lanarkshire

Gaelic Medium Education Reading Journey Award

National winner: Goodlyburn Primary School, Perth & Kinross

Highly Commended: Condorrat Primary School, North Lanarkshire

School & Community Partnership Award

National winner: Elphinstone Primary School, East Lothian

Highly Commended: Cowie Primary School, Stirling

Reading Inspiration Award

National winner: Preston Lodge High School, East Lothian

Highly Commended: Forfar Academy, Angus

Highly Commended: Dunfermline High School, Fife

Community Reading Culture

National winner: Heriot Mini Book Bank, Scottish Borders

Highly Commended: Kinghorn Community Library, Fife

Pupil Reading Journey Award

National winner – P1 Pupil Reading Journey: Carmuirs Primary School, Falkirk

National winner – P2 Pupil Reading Journey: Oakgrove Primary School, Glasgow

National winner – P4 Pupil Reading Journey: Newington School, Dumfries & Galloway

National winner – P5 Pupil Reading Journey: Finn, home schooled through Fields Schoolhouse

National winner – P6 Pupil Reading Journey: Caleb from Findochty Primary School, Moray

Highly Commended: P2 Pupil Reading Journey, Mallku from Udny Green School, Aberdeenshire

Highly Commended: P6 Pupil Reading Journey, Crossford Primary School, Fife

School Reading the Most Books

National winner: Crosshouse Primary School, South Lanarkshire

Pupil Reading the Most Books

National winner: Camryn, Primary 7 from Seaton School, Aberdeen

Additional quotes

Gavin Clark, Head teacher at Preston Lodge High School, said:

“Well done to Derek France, our librarian, on winning this year’s Reading Inspiration Challenge, and the many, many students that have worked with him to turn Preston Lodge’s library from a good place to a great place – where reading is at the centre of not just what the library does, but the whole school. It’s been amazing!”

Melanie Collier, Principal Teacher at Elphinstone Primary School, said:

“We are absolutely delighted to receive the First Minister’s Reading Challenge award and feel very proud that our pupil’s wonderful reading journey has been recognised in this way. The aim of the ‘Elphy Tales’ project was to help create a positive reading culture both within school and at home, through the art of storytelling. The impact so far is evident through the detailed pictures they draw in early years to the increased creativity in the imaginative writing from the upper school. This is

only the beginning and we cannot wait to continue this storytelling journey with our pupils, and celebrate their reading and writing achievements in the months to come.”

Morvyn Menzies, P1-3 GME teacher at Goodlyburn Primary School in Perth & Kinross, said:

“In GME we are always trying to create a literacy rich environment for our pupils to support Gaelic language acquisition. The First Minister's Reading Challenge has encouraged us to place reading and books at the heart of children's learning. It is important that our pupils feel like Gaelic Heroes, both in identity and confidence. Books have played a huge role in nurturing our GME individuals who are proud of being readers and Gaelic speakers in Perth.”

Mandy Wilson, Class Teacher at Seaton School said:

“We are immensely proud of Camryn on winning this award. Despite the challenges of COVID she has continued on her reading journey and as a result discovered a love of reading through new authors and genres. Best of all, she is so keen to share her love of reading with others. Camryn is always reading and talks of it being the best thing to do after school. We are so proud of Camryn’s reading achievements and do hope it encourages other children to take up the reading challenge next year.”

Annemarie Sands, Head teacher at Goodlyburn Primary School, said:

“Reading is the passport to access all areas of the curriculum. To foster a love of reading is essential if children are to be successful in their learning. However, reading for pleasure is so much more than that. It promotes positive wellbeing and allows our children to explore texts through which they can explore the world and also, at times, escape from it. We continue to work to develop a positive reading culture which permeates all aspects of our school and the First Minister’s Reading Challenge provides us with an ideal vehicle through with to do that.”

Isabelle Murray, Headteacher at Crosshouse Primary School, said:

“At Crosshouse Primary, children are at the heart of everything we do and establishing a love of books, a love of reading and a love of sharing stories together is extremely important to us. Our learners embraced reading during remote learning and continued to read and share books using digital technology. We even posted class novels out to learners who were keen to read form a hard copy! We are so proud of the number of books we have managed to read this year and look forward to sharing many more books and stories with another. We have read so much we need to restock our library!”

Jane Cerexhe, Headteacher at Oakgrove Primary School, said:

“I am delighted that P2 have won this award as part of the First Minister's Reading Challenge. Their exploration of the text Dave the Lonely Monster enabled them to discuss important wellbeing themes at a time when we have all needed to consider our human connections. P2's creative responses have shown that children can lead adults effortlessly in an exploration of kindness. After all, monsters need our love too!”

Irvine Torbett, Headteacher at Newington Primary School, said:

“We are delighted that our Primary 4 children have won this award. They have been on a reading journey during a very different school year. They were in an ever-changing situation but they kept reading. For many of the children it has shown them how much pleasure they can get from reading and also how they can use reading as a way to make them feel good.”

Nicola Evans, Parent of Finn, said:

“Finn is very happy about receiving the award. He loves reading and has done so well with his reading journey. All the authors he has read have provided a variety of story-telling styles which have enabled Finn to remain inspired to read!”

About First Minister’s Reading Challenge

The First Minister’s Reading Challenge was launched in March 2016 and in its first year was open from August 2016 to March 2017 to all Primary 4 to Primary 7 children in local authority and independent schools across Scotland. In its second year the Challenge was expanded to include primaries 1 to 3, and in its third year, the Challenge was expanded to include Secondary Schools, Libraries and Community Groups.

Scottish Book Trust administers the Challenge, working closely with Education Scotland. It includes book suggestions, learning resources, prizes, case studies and ideas to help young people develop a love of reading, as well as the opportunity to apply for author visits.

readingchallenge.scot @FMReadChallenge

Scottish Book Trust

Scottish Book Trust is a national charity that believes everyone living in Scotland should have equal access to books. Our work provides opportunities to improve life chances through books and the fundamental skills of reading and writing. Access to books and a love of books bring many important benefits from family bonding and advancing children’s learning, to unlocking creativity, helping employability and improving mental health & well-being. Scottish Book Trust aims to support all communities across Scotland, with particular focus on those who are vulnerable and under-represented.

Our programmes and outreach work include:

In addition to the funding we receive from the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland, we need the constant support of trusts and foundations, corporate sponsors and individual donors.

www.scottishbooktrust.com(this will open in a new window) @scottishbktrust http://www.facebook.com/scottishbktrust(this will open in a new window)

Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here. We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life. We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery.

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