The Doncaster Book Award (DBA) is now, incredibly, into its twelfth year and going from strength to strength. It originally began early in 2004, when a small group of school librarians got together with an idea for an award scheme that would be local to Doncaster, entirely child-led and with an emphasis on making reading FUN. Our aim was to create positive and enjoyable activities and events based on books and reading, give children a voice about their reading tastes and book choices and thus create a reading community. The booklists, website design, logo and slogan were all created by the children themselves, giving them complete ownership. The need for our project quickly became apparent, with hundreds of reviews/comments posted on our website, and thousands of votes received from children all around the Borough.
From the original 13 schools we have grown and developed so that we now have over seventy local schools taking part. No child is excluded; thanks to our interactive website and free events outside of school time, the DBA is there for all of our young people. In 2010, in order to enable us to bid for the grant funding we needed to carry on, the DBA formalised its structure and went through the process of incorporation, becoming a Social Enterprise Company Limited by Guarantee. We are a not-for-profit organisation, and all the Committee give their time free of charge. All our funding goes to providing great reading-based experiences for our young people.
And what experiences they’ve been! Over the years we have attracted many big-name children’s authors to Doncaster for our children to meet and talk to about their work. These include: Darren Shan, Derek Landy, Charlie Higson, Andrew Cope, Michael Lawrence, Helena Pielichaty, Narindher Dhami, Alan Gibbons, Chris Bradford, Simon Mayo and many, many more. In our determination to attract reluctant readers and thus reverse the decline in children reading for pleasure, we constantly look for new ways to engage them with books and make reading ‘cool’. We’ve held poetry workshops, illustration workshops, and even made our own animations with children singing and playing on the soundtrack (this is now nominated for an award in itself!) We’ve held dance workshops and created and performed a ‘Panto in a Day’ based on one of ‘Classics’ list titles, Peter Pan.
We also want to make our children proud of their home town. To this end, we have highlighted one of Doncaster’s gems, Cusworth Hall, in unique ways, such as using its historic kitchen for drama workshops based on the gothic horror novel A Poisoned House, or using its grounds for a fabulous Alice in Wonderland- themed tea party for 350 children. Children have had the opportunity to visit the famous Doncaster Racecourse for special author events with Jan Henderson, Gervase Phinn, Tommy Donvaband and the fantastic ‘Two Steves’, Barlow and Skidmore. To link books to sport and attract boys to reading we held a massive Olympic-themed event at Doncaster Athletics stadium in 2012, with around 450 children taking part in book-themed races such as a Billionaire Boy relay, a zombie race, and a ‘Long John Silver’ long-jump complete with inflatable palm tree and parrot! We even had them ‘Killin’ a Villain’ with pen-shaped javelins! In 2014-15 we helped them ‘Discover Doncaster’ with our history-themed Theatre workshops and a Robin Hood Panto in our historic Mansion House in the Christmas holidays. The positive publicity we have attracted over the years has helped to massively raise the profile of books and reading, and has also given a tremendously positive message about our young people.
We’d like to thank all our funders and supporters for helping us make this fantastic award scheme possible, and we hope that their generosity will enable us to continue far into the future.