500 Words 2023

500 Words, the UK’s most successful writing competition run by the BBC is back! The competition is open from Tuesday 26 September to Friday 10 November 2023.

Since the competition was first launched in 2011 by Chris Evans on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show, it has received over one million stories from children throughout the UK.

This year, the two age categories will be 5-7 year-olds and 8-11 year-olds.

Children of all abilities are encouraged to use their creativity and imagination to write a story they would love to read without the pressure of having to worry about spelling, punctuation and grammar.

The brilliant 500 Word judges are back: award-winning and best-selling authors Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Francesca Simon, Charlie Higson, and former Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman. This year there will be a new addition to the panel, TV legend and children’s author, Sir Lenny Henry.

Prizes for the winners include books, book tokens and for their stories to be recorded and published on the BBC website. The winner stories will also be shown on a special 500 Words programme on BBC1 on World Book Day, 7 March 2024.

Find out more about 500 Words.

The Booker Prizes Announce the 2023 Booker Prize Shortlist

The shortlist for the Booker Prize 2023 has been announced by the Chair of judges, Esi Edugyan, at an event held at the newly reopened National Portrait Gallery in London and livestreamed to readers around the world.

None of the six authors has previously been shortlisted for the prize. There are two debuts on the shortlist; there is one British, one Canadian, two Irish and two American authors. Although full of hope, humour and humanity, the books address many of 2023’s most pressing concerns: climate change, immigration, financial hardship, the persecution of minorities, political extremism and the erosion of personal freedoms. They feature characters in search of peace and belonging or lamenting lost loves. There are books that are grounded in modern reality, that shed light on shameful episodes in history and which imagine a terrifying future.

The Shortlist

What the judges said

The 2023 judging panel is chaired by twice-shortlisted novelist Esi Edugyan. She is joined by actor, writer and director Adjoa Andoh; poet, lecturer, editor and critic *Mary Jean Chan*; author and professor James Shapiro; and actor and writer Robert Webb.

Esi Edugyan, Chair of the 2023 judges, says:

Together these works showcase the breadth of what world literature can do, while gesturing at the unease of our moment. From Bernstein and Harding’s outsiders attempting to establish lives in societies that reject them, to the often-funny struggles of Escoffery and Murray’s adolescents as they carve out identities for themselves beyond their parents’ mistakes, to Maroo and Lynch’s elegant evocations of family grief – each speaks distinctly about our shared journeys while refusing to be defined as any one thing. These are supple stories with many strands, many moods, in whose complications we come to recognise ourselves. They are vibrant, nervy, electric. In these novelists’ hands, form is pushed hard to see what it yields, and it is always something astonishing. Language – indeed, life itself – is thrust to its outer limits.

Gaby Wood, Chief Executive of the Booker Prize Foundation, adds:

It’s a pleasure to be bringing their extraordinary talents and vastly varied styles to Booker Prize readers – and we can’t wait to hear what the thousands of members of the new Booker Prize Book Club on Facebook have to say about them.

The 2023 winner will be announced on 26 November in an award ceremony held at Old Billingsgate. The announcement will also be livestreamed online.

Get involved

This year the Booker Prizes are running the Booker Prize Book Club as a new online community for readers to discuss and find out more about the six books in contention for the world’s most influential prize for a single work of fiction, the Booker Prize Book Club. Find out more.

Have you read any of the shortlisted books? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Instagram, or click on the title above to leave a review.

If you work in a library or workplace and would like to promote the prize, you can download a free physical and digital pack from our shop.

For more information, visit the Booker Prize website.

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The Booker Prizes’ Book of the Month

Each month the Booker Prizes’ Book of the Month shines a spotlight on a different work of fiction from among the 600+ titles in the Booker Library, through reading guides, extracts, opinion pieces, competitions and discussions on our social channels. We will be updating this page on our website every month. Find out more here.

The Booker Prizes launch the Booker Prize Book Club

With the Booker Prize 2023 shortlist being announced this week, the Booker Prizes have launched a brand new online community for readers to discuss and find out more about the six books in contention for the world’s most influential prize for a single work of fiction, the Booker Prize Book Club.

Hosted as a Facebook group, the Book Club will be a space for readers all over the world to share their views and join discussions, to access Booker Prize exclusives, to help interview the shortlisted authors and to win a range of prizes, including tickets to the winner ceremony in November. Book Club members will also be able to access original content, including videos and reading guides, before it appears on other Booker channels, including their website.

Each week the Booker Prize Book Club will be focusing on a different book from the shortlist, and are offering Book Club members an opportunity to win a pair of tickets to the winner ceremony in London on 26 November (travel expenses and accommodation not included).

The Book Club will be a space for readers around the world to talk to one another about Booker books, where you drive the conversation!

Head over to the Booker Prize Book Club website to find out how you can join today!

The Booker Prize 2023

The shortlist of six books will be announced on Thursday 21 September at an evening event at the newly re-opened National Portrait Gallery in London. It will be livestreamed across all the Booker Prizes’ social platforms. The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book.

Find out all about the longlist here.

If you work in a library or workplace and would like to promote the prize, you can download a free physical and digital pack from our shop.

For more information, visit the Booker Prize website.

Want to make sure you never miss the latest reading group news? Sign up for our free monthly newsletter.

The Booker Prizes’ Book of the Month

Each month the Booker Prizes’ Book of the Month shines a spotlight on a different work of fiction from among the 600+ titles in the Booker Library, through reading guides, extracts, opinion pieces, competitions and discussions on our social channels. We will be updating this page on our website every month. Find out more here.

Reading Well Awarded Funding for Strategic Development and Outreach Programme

The Reading Agency announced today it has received funding from Arts Council England to expand and enhance Reading Well, its innovative reading and health initiative delivered as part of the public library health offer, in partnership with public libraries

Reading Well provides quality assured reading recommendations to support people in managing their health and wellbeing. Books can be recommended by health professionals and are also available for anyone to borrow from public libraries. Reading Well booklists cover mental health for adults, children and young people with a refresh of the existing dementia list underway. The booklists are developed through an evidence-based process involving health experts and people with lived experience of the conditions covered. To date, over 3.3 million Reading Well books have been borrowed from libraries since the program’s launch in 2013.

The new funding will allow Reading Well to scale its reach and impact over the next two years with a focus on addressing health inequality by:

  • Building publisher engagement through sharing Reading Well data, learning and user evidence to support the commissioning of authentic and needs led factual and creative health content.
  • Building new and existing health and social prescribing partnerships to support signposting to and engagement with Reading Well content.
  • Delivering a community champions pilot to deliver Reading Well focused events and activities to amplify engagement among at-risk groups in three pilot areas across the UK.

    The two-year project will build on the successful DCMS-funded rollout of the Reading Well mental health lists for adults, children and young people during the Covid pandemic and will help to empower people to better understand and manage their health and wellbeing through the power of reading. The project will be activated through the library Universal Health Offer supports library users’ health through information sharing, engagement opportunities and effective signposting.

Evidence shows a significant impact for Reading Well users. 91% of surveyed readers found their book helpful, 83% said it helped them to understand their health needs and 71% felt it improved self-management. 89% of health professionals surveyed said the books supported people outside of consultation time

Karen Napier CEO, The Reading Agency, said: “The link between reading for pleasure and empowerment and people’s sense of wellbeing is clear. We are delighted to have Arts Council England’s support to grow Reading Well and empower more people to take control of their health through the power of reading.”

The funding aims to embed the Reading Well model as a cornerstone of community health support underpinning health literacy and supporting the wellbeing of individuals and communities across the country including those most at risk of experiencing health inequality. For more information, visit www.reading-well.org.uk.

The Reading Agency receives regular funding as an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation. The Reading Well project is supported by an Arts Council National Lottery Project Grant.

Join the new Blue Peter Book Club!

Blue Peter has today unveiled a new Book badge, designed by one of the UK’s best-known illustrators, Sir Quentin Blake.

The Blue Peter Book badge will be awarded to children aged 5-15 who send in their thoughts on a book, draw a character or scene and share which other books and writers they love.

Getting kids excited about great books has always been important for Blue Peter and so, as well as launching the new badge, they have teamed up with The Reading Agency and BBC Arts to bring viewers a monthly Book Club jam-packed with fantastic stories. Each month, presenters will showcase a new book and be joined by young readers to talk about the incredible stories, new worlds and fascinating characters they discover.

In the studio for the launch is author and BBC Radio 1 DJ Greg James along with his co-author Chris Smith.

Greg James & Chris Smith say: “We are absolutely honoured to be launching this brand-new Blue Peter badge, designed by one of own children’s book heroes, the marvellous Sir Quentin Blake. Reading is a superpower, and we know the Blue Peter Book Club and Book badge are going to inspire children across the country to put on their capes and pick up a book. We certainly know how excited we were to get our own Blue Peter badges – so it’s brilliant there is now a badge dedicated to reading, to show children just how important it is.”

Sir Quentin Blake says: “Reading can take you to amazing places.”

Sarah Muller, BBC Children’s Senior Head of Children’s Commissioning 7+, says: “We know lots of our Blue Peter audience love books, we want to tap into that passion and inspire even more children to join us on this epic reading adventure. We are trying to reach everyone and inspire a love of reading that will last a lifetime.”

In partnership with The Reading Agency, an expert panel of librarians, booksellers and children in library sessions, Blue Peter have chosen a list of Book Club recommended reads from awesome authors and fantastic illustrators.

The Blue Peter Book Club recommended reads are:

  • Michael the Amazing Mind-Reading Sausage Dog by Terrie Chilvers and illustrated by Tim Budgen (Firefly Press)
  • Finding Her Feet by Eve Ainsworth and illustrated by Luna Valentine (Barrington Stoke, Harper Collins)
  • The Christmas Carrolls by Mel Taylor-Bessent and illustrated by Selom Sunu (Farshore, Harper Collins)
  • Juniper Mae: Knight of Tykotech City written and illustrated by Sarah Soh (Flying Eye, Nobrow)
  • Poems Aloud: an anthology of poems to read out loud by Joseph Coelho and illustrated by Daniel Gray-Barnett (Wide Eyed Editions, Quarto Publishing Group)
  • Am I Made of Stardust? by Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock and illustrated by Chelen Ecija (Buster Books, Michael O’Mara Books)

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency says: “The Reading Agency is delighted to be collaborating with the Blue Peter team to get their viewers excited about reading. Thank you to our library and bookseller partners for helping us to create this list, which has something for everyone.”

Working with BBC Bitesize, BBC Arts, CBBC HQ and The Reading Agency, Blue Peter aims to introduce young readers to new writing and encourage a love of reading. BBC Arts will support the Blue Peter Book Club by bringing the books to life through animation, BBC Bitesize Primary will support the Blue Peter Book Club by creating companion guides to the books for Key Stage 2 children aged 7-9, whilst CBBC HQ will showcase writing, drawings and comments sent in by children from all over the UK.

Stephen James-Yeoman, Commissioning Executive from BBC Arts says: “Introducing children to books and reading for pleasure at an early age can help establish a life-long love of great writing. Exciting stories can become like best friends which stay with you and support you through life. I’m thrilled that BBC Arts is able to support Blue Peter’s wonderful new book club, in partnership with The Reading Agency, BBC Bitesize and CBBC HQ and a huge thanks to Sir Quentin Blake for designing a fantastic new badge.”

The Blue Peter Book badge will join the Quentin Blake archive which will eventually be shown at the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration, opening in Clerkenwell in 2025. Sir Quentin was pleased to create the artwork because the badge is part of an initiative to encourage reading.

There are now nine types of Blue Peter badge – Blue, Silver, Green, Sport, Purple, Orange, Gold, Music and Book. For more information about Blue Peter badges and how to collect them visit bbc.co.uk/bluepeter

Blue Peter is a BBC Studios Kids & Family Production for CBBC. Presented by Abby, Joel, Mwasky and Henry the Dog, new episodes of Blue Peter are on CBBC and BBC iPlayer every Friday from 5pm.

Wolfson History Prize announces 2023 Shortlist

The six books shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize, the UK’s most prestigious history writing prize, were announced this morning (5 September 2023).

The Wolfson History Prize celebrates the best historical non-fiction books from the past year. Bringing new stories from history to light, and challenging readers to rethink accepted historical narratives, the topical Wolfson History Prize shortlist explores themes that are pertinent to current world events.

Spanning centuries and continents, political and personal histories, the Wolfson History Prize 2023 shortlist takes readers from the plague-ridden streets of fourteenth-century Europe to the densely populated alleyways of Dickensian London, travels to the court of eighteenth-century China and the underground resistance movements of Nazi-occupied Europe, and journeys through the history of African and Caribbean people in Britain, via the history of the book itself.

The shortlist

David Cannadine, Chair of the Wolfson History Prize judges, said:

This year’s shortlist demonstrates the enduring power of history writing to shed light on the past, and also to bring new perspectives, empathy and nuance to our understanding of the present. The six titles cover a wide range of themes, from inequality to war and occupation and the effect of previous pandemics. Each book is commended because it is beautifully crafted, grounded in meticulous research and full of fascinating stories of people and places.

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation said:

A common theme in this year’s shortlist is an exploration of how people and societies in the past have confronted fundamental, global issues: books with a distinct resonance for today’s challenges and preoccupations. We are delighted to share the 2023 shortlist, and celebrate books that bring new evidence, subjects and opinions alive for a wide audience.

The judges

Celebrated historians Mary Beard and Sudhir Hazareesingh joined the judging panel this year, working alongside fellow judges Richard Evans, Carole Hillenbrand, Diarmaid MacCulloch, and chair David Cannadine to narrow down the very best history writing in the UK from the past year to a shortlist of six books, from which one winner will be selected.

Shining a light on books that combine excellence in research with readability for a general audience, the Wolfson History Prize is now in its 51st year. The most valuable history writing prize in the UK, awarding a total of £75,000, the winner receives £50,000, and each of the five shortlisted authors receives £5,000.

The overall winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2023 will be revealed at a ceremony in central London on Monday 13 November 2023.

Get involved

If you work in a library or workplace and would like to promote the prize, you can download a free digital pack from our shop.

What do you think of the 2023 shortlisted titles? Which have you read and what will be added to your TBR pile? Add your comments below, or click any title above to leave a review.

Share your thoughts with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #WolfsonHistoryPrize.

To learn more about the Wolfson History Prize head over to their website or connect on Twitter via @WolfsonHistory

Want to make sure you never miss the latest reading group news? Sign up for our free monthly newsletter.

How do we look?

You may have noticed that The Reading Agency looks and feels a little bit different. We’ve recently refreshed how we look and talk about ourselves as we start to deliver our 2023-2026 strategy. Together, with our Board and collaborators, we have asked the big question ‘what is our purpose?’ Our bold new visual identity is a part of that and reflects who we are and our vision: to get more people fired up about reading, because everything changes when we read.

Over the next three years, The Reading Agency aims to change 5 million lives for the better by promoting reading as a crucial tool for developing skills, improving wellbeing, and bringing people together.

Some of our main goals include:

  • Deepening engagement in communities and working to understand local needs and barriers to reading.
  • Continuing to gather strong evidence on the impact of our programs through rigorous research.
  • Ensuring diverse voices and interests are represented in our work by extending our partnerships, so we reflect the passions and needs of our audiences.
  • Raising awareness of environmental issues through reading.

    We’ll be scaling up flagship programs like our Summer Reading Challenge and Quick Reads, while also testing initiatives like family reading in prisons. We’ll also be creating more personalised reading initiatives to combat loneliness and social isolation and innovating digital platforms and content for people to access the power of reading.

    At the heart of everything we do is our very special relationship and collaboration with public libraries across the UK. As community anchors, our library partners are central in making reading accessible for all, and we look forward to deepening our relationship with them and our other fantastic charity and commercial partners who help make our work happen.

We know the work we do makes a real difference, and we want to share more of it with you as we embark on this next chapter. Reading has the power to change lives and, together, we can inspire a lifelong love of reading in millions more people over the next three years.

The Reading Agency

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