FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon visited Prestwick Academy on Wednesday to announce the winners of the First Minister’s Reading Challenge.

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 congratulated pupils and staff at Prestwick Academy for achieving the Reading Inspiration Award, which recognised the school’s overall ethos towards reading and the integration of reading across the curriculum. The First Minister’s Reading Challenge was launched in 2016 and is delivered by Scottish Book Trust, the national charity changing lives through reading and writing, on behalf of the Scottish Government.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We know that reading contributes hugely to educational attainment and future wellbeing – but it can also foster empathy, creativity and confidence by opening our eyes to new perspectives and possibilities.

“The aim of the Reading Challenge is to support children and young people to develop and expand on a love of reading, and I am absolutely delighted that nearly 600 schools, libraries, and community groups across Scotland took part this year.

“I want to thank all the parents and teachers for their efforts to get children and families involved – and congratulate this year’s winners and everyone who participated for all the hard work and imagination they brought to this year’s Challenge.”

Marc Lambert, chief executive of Scottish Book Trust said: “Many congratulations to all our winners – there was a wonderful range of submissions showcasing the hard work of pupils, teachers and librarians across Scotland. It’s fantastic to see so many schools engage with Scottish Book Trust programmes like Book Week Scotland and Authors Live as part of their Challenge. Building a strong reading culture is critical not only to improve literacy, but also to support wellbeing and develop empathy among young people.”

The national winner, receiving the School Reading Journey Award, was Seaton Primary School from Aberdeen. Their submission was praised for the amount of hard work that went into revamping their library space to create an exciting reading environment.

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The judges were also impressed with how the school showed creative thinking using book swaps and encouraging excitement around books through the class book boxes. There was a strong sense of pupil voice, both in pupils taking the lead on specific programmes and the school library and in the quotes and feedback.

Ashley Verling, head teacher at Seaton Primary School, said: “Reading is much more visible around the whole school thanks to the First Minister’s Reading Challenge. Pupils are building confidence in selecting books and have a growing knowledge of authors and their books. Despite Covid restrictions, we have engaged with parents through Sleepy Seaton and this is something that we will continue to build on.”

The School & Community Partnership national winner was announced as St Brendan’s Primary School in North Lanarkshire. The school coordinated visits with the local community across a wide variety of people.

The judges praised the pupils’ reflection on these visits and stories in their handwritten notes.

They were also impressed by the relationship that has been built between St. Brendan’s Primary School and the local secondary school and library.

There were also four Pupil Reading Journey winners: Deerpark Primary School, P1 class; Craigbank Primary School, P2B class; Tulliallan Primary School, P5 class and Findochty Primary School, P7 class.