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Pictured: Pupils, the authors, including winner Cynthia Murphy (back middle) alongside Provost Robert Bissett (back centre) and Falkirk Council’s spokesperson for Education, Cllr Iain Sinclair (back right).

Grangemouth Town Hall was buzzing with excitement as hundreds of young people gathered for the annual RED (Read, Enjoy, Debate) Book Awards on Friday, 19 May.

Over 200 pupils, teachers and school librarians, from eight local high schools, and guests arrived wearing red accessories ready to enjoy a fun-filled ceremony.

This year's shortlist of books was selected by a panel of young people last September, with S2 pupils then encouraged to read the titles and vote for their favourite.

The books vying to pick up the coveted award this year were:

  • The Younglings by Helena M Craggs
  • Cardboard Cowboys by Brian Conaghan
  • Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy
  • Needle by Patrice Lawrence

Sparking imaginations

Setting the stage for a day filled with literary inspiration, Project Theatre treated the audience to a taster performance of 'Matilda'. Pupils from each high school then took to the stage to introduce the authors and showcase their digital interpretations of the shortlisted books.

The authors take part in a lively Q&A session

Pictured: The shortlisted authors enjoy being put through their paces by the pupils during the Q&A session.

A lively Q&A session with the authors  followed, giving the young readers a chance to ask questions about the writing process and find out each of the author's favourite literary works.

Winners of the ‘Alternative Ending’ and ‘Design a Front Cover’ competitions were then announced, and prizes given to the pupils deemed to have fully embraced the wear-something-red theme.

Yvonne leads the conga

Pictured: Principal Librarian, Yvonne Manning, leads the conga around the main auditorium in Grangemouth Town Hall.

Yvonne Manning, Falkirk Council's Principal Librarian, who founded the RED Book Awards 17 years ago, said: "The awards were launched to encourage more young people aged 13 and 14 to pick up a book and read for fun. Over the years the ceremony has evolved, with hands-on activities added to the mix to help pupils unleash their creativity. Each year I am totally blown away by the enthusiasm and effort the pupils put into their work, and how wonderfully imaginative they all are."

And the winner is …

The highlight of the event was the eagerly awaited announcement of the winning author, with the RED Book Award 2023 going to Cynthia Murphy. 

Avid reader Provost Robert Bissett presented Cynthia with the top award and congratulated her on picking up the prize.

Provost Robert Bissett presents this years award to Cynthia Murphy, author of Last One to Die

Pictured: Provost Robert Bissett presents Cynthia Murphy with her prize.

Provost Bissett said: “I’ve read many books over the years and often revisit my favourites, because you learn something new every time you pick up a book. It can be hard to encourage young people to read, but this event proves words still have power. It's fantastic to see all the young people here today and how enthusiastic they are about the shortlisted books. Congratulations to Cynthia, your book really caught their attention, and thanks to the Learning Resources team, and Yvonne in particular, for putting on such an amazing event.”

Cynthia Murphy said: “Receiving this award is extra special because the young people voted for it. I can honestly say I’ve never been to an event like this before. It has been incredible. Yvonne has done an amazing job, working with the schools to foster a real love of reading, making it a fun, accessible and exciting thing to do.”

Pupils meet the authors and get their books signed

Pictured: All the authors including Cynthia (bottom right) speak to pupils and sign copies of their book.

Falkirk Council’s spokesperson for Education, Cllr Iain Sinclair, was also in attendance. He passed on congratulations to everyone involved and reminded the pupils to “Keep reading. Keep enjoying. Keep debating”.

Cllr Sinclair said: “This event confirms what we already know – creativity and talent flourishes within our schools. Reading for enjoyment is one of life’s great pleasures. In just a few pages you can be transported to distant worlds, journey through time, or walk in someone else's shoes. From what we’ve heard today, the authors have hit all the right notes. I’d like to thank everyone involved in the event. By engaging young people in the shortlisting process and encouraging their active participation throughout the year, you will have helped instil a life-long love of books.”