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BBC relaunches leading children’s writing competition 500 Words on World Book Day

The UK’s most successful children’s writing competition, 500 Words, will relaunch this September, supported by BBC Teach with BBC Breakfast hosting the initiative for 2023. 

The BBC is now searching for teachers and librarians across the UK to register their interest in joining the judging panel to help choose the best entries later this year.

500 Words is a UK wide competition to find the most talented young writers. Since it was first launched by Chris Evans on The Radio 2 Breakfast Show in 2011 and continued by Zoe Ball until 2020, the competition has received over a million stories written by children, generating more than 440 million words to date.

BBC 500 words poster

Once again, the competition will enjoy the support of Her Majesty The Queen Consort. Her Majesty has a longstanding commitment to championing literacy and creative writing, and has supported the 500 Words competition every year since 2015. 

In a recent conversation with BookTrust and Joseph Coelho, the Children’s Laureate, to mark this year’s World Book Day, The Queen Consort spoke about the importance of creative writing competitions like 500 Words and Her Majesty’s ‘joy’ that the competition is being relaunched.

Joseph Coelho said: “Putting pen to paper doesn’t have to be that scary, which is what is so wonderful about 500 Words. There are no rules!”

The Queen Consort replied: “There’s no rules – they can sit down and write exactly what they like.”

New for 2023, World Book Day ambassador Sir Lenny Henry will be making his debut on the 500 Words judging panel, alongside the original judges – award-winning and best-selling authors Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Francesca Simon, Charlie Higson and former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman.

Lenny will also read a special CBeebies Bedtime Story to celebrate World Book Day on 2 March. He will read Luna Loves World Book Day by Joseph Coelho, a story about a little girl’s excitement to dress up as her favourite book character, meet an author and illustrator and buy a new book with her book token.

The grand final will take place on World Book Day 2024, where 50 finalists will be invited to a star-studded event at a special location. Previous locations for the final have included Windsor Castle, Hampton Court and the Tower of London. 

With a focus on primary schools, the entries will be split into two age categories – 5-7 year olds and 8-11 year olds. 

Chief Content Officer at BBC, Charlotte Moore said: “We are thrilled to once again host the 500 Words competition and help discover a range of young authors with big imaginations. It is fantastic that the competition will be supported by The Queen Consort and we do hope teachers and librarians across the UK will get involved in this chance to help find the writers of tomorrow.”

Author and 500 Words judge, Charlie Higson said: “I am so excited to take part in this year’s 500 Words! We can’t wait to see what stories today’s kids want to tell. I know that my fellow judges and I will be laughing, crying, gasping and I’m sure left feeling amazed at all the talent on display.”

BBC Breakfast presenter, Jon Kay said: “We are delighted to be championing 500 Words and look forward to the no doubt stellar entries from talented, aspiring young writers up and down the country that are sure to follow in due course.”

Teachers and librarians can find out more information about volunteering to take part in the first round of judging  at BBC Teach. The Reading Agency will then whittle down the entries into a top 50, which are then passed onto the final judging panel who will select the bronze, silver and gold winners in each of the two age categories. The competition is focused on imagination and creativity, rather than spelling, punctuation or grammar, encouraging children of all abilities to enter. 

To help raise awareness in schools, encourage as many entries from young creative minds as possible and provide further support for teachers, BBC Teach will run the competition in partnership with World Book Day, The Reading Agency, Libraries Connected, The Publishers Association and Oxford University Press. 

A host of famous faces will read out the six winning stories, with narrators from previous years including the likes of Dua Lipa, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jodie Whittaker. 

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