Saturday, March 9, 2013

Jordi Sierra i Fabra Literary Awards for writers under 18

After 20 years working in education, I have heard (too) many people saying that young students, especially in high schools, don't like reading, let alone writing.
They also lament that students are incapable of understanding complex texts and when it comes to writing an essay, it is impossible for them to get their ideas organized. This is, unfortunately, quite a common opinion/complaint in Spain and here, in Canada.

There might be some truth in it. But, if there is, we should try to inverse this tendency and applaud all the activities that encourage students to get better. That's why I would like to introduce an initiative for young writers in Spanish sponsored by Jordi Sierra i Fabra and SM publishers. Jordi Sierra i Fabra is a very well known Spanish writer for children and young adults. I have already spoken about one of his books, El Asesinato del Profesor de Matemáticas, and I hope that I will talk about some of his other books sooner than later. He has also created the Jordi Sierra i Fabra Foundation which, among other activities, organizes a literary award for young writers under 18 years old.

SM is a publisher specialized in K12 education and literature for children and young adults. Every year, they hold an award for children´s literature, Premio Barco de Vapor, and a second award for young adult´s literature, Premio Gran Angular. The same awards are also held in various Latinamerican countries. These awards are a great source of information for teachers to find high quality writing resources for schools.

In 2004, Jordi Sierra created his foundation with the goal of helping young writers at the beginning of their writing career, as well as promote reading as a essential tool for education. The first step the foundation took was to create the literary award for young writers under 18. The award has been very successful and the works have been steadily grown until 111 in the 2013 edition. Moreover,  young authors from several Spanish speaking countries enter the competition every year.
The winners are, naturally, high school students and they share the same challenges, dreams and worries as our students in the Spanish bilingual programs. Some have also their website or blog available online for us to visit.

I have just read the winners of 2006, El poder de una decisión by Arturo Padilla de Juan, and of 2007, Te comerás el mundo by Jara Santamaría Cebollero.  I must admit that I liked both books very much. I think that they, and for sure the other winning texts, can be a great resource in a bilingual or IB program for several reasons:
  • They are short novels (maximum 150 pages). Spanish is not our students' first language so we need to be careful with amount of time that they need to invest on their reading.
  • The themes that appear interest and affect high school students: bullying and gangs in El poder de una decisión, anorexia and self-esteem in Te comerás el mundo.
  • The language can be, at times, difficult but it can be an opportunity to first be in contact with teenage slang.
  • These novels can be inspirational for our students who want to give writing a try.

It goes without saying that the best reward for these young writers is to know that their writing will be published by SM in all the countries where the company has a presence. It is also worth mentioning that part of the benefits from the book sales will directly go to the foundation, therefore the continuity of the awards is guaranteed.

I honestly doubt that we can generalize about high school students and their reading and writing skills. If we did some research we would be very surprised ny the results. This award is one small token that prove that many teenage students consider reading and writing interesting, fulfilling and important to their lives. This award also proves that there is always something that we can do to help students to enjoy literature.