Today marked the official launch of the UK’s most successful writing competition for children, 500 Words. The launch took place on BBC Breakfast, broadcast live from a primary school in Abergavenny.
Her Majesty The Queen herself announced the competition’s opening through a special poem dedicated to Sir Lenny Henry, one of this year’s judges, during a broadcast on BBC Breakfast.
Meeting The Queen
This year’s winners will have the unique opportunity to meet The Queen, as the grand final is scheduled to take place at Buckingham Palace in February 2024.
Calling Young Writers
Primary school-aged children from across the UK can submit their original short stories from today, Tuesday, September 26, until 8 pm on Friday, November 10.
The competition, supported by BBC Teach, encourages children of all abilities to unleash their imaginations and craft stories they’d love to read, all within a concise 500 words or less.
BBC Breakfast presenter Jon Kay shared his excitement about the upcoming grand final and the opulent setting of Buckingham Palace. He emphasized that the competition is open to all, regardless of location or writing skills.
Competing for Prizes
Fifty finalists and their parents or carers will be invited to attend the grand final in February 2024 at Buckingham Palace. The event will be featured in a special 500 Words program with The One Show on World Book Day®, scheduled for Thursday, March 7, 2024.
At the grand final, the bronze, silver, and gold winners in both age groups, 5-7 and 8-11, will receive a range of exciting prizes, including having their stories read by renowned figures and a bundle of books to fuel their love for the written word.
The two gold winners will receive a substantial collection of books and 500 books for their schools. Silver and bronze winners will be equally rewarded.
Awarded children’s illustrators will illustrate all winning stories, framed, and included in a 500 Words winners’ book.
Every Finalist Counts
Every finalist will receive a £20 National Book Token, and their stories will be recorded and published on the BBC Teach website. One lucky winner will also receive a ticket to the grand final, and their school will receive a bundle of 500 books and literacy wall art.
Supporting Creative Writing
Helen Foulkes, Head of BBC Education, expressed her enthusiasm for the competition, emphasizing its inclusivity and focus on creativity without concerns about spelling, punctuation, or grammar.
Find out more about 500 Words
Meet the Judges
This year’s stellar panel of judges includes World Book Day ambassador, actor, comedian, presenter, and writer Sir Lenny Henry, who is making his 500 Words debut. He joins the original 500 Words judges, including award-winning and best-selling authors Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Francesca Simon, Charlie Higson, and former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman.
Since its inception in 2011, the competition has received over one million entries, and this year, it aims to continue encouraging children of all abilities from across the UK to participate.
The competition officially opens on Tuesday, September 26, with all stories needing to be typed and submitted by an adult by 8 pm on Friday, November 10.
To support aspiring young writers, a star-studded 500 Words Live Lesson will be available on the BBC Teach website and CBBC. 500 Words judges will join Blue Peter’s Mwaksy Mudenda and CBBC presenter Joe Tasker to provide tips for crafting original short stories.
School visits will also occur across the UK to encourage entries, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds. From September 27 to October 16, BBC Teach, in partnership with Oxford University Press and the National Literacy Trust, will visit eight primary schools with various children’s authors and CBBC and CBeebies presenters.
BBC Teach will run 500 Words in partnership with various organizations, including Anderson Press, HeadteacherChat, Libraries Connected, National Book Tokens, National Literacy Trust, Oxford University Press, Pobble, Publishers Association, The Reading Agency, and World Book Day.
Alex de Berry, MD of National Book Tokens, highlighted the value of story writing as a means of tapping into creativity, expressing pride in their involvement in spreading the word about 500 Words.
A Celebration of Reading
Cassie Chadderton, Chief Executive of World Book Day, emphasized the excitement of creating irresistible reads and encouraged children to share their favourite books through BBC 500 Words.
Beyond 500 Words
As 500 Words begins, the BBC’s writing competition for older children – the BBC Young Writers Award – and adults – the National Short Story Awards – announces its 2023 winners live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row.