Leading children’s writing competition 500 Words relaunches on BBC


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.


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. 


Kicking off our largest ever celebrations for World Book Day 2022 with over 100 partners

World Book Day celebrates 25 years

This year the National Literacy Trust is celebrating World Book Day with over 100 partners to inspire and delight children with the wonder of books – including hundreds of businesses, publishers, booksellers and authors.

This year will mark 25 years since the inception of World Book Day which was designed to help all children become book owners and inspire a love of reading. A vital step in building strong literacy skills for life.

Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust said:

“World Book Day is an important moment to inspire and delight children with the wonder of books and a powerful platform to reinforce the importance of building literacy skills for life. Through our fantastic partners, we’re able to reach more children in schools and communities than ever before, providing support to those that need it most.

Everyone has a role in raising literacy levels throughout the country and World Book Day is a fantastic opportunity to bring all our supporters together.”

Up and down the country we are marking World Book Day by distributing 60,000 books to encourage children to read for pleasure as well as producing a host of activities for schools and communities to take part in.

Activities include:

–          World Book Day Big Footy & Booky quiz, free to all teachers and pupils. This exciting online event, which will be hosted by sports presenter Kelly Somers, will feature Football School authors Alex Bellos and Ben Lyttleton, so make sure you sign up today.

–          Our 15 Hub areas across the country will also be working in partnership with local libraries and retailers like McDonald’s to distribute books across our hubs. Between 2nd– 15th March, £1 book tokens will feature on every single World Book Day themed Happy Meal® box.

–          Highlights from around the country include:

  • In Bradford we have author Harry Heape running a session on ‘Inspiration through writing’ and story telling
  • In Manchester we will be distributing 2,400 books across four libraries with more exciting author story telling sessions
  • In Peterborough you’ll find a ‘Bunny’s on the bus tour’ with exciting story telling sessions, fun craft activities and book giveaways
  • In Middlesbrough we’re running a fun World Book Day competition with Middlesbrough library services, for a chance to win a bundle of books and  distributing 2,400 books

–          We have a range of resources for schools focusing on ‘story telling’ and ‘reading for pleasure’ as well as fun activities for families to do at home.

–          Take a look at our 25 ways to celebrate World Book Day and develop a lifelong reading habit

–          There are so many activities for you to get involved with. Want to find out what’s happening in your area? Find our more on our hub page

Jonathan continues: Our recent economic study with WPI showed that reading for pleasure can result in children getting better GCSEs, in turn boosting their lifetime earnings and raising the UK’s GDP. In the future, my hope is that more children will grow up to be adults who read and that reading and books are part of their world.” (The Power of Reading; WPI and National Literacy Trust 2021)

Take a look at the full range of World Book Day books available for just £1 here

If you want to find out more about how the National Literacy Trust can help your school, sign up here



24/02/2022. London, United Kingdom. Will Quince, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Education hosts a World Book Day Reception with children from the Hillingdon Primary school in 10 Downing Street. Picture by Luca Boffa / No 10 Downing Street

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of World Book Day, Year 6 children from Hillingdon Primary School in Uxbridge enjoyed a reception at No.10 Downing Street.

At the 90-minute ‘I Am A Reader’ event, the children enjoyed a presentation from Rashmi Sirdeshpande (author of World Book Day £1 book Think Like a Boss: Discover the skills that turn great ideas into CASH), an illustration masterclass with World Book Day Illustrator Allen Fatimaharan, and a rap-battle with World Book Day Ambassador MC Grammar (Jacob Mitchell).

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

 “A world without books would be a dull, grey universe of ignorance and misery. Reading enlightens, inspires and equips us to navigate the world and enjoy it.

 “Reading is a huge part in shaping children and young people’s futures – from nurturing their early development, to opening up their imaginations to new and exciting worlds.

“On World Book Day, whether you are dressing up as your favourite character or picking up a best-loved book today, it’s a great chance to promote the benefits of reading for all.”

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi MP said:

“It is fantastic to see so many children marking World Book Day by dressing up as a character from their favourite book.

Reading for pleasure is a key indicator of a child’s future success, which is why I want to see more children learning to read from a young age, whatever their background.

He continues:  “I am determined to meet our ambitious target for 90 per cent of children leaving primary school at the expected standards in reading and writing by 2030. I would encourage any child who is struggling to find enjoyment from reading to open a book on something they really love – whether that is animals, sports or superheroes.”

Cassie Chadderton, CEO of World Book Day said:

“It was wonderful to be back at Downing Street, marking the 25th birthday of World Book Day. We know that reading for pleasure has an enormous impact on a child’s future – whether that’s their educational success, well-being or mental health, so our mission to encourage all children to see themselves as readers – whatever their ability or interests – is more important than ever. It is great to have this support from the government.”

24/02/2022. London, United Kingdom. Will Quince, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Education hosts a World Book Day Reception with children from the Hillingdon Primary school in 10 Downing Street. Picture by Luca Boffa / No 10 Downing Street

Emma Scott, Chair of World Book Day said:

“We are delighted that World Book Day’s mission has received support from the Prime Minister and the government. It was wonderful to see how excited the children were to read, draw and perform at the event at No 10. The world would be a brighter, happier place full of extraordinary potential and opportunities if more children were reading for pleasure and this is something we are determined to achieve over our next 25 years.”

Alongside the Downing Street visit and other activity, we’ve asked leading figures across literary organisations, agencies and charities to look to the future and answer one simple question on our milestone anniversary. These responses demonstrate a huge optimism around a society where reading is at the heart of learning, wellbeing and enjoyment, as well as the need for urgency in addressing key challenges. Contributors including Children’s Commissioner Rachel de Souza , Baroness Gail Rebuck, Executive Chair of Faber Stephen Page, WH Smith CEO Carl Cowling and Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell, have contributed to the new report which is now available on our website.