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Word Up for Children’s Librarian

A Rochdale borough librarian has been tasked with helping to find the next young J.K.Rowling or Jacqueline Wilson.

Ray Stearn, who works as the Young Person’s Library Worker for Rochdale Borough Libraries, has been signed up for a second time to the huge army of volunteers judging entries to BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words. The competition for children under-13 requires them to write a 500-word tale on a topic of their choice. Last year more than 90,000 entries were received.

Ray, who last year went on Radio 2’s Chris Evans Breakfast Show to speak about his involvement, said: “What amazed me last year was that the standard of entries was so high. They all had a spark of originality as children have no boundaries and limitations in their writing.”

Ray, who is a keen amateur poet and writer himself, says he’ll be looking for stories with a beginning, middle and end, even with a tight word count of only 500 words.

He has until 20 March to read 30 entries and must judge them based on criteria supplied to the judges, including characterisation, whether it grabs the reader and vocabulary used. To achieve this Ray has developed his own system of marking the first story and using that as a benchmark against the rest. Eventually the thousands of entries will be whittled down to 50 which will then be assessed by the competition’s main judges.

Ray, who runs young persons’ reading and creative writing sessions for Rochdale Borough Libraries, said: “What I love about working with children is the sharing of stories and the freshness each new generation brings as they discover a love of books and reading. The more children read, the better their writing is going to become and by joining Rochdale Borough Libraries they will have access to thousands of books they can take out for free.”

Councillor Peter Williams, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Customer Services, said: “It’s fantastic that the high quality, experience and passion of our library staff has been recognised.”

For more information on how to join Rochdale Borough Libraries visit

To find out more about 500 Words visit

28 Feb 2014