'Boo Barney' wins £2,000 baby book prize

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The Independent Culture

The cheerful, colourful board book Boo Barney, by the illustrator Alex Ayliffe, has won this year's equivalent of the Booker Prize for babies.

The cheerful, colourful board book Boo Barney, by the illustrator Alex Ayliffe, has won this year's equivalent of the Booker Prize for babies.

The Sainsbury's Baby Book Award, which began last year, aims to encourage parents to start sharing books with babies only a few months old. Boo beat off competition from other short-listed contestants such as Hello Little Ducklings by Dawn Appleby and Number One, Tickle Your Tum by John Prater to secure the £2,000 prize.

A five-year research project at Birmingham University shows children given books as babies are more literate and numerate when they start school. So far, only 2 per cent of the children's books market is suitable for babies. So what makes Boo Barney the perfect baby book? Wendy Cooling, chair of the judging panel, said: "At the end everybody felt good. Babies love to see pictures of themselves, and the baby is at the centre of every page and always doing something.

"Babies begin to develop an ear for rhyme and for language which really helps them when they start learning to read."

Boo Barney is distinctive because it uses computer-generated pictures.

Ayliffe, who has a two-year-old daughter, said: "You lose the shadows created by the layers of collage and get clearer, purer colours and images.

"It's amazing to receive this accolade for somethingI enjoy doing, but this award is particularly important in raising awareness of what babies read in their first year."

Bookstart, a national scheme funded by Sainsbury's and started by the independent charity Book Trust, has already distributed free books to 90 per cent of families with babies aged seven to nine months. A free bag of books is given to babies with their health check.

Boo Barney is part of the Busy Baby series, published by Little Orchard, £3.50

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