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Following her appointment as the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, the international bestselling author and illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon and The Wizards of Once series, published by the Hachette Children’s Group, has set out the ‘Cressida Cowell Waterstones Children’s Laureate’s Charter’.
The charter is a ‘giant to-do list’ to help ensure that books and reading are available to absolutely everyone and asserts that every child has the right to:
- Read for the joy of it
- Access NEW books in schools, libraries and bookshops
- Have advice from a trained librarian or bookseller
- Own their OWN book
- See themselves reflected in a book
- Be read aloud to
- Have some choice in what they read
- Be creative for at least 15 minutes a week
- See an author event at least ONCE
- Have a planet to read on
Cowell was presented with the iconic silver Laureate medal by the outgoing Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child, at a ceremony at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, in London.
She said: “Books and reading are magic and this magic must be available to absolutely everyone. I’m honoured to be chosen to be the eleventh Waterstones Children’s Laureate. I will be a Laureate who fights for books and children’s interests with passion, conviction and action. Practical magic, empathy and creative intelligence, is the plan.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Children’s Laureate title which is awarded once every two years to an eminent children’s author or illustrator to honour outstanding achievement in their field. The so-called ‘League of Laureates’ – including Quentin Blake, Malorie Blackman and Jacqueline Wilson – are the foremost representatives of children’s literature, showcasing the extraordinary and dynamic art form and its rich contribution to UK culture.
Waterstones became a major sponsor of the position in 2006 and is understood to have pushed hard for the name change when negotiating its continued support for the 2011-2013 role. One or two independent bookshops – and publishers – were unhappy with the name change at the time, arguing that it became a less ambassadorial role, and more of a trade position, as a result. Many newspapers and news outlets in the UK – including the BBC – refer to the position as ‘the Children’s Laureate’ and omit Waterstones’ name. Sponsorship for the position now comes from the Arts Council and a range of publishers, in addition to Waterstones.
At the ceremony, Cowell also spoke about the importance of school libraries and her plans to campaign for these to be made statutory, and, along with public libraries and librarians, funded properly. She also talked about helping to develop children’s creative intelligence in the context of the cultural industries and the value they add to the UK economy and beyond, arguing for creative space on the curriculum.