Coelho Becomes Children’s Laureate – Poetry News 6th July

Today on My Poetic Side we take a look at Joseph Coelho the new children’s laureate and his vision for poetry.

Joseph Coelho Becomes New British Children’s Laureate

Joseph Coelho will be taking over from Cressida Cowell as the new children’s laureate. The author and poet is hoping to be a fantastic ambassador and make sure that poetry really is available to all. The position is one that is sponsored by Waterstones, the bookseller and comes with a two-year tenure.

 Cressida Cowell has in fact served three years as the children’s laureate due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Coelho was announced as the new laureate in a special event that took place at the Unicorn Theatre in London, his special laureate medal was awarded to him by Cowell. The end of the ceremony was marked with a reading of a new poem by Coelho which he had written especially for the occasion. The poem was titled ‘The Power of the Poem.

There will be three main projects of focus during Coelho’s tenure, these will include “Poetry Prompts,” this is a campaign that will look at making reading and writing poetry a more accessible thing to everyone. Coelho wants to get rid of the idea that poetry is something that people think is ‘done to them’ and even that there is a right and a wrong way in which you can write poetry or even interpret it. He wants to see a move away from over-analysing poetry, replacing it with a simple joy of just writing a poem or reading one.

 The second project is called “Bookmaker Like You” and will focus on illustrators, authors and those who work tirelessly behind the scenes in the world of publishing. The aim of this project is to showcase the huge number of people who work on a book and show children that they can be a bookmaker without actually being a writer.

The final project is called “The Library Marathon” and will attempt to follow that target that he set himself before the pandemic. He hopes to join a library in each of the library authorities in the country. He had already joined 140 before the pandemic took hold, and now he wants to join the last 70. Libraries have played a really important role in his life, particularly when he was growing up. He used them to do his homework, and access books and he even worked in one as a teenager. Whilst at University College London, he had a job working in the photocopying room at the British Library.

Use of public libraries dropped dramatically during the pandemic, and it is now important to get people back to using them again otherwise we may end up losing them altogether.

The laureateship began in 1999, and Coelho joins a long list of previous winners including, Malorie Blackman, Jacqueline Wilson, and the very first children’s laureate Quentin Blake who is perhaps most well known for his illustrations of the characters of Roald Dahl.


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