The author and performance poet Joseph Coelho is the new winner for children

Performance poet, playwright and children’s author Joseph Coelho has been named the Waterstones Children’s Laureate for 2022-2024.

Through this role, Coelho is committed to ensuring that every child sees themselves in books and believes their voice should be heard.

During the presentation of the winner’s silver medal by outgoing winner Cressida Cowell, at a ceremony held at the Unicorn Theater in London today (July 4), Coelho revealed that her two-year term years will celebrate the power of poetry, introduce new authors and illustrators to diversify the shelves and inspire the bookmakers of the future. It also aims to defend public libraries.

“It’s a dream come true to be named Waterstones Children’s Laureate, beyond anything my younger self could have imagined, and that’s not enough,” he said. “During my tenure, I will strive to ensure that every child can see themselves in books and as book writers, as storytellers, as poets with voices to be heard. So that we can create the future we need, a future where we all read, write and dream the endless stories of ourselves and each other.

Coelho, whose work includes the picture books Luna Loves, Fairy Tales Gone Bad and the verse novel The Girl Who Became a Tree as well as collections of poetry for all ages, said he wanted to use his new role to highlight and celebrate the power of poetry. He performed a new poem written to mark the occasion, titled “The Power of a Poem”.

He said: “Poetry is powerful, it’s the medium we turn to at weddings, funerals and new births because it goes beyond mere words, poetry conveys the soul.”

The title of Children’s Laureate is awarded every two years to a renowned writer or illustrator in recognition of their talent with the aim of celebrating creativity and storytelling and promoting the vital importance of reading and children’s literature. It is run by BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, and sponsored by Waterstones. The 11 previous winners are Michael Rosen, Anthony Browne, Julia Donaldson and Malorie Blackman.

During his Laureate, Coelho aims to focus on three major projects:

  • “Bookmaker like you” will showcase new talent within the industry and spotlight their work, so kids are introduced to a range of creations that reflect everyone in our diverse society.
  • “Poetic Invitations” will celebrate the power of poetry in all its forms, shattering the fear often associated with reading and writing to show why poems are for everyone, and the joy that writing, reading and performing poetry can bring.
  • Defend local libraries to highlight the vital role they play in the community and inspire a love of reading in young people. Speaking at the ceremony, Coelho called libraries “miraculous institutions where new horizons line the shelves, where minds will grow.”

He added: ‘Libraries have made me a writer and make communities thrive – I want to champion the services of these essential launching pads for learning.

“I try to connect and heal my younger self – a self unable to imagine a future by writing and publishing books. Through this work, through the young people and the families with whom I have the chance to interact, I try to go through time and tell little Joe “You can write, you can be a writer, your voice is valid your words are waiting to be heard.” Because I know that when young people today hear this message, they will hear it too.

“Joseph is an extraordinary advocate for making poetry accessible to everyone.”

Diana Gerald, CEO of BookTrust, said, “Joseph is an extraordinary advocate for making poetry accessible to everyone, celebrating creativity and storytelling, and inspiring younger generations to find their voice, pick up a pen, join a library, and read a book. book. I am confident that the Laureate platform will help amplify its ability to reach even more young people and show how books and reading can broaden horizons.

Florentyna Martin, children’s manager at Waterstones, said Coelho’s tenure “will undoubtedly be one for the history books”.

She added: “His passion for stories and poetry brings a healthy dose of sunshine to readers, inspiring everyone who discovers his work. It’s exciting to think about what the next two years will bring and our booksellers are eager to support his Laureate ambitions from the start.

Lola R. McClure