On Tuesday 9th July Cressida Cowell, the international bestselling author and illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon and The Wizards of Once series and the author of the Emily Brown picture books was crowned the Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2019–2021. 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, London.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate, awarded once every two years to an eminent children’s author or illustrator to honour outstanding achievement in their field. The ‘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.
Managed by BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, and sponsored by Waterstones, each Laureate brings their own passion to the prestigious role to create a unique legacy. Today, the new Laureate unveiled the Cressida Cowell Waterstones Children’s Laureate Charter, a ‘giant to-do list’ to help ensure that books and reading are available to absolutely everyone. The charter 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
At the ceremony, Cowell 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. Cowell also spoke 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.
Cressida Cowell, Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2019–2021, 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.”