Do your students know what a laureate is? This week, Lauren Child (author and illustrator of popular children’s book Charlie & Lola), was announced as the new children’s laureate for the UK. The award was only created in 1999, whereas the history of the poet laureate dates back to the early 1600s; making this relatively new role a significant one in the promotion of children’s literature. Rather than focusing on poetry, a children’s laureate can also be an illustrator, as well as or instead of an author.
What is a poet laureate?
Traditionally, a poet laureate is appointed by the monarchy to be called upon to write for significant national occasions or moments in history that call for a unique verse. This can be for organisations, or to commemorate an impacting event. As an example, former poet laureate Andrew Motion was known to have written poetry about the Paddington rail disaster, the foot and mouth outbreak, and the 9/11 terror attacks.
Celebrating children’s literature
The first children’s laureate was appointed in 1999; and was none other than Quentin Blake (illustrator of many Roald Dahl stories). Whereas the position of poet laureate has usually been lifelong and more recently reduced to a 10-year term, the children’s laureate’s role spans just two years. By being awarded the title, a poet is being recognised as one that has significantly contributed to children’s literature, reflected in outstanding achievement. Much like a poet laureate, they will also work to promote children’s books in varying areas of education and for a range of reading levels. Lauren Child is best known as the creator of characters like Charlie & Lola (parents of toddlers will know them well!), and has contributed to the industry for more than 15 years. She has been a long-time advocate of visual literacy and continues to work in furthering the encouragement of creativity in children especially.
Schools can request visits from the serving children’s laureate – there is often huge demand for this type of visit but it is a fantastic opportunity to inspire young readers (and even aspiring authors).
Where can I get more information?
The children’s laureate site is a wonderful hub of information and resources, including activities for school and home. You can also see a full list of the UK’s poets laureate here.