Children's Laureate

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Children's Laureate, now known as the Waterstones Children's Laureate,[1] is a prestigious position awarded in the United Kingdom once every two years to a "writer or illustrator of children's books to celebrate outstanding achievement in their field." The role promotes the importance of children’s literature, reading, creativity and storytelling while promoting the right of every child to enjoy a lifetime of books and stories. Each Laureate uses their tenure to focus on an aspect of children’s books – these have included poetry, storytelling, readers with disabilities and illustration.[1] 

The aim of the Waterstones Children’s Laureateship is to celebrate and promote creativity, storytelling and inspiring all children to read a rich and diverse range of stories. The Laureateship also promotes the importance of children’s books, reading and champions the right of every child to enjoy a life rich in books and stories. The post stemmed from a discussion between the (now deceased) Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and children's writer Michael Morpurgo.[2] The Waterstones Children's Laureate receives a £30,000 bursary and an inscribed silver medal.[1]

The main sponsor of the Waterstones Children's Laureate is Waterstones, with additional funding from Arts Council England and support from children's publishers. A selection panel considers nominations from a range of organisations representing librarians and sellers, including the International Board on Books for Young People.[3] The Waterstones Children's Laureate is managed by BookTrust, who supports the Laureate, organise events and run the official website.[1]

The post is currently held by Joseph Coelho.

UK officeholders[edit]

Term Laureate
1999–2001 Quentin Blake Quentin was the first ever UK Children's Laureate in 1999. He highlighted the art and joy of illustration and also came up with the idea for the House of Illustration that opened in 2014 and is dedicated to the art of illustration in all of its forms.[4]

Laureate's Progress (Random House, 2000) is "a kind of diary in pictures". Blake created a few other books as Laureate and initiated the House of Illustration arts charity, established 2002.[5][6]

2001–03 Anne Fine Anne promoted the importance of children's reading and was dedicated to raising the profile of libraries. During her time as Children’s Laureate she also launched the My Home Library scheme, encouraging children to build their own libraries at home.[4]
2003–05 Michael Morpurgo Nearly five years after conceiving the idea of the Waterstones Children's Laureate, Michael Morpurgo took on the role. During his term, Michael toured schools to promote “literature before literacy” and encouraged children to find or rediscover the joy of reading and creative writing.[2][4]
2005–07 Jacqueline Wilson Jacqueline encouraged children their parents and carers to read out loud together. She toured the UK and Ireland, speaking to over 40,000 children and adults, and developed the book Great Books to Read Aloud.[4]

Judges chaired by Shami Chakrabarti, director of pressure group Liberty

2007–09 Michael Rosen Michael's emphasis was children's poetry during his term. He developed online resources for teachers including video tips, book recommendations and advice for making classrooms more poetry friendly.[4]
2009–11 Anthony Browne Anthony focused on the development of visual literacy for his tenure. His biggest project, The Shape Game, brought together 45 writers, artists, illustrators and celebrities to create artwork to raise money for children’s charity Rainbow Trust.[4]

Judges chaired by Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate from 1999 to 2009

2011–13 Julia Donaldson During her tenure Julia did a six-week library tour, visiting 38 libraries to celebrate libraries as a precious community resource at a time when many were under threat. Another of her priorities was celebrating performance and projects including workshops for deaf children, developing an interactive website with resources.[4]
2013–15 Malorie Blackman Malorie's major project was setting up the YA Lit Con (YALC), the first large-scale public literature convention dedicated entirely to teen and Young Adult books in the UK. It is now an annual event.[4]
2015–17 Chris Riddell Chris focused on the celebration of illustration and doodling – encouraging children to doodle every day with the Doodle A Day book, and toured the UK visiting schools, bookshops and festivals.[4]
2017–19 Lauren Child Author-illustrator Lauren championed children's creativity by encouraging them to make the time to look around and ‘stare into space’. She also developed online resources to help nurture creativity and encourage children to start their own creative projects.[4]
2019–22 Cressida Cowell Cressida's two-year term was focused on encouraging every child to read for fun. She created a ten-point charter outlining what she believed every child should have a right to. This included access to new books in schools, libraries and bookshops, to own their own book and to be creative for at least 15 minutes a week.[7]
2022–24 Joseph Coelho

Comparable offices elsewhere[edit]


In 2008, an Australian Children's Literature Alliance was founded to select and appoints an annual Australian Children's Laureate. In fact, the first year saw two writers sharing the role. Boori Monty Pryor and Alison Lester were announced in Adelaide in December 2011, with Noni Hazlehurst as patron.[8]


Ireland has a Laureate na nÓg, a two-year office inaugurated by the Arts Council of Ireland in May 2010. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is one supporter.[9]

The Netherlands[edit]

From 2013, every two years, the Dutch Reading Foundation appoints a well-known children's books author as an ambassador for children's literature. Since 2017, this 'Kinderboekenambassadeur' has a seat in his special embassy in the Children's Book Museum in The Hague.


The Swedish Arts Council appoints an author as "Ambassador for reading", Läsamabassadör, for a two-year office since 2011. The ambassador is announced at Gothenburg Book Fair by the Swedish Minister of Culture.[10] As part of the tenure, the ambassador help communicate to children about books and reading.

United States[edit]

In January 2008, the Library of Congress inaugurated its National Ambassador for Young People's Literature scheme, as the U.S. equivalent of the Children's Laureate. The inaugural Ambassador was Jon Scieszka.[11] A similar honour is awarded bi-annually by the Poetry Foundation for the Young People's Poet Laureate.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Everything you need to know about the Waterstones Children's Laureate". Retrieved 6 December 2022.
  2. ^ a b Children's Laureate, About the Children's Laureate.
  3. ^ "Waterstones Children's Laureate supporters". Retrieved 6 December 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Meet the former Children's Laureates". Retrieved 6 December 2022.
  5. ^ Children's Laureate, "Quentin Blake".
  6. ^ "About Us" Archived 2010-10-10 at the Wayback Machine. House of Illustration ( Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  7. ^ "'Every child has the right to...' Read Cressida Cowell's giant to-do-list as the new Waterstones Children's Laureate". Retrieved 6 December 2022.
  8. ^ "The Inaugural Australian Children's Laureate". Australian Children's Laureate. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  9. ^ "About the Project". Laureate na nÓg ( Arts Council of Ireland. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  10. ^ "Om Läsambassadören – Kulturradet" (in Swedish). 15 September 2015. Archived from the original on 30 September 2017. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  11. ^ The Children's Book Council – National Ambassador for Young People's Literature(US) Archived January 6, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Paige Bentley-Flannery (26 May 2017). "Young People's Poet Laureate". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). Retrieved 30 October 2018.

External links[edit]