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Michael Rosen to be campaigning Children's Laureate

18 June 2007

At a packed event in central London, Shami Chakrabati, Director of Liberty and chair of the selection committee, announced that Michael Rosen would be the fifth Children's Laureate, saying: 'His gift for capturing the language and imagination of children on and off the page will make him a wonderful champion for the young and their literature.'

Rosen follows in the illustrious footsteps of the highly popular Jacqueline Wilson, whose 'Read Aloud' campaign has been such an effective part of her Laureateship. Before her there was Michael Morpurgo, who did an enormous amount to grow the role, and the first two distinguished laureates, Quentin Blake and Anne Fine. It is remarkable that all these wonderful children's writers have been prepared to give so generously of their time to make their two-year stints so effective. The Children's Laureate now has wide impact in the UK, with the incumbent seen as an ambassador and crusader for children's writing, and the US is thinking of introducing a similar role.

The Laureateship is administered by Booktrust, supported by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and sponsored by the bookseller Waterstone's. The huge increase in its influence and importance is testimony to the growing interest in writing for children, and the increased understanding of the highly effective role that children's writers can play in encouraging a focus on children's books.

Michael Rosen, the first poet to become the Children's Laureate, has already said that he will make children's poetry and picture books the twin missions of his two-year stint. His strongly-held views and passion for children's poetry will make this a dynamic Laureateship:

'I think poetry for children needs to be saved from the cold dissection table of right and wrong answers and put back into rooms and halls full of wonder, compassion, haunting, laughter, music and rhythm. We need to hear its many voices, many cultures, many sounds. So I'll be trying to find ways of spreading the excitement of poetry as widely as possible, whether that be through books, performances, festivals, internet, conferencing or however. This is about wide and diverse participation. Diverse Verse for all!'

In the UK this year will see a reinvigorated National Poetry Day on 4 October, when many schools invite poets in and the children are encouraged to write their own poems. This year Rosen's appointment will give new vigour to NPD. And it's good news for the Children's Poetry Bookshelf

Run by the Poetry Book Society, this website has a lively child-friendly section with poetry puzzles and quizzes, and the kids' own poems and poetry book reviews. The CPB is the only children's poetry book club in the world and serves a 7-11 age range with memberships for parents, grandparents, teachers, school libraries and public libraries around the world.

poetry competition for 7-11 year-olds, as the judges will be chaired by the unstoppable Michael Rosen.

The Children's Laureate

Michael Rosen's website

WritersServices Booktrust article by Chris Meade

Children's Poetry Bookshelf for poetry competition details