Frank Cottrell-Boyce appointed as Waterstones Children’s Laureate

Frank Cottrell-Boyce, the multi award-winning author and screenwriter, has been crowned the Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2024 – 2026.

Cottrell-Boyce was presented with the bespoke silver Laureate medal by outgoing Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Joseph Coelho, at a ceremony held at Howard Assembly Room, Leeds.

For 25 years, the Waterstones Children’s Laureate has been the foremost representative of children’s literature, awarded biannually to a renowned writer or illustrator in recognition of exceptional talent. Managed by BookTrust – the UK’s largest children’s reading charity – and sponsored by Waterstones, this prestigious role celebrates creativity and storytelling, promotes the vital importance of reading and children’s literature, and champions the right of every child to enjoy a lifetime enriched with books and stories. Each Laureate brings their own passion and creativity to their tenure.

Liverpool-based Frank Cottrell-Boyce is a multi-award-winning children’s author. Since his debut Millions won the CILIP Carnegie Medal (and was made into a film directed by Danny Boyle) he has penned a plethora of much-loved books including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again (the official sequel commissioned by the Fleming Estate), Cosmic, Framed, The Astounding Broccoli Boy and Runaway Robot. 

He is also a highly esteemed script and screenwriter, devising the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, co-writing the Platinum Jubilee Paddington sketch, alongside writing for Doctor Who, Goodbye Christopher Robin and most recently The Beautiful Game, starring Bill Nighy and Micheal Ward.

At today’s ceremony, Cottrell-Boyce launched his Laureateship with a powerful speech declaring his ambitions for children’s books and the life-changing benefits of reading to be “taken seriously”.

He pledged to dedicate his two-year tenure to igniting a fierce national conversation about the role books and reading can play in transforming children’s lives, referencing the decades of compelling evidence showing that reading for pleasure is the single biggest factor impacting the life chances of a child, as well as the “crisis point” facing the millions of children now living in poverty, warning that “we risk losing a generation unless we act”.

This campaign – which is called Reading Rights: Books Build a Brighter Future – also includes plans for a national summit bringing together expert voices in the political, education, literacy and early years sectors.

Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2024–2026, added, “Our children are living through the aftermath of a series of crises, the pandemic, a series of wars and an unfolding environmental crisis. The only public conversation is about how we can make our children “catch up” – which seems to me a kind of code for forgetting this ever happened. None of us has the slightest idea about what the future now holds for them – but the one thing we do know is that they will need to know how to be happy.

“Every child has to have the opportunity to begin to build the apparatus of happiness within themselves.

“I will use my time as Waterstones Children’s Laureate to call for a reset in our attitude towards how we value children’s books and reading – to start this story again – and to campaign for the millions of children living in poverty to be given the same life-changing chances. To stand up for the children in this country and their Reading Rights.

“So, whoever wins Thursday’s election has a huge responsibility. Whoever we wake up to Friday morning, they have the power to make a revolutionary change in children’s lives.”

Diana Gerald, CEO at BookTrust, said, “Reading can help young children who missed out on critical development opportunities during the pandemic and who have fallen behind in terms of literacy, language development, and communication skills. It can help children overcome the consequences of rising levels of poverty and inequality, particularly if we read with them in their early years. The appointment of Frank as Children’s Laureate gives us a powerful advocate for the disadvantaged and vulnerable children and the transformative effect that reading can have on their lives.”

Kate Edwards, Chair of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate Steering Group and Chair of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2024-26 Judging Panel, said, “The Waterstones Children’s Laureate selection panel invites nominations from a range of organisations across the UK representing librarians, critics, writers, literature development workers and booksellers – on behalf of everyone, I extend Frank our warmest congratulations.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Frank to this prestigious role as the Laureateship celebrates its 25th anniversary – not only does his wonderful writing entertain and inspire, but he has long been a passionate voice in the campaign for children’s books to be given the value and recognition that they deserve.

“Frank is a wonderful Laureate for these times and the Steering Group is looking forward to working with him over the next two years, helping to bring his vital plans and ambitions to life so that every child can enjoy a life rich in books and reading.”

Nick Campbell, Children’s Campaign Manager at Waterstones, said, “On behalf of our booksellers, particularly our experts in children’s reading, we’re thrilled to welcome Frank Cottrell-Boyce to the role of Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2024-2026. In the twenty years since his debut novel, Frank’s work has been a cornerstone of our children’s sections, deploying his wit and genius for storytelling in celebration of young people’s imaginative potential. We are so pleased to support him as Laureate in championing those young people and the transformative power of reading.”

Image: Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2024-2026 Frank Cottrell-Boyce. Credit: David Bebber

Why not follow birkenhead.news on Facebook, Twitter, and Threads? You can also send story ideas or letters to the editor to news@birkenhead.news