How To Train Your Reader and Life-Changing Libraries.
Cressida Cowell is the multi-award-winning author and illustrator of the bestselling The Wizards of Once and How to Train Your Dragon series, and the author of the Emily Brown picture books, illustrated by Neal Layton. She was the Waterstones Children’s Laureate from 2019 – 2022.
An absolute joy to spend an hour listening to Cressida Cowell at the Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture 2023, talking about young readers, the enormous need for a library in every primary school in the country and most important of all, the huge benefit and impact on ‘Reading for Pleasure’ for children and young people.
Many facts and quotes show the absolute importance of enabling all children to be able to read, to find themselves in another world, to seek adventures, to solve problems and to be immersed in words and illustrations.
This very short blog is just a tiny ‘eye squirt’ of a huge consideration of the problem we seem to have drifted into, whereby, our children are not engaged with reading for pleasure. Instead as Cressida pointed out, we are bombarding them with codes, structures, and methods to decode words. What we are not doing is engaging with them to impact on their creativity, their emotional intelligence, their understanding of worlds not of their own making and so much more.
Cressida quoted Einstein many times and the one that stood out for me,
‘If you want a child to be intelligent read them fairy tales’.
Apparently reading for joy is a key indicator for future success. That was no surprise to me, but it seems that government circles are not so sure about the ‘fairy tale’ image of a good education and prefer other more stringent measures, even if they don’t work!
Cressida’s many books are full of her own illustrations which are part of the reading process and give as much to the book as the words. Engaging, dynamic, stimulating and so expressive. She has created characters and situations for anyone to follow the story and turn the pages.
‘The book is the ultimate survivor’, said Cressida where books and words have been with us for so long and will continue. The book covers she saw as enticing ‘sweets’ to appeal to her readers and indicate just a sparkle of what was inside!
Whilst being Children’s Laureate from 2019-2022, Cressida created the Life Changing Libraries programme and the designs and books of the libraries which were created in primary schools were stunning, ‘Reading is Magic!’
‘Writing for children is the best thing to do’ said Cressida with so much enthusiasm and joy. We are so lucky to have an author who is sparked by this love and enjoyment and desire to reach out to children everywhere. And her final quote was from Garrison Keiller,
‘Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.’
With many thanks to the Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture for this stunning talk to a packed audience in Homerton College Cambridge.
Sue Martin – Children’s Literacy Specialist