Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen reports on myriad activities in schools, announcing the Ten Best New Illustrators in Bologna and getting the Funny Prize underway.
Another couple of months busying about: I’ve worked with London children as part of the Barbican’s ‘Can I Have a Word?’ project. We wrote poems inspired by one of the most intriguing exhibitions I’ve ever seen. It was called: ‘Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art’, and it was full of objects, paintings, photos and installations ‘collected by Martians’ (!) from humans. I’ve done shows in Luton Library, St Luke’s School in Canning Town, heard wonderful poems from primary schools in Camden at their local secondary Haverstock, announced the winners of the Big Picture campaign’s Ten Best New Illustrators at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair before going on to Rome and Naples to work for the British Council. (Interesting, talking for an hour to fifty Italian children who could hardly speak English!) I entertained some four hundred children at Reading Football Club as part of their ‘Reading needs Reading’ project, another five hundred or so at the Rose Theatre in Richmond and visited the Cobham International School.
In between, I’ve done some TV – BBC Four are making three programmes about children’s literature and I did some filming for that; I’ve recorded five stories (not mine) for CBeebies and appeared on ‘The Wright Stuff’, Matthew Wright’s morning chat show on Five, where I now have a regular spot offering advice on children’s books to people who call the show. One of the most moving calls came from a woman who said that she was 53 and couldn’t read – what should she do? On radio, I appeared on Five Live to argue about apostrophes, I finished off five programmes for Radio 4 about the legacy of Iona and Peter Opie in relation to their work of looking at children’s play. On Radio 3, I reviewed a new biography of the poet and painter Isaac Rosenberg and carried on with ‘Word of Mouth’ for Radio 4, which took me to Kingsford Community School in Beckton, East London where they teach compulsory Mandarin to all of Key Stage 3. How interesting to confront a prejudice on my part when I found that I was surprised that children who don’t ‘look Chinese’ could speak a Chinese language!
The Laureate projects are cooking nicely. The Roald Dahl Funny Prize is up and running, so if you think you’ve read the funniest book published this year by a British writer, give the publisher a nudge to make sure that it gets entered. I think it’s great that Roald Dahl’s name is attached to this because he was someone who wrote some of the funniest books ever written for children. I’m also chuffed that the bit of my laureateship devoted to being an ‘ambassador for fun with books’ has come to fruition. The exhibition, conference and performances about the history and practice of poetry for children going on at the British Library next year is developing beautifully, thanks largely to Morag Styles, while a set of performances under the heading of ‘A-Z of Poetry Tour’ is carrying on round the country – Liverpool, Edinburgh, Dundee and Bath – and more.
Apologies if you know about this, but could I recommend a folder called ‘Family Reading Campaign’ produced by Read On, the National Reading Campaign, financed by the old DES, and organised by the National Literacy Trust? My only quibble: why isn’t such a document backed up with as much force, Ofsted-checking and publicity as the government puts into the Literacy Strategy, SATs and Synthetic Phonics? I feel a speech coming on called ‘The Mysterious Politics of Which Literacy Horses the Government Really Backs and Which Ones It Just Pays For!’
Visit the Book Trust website: www.booktrusted.co.uk/childrenslaureate or Michael’s website www.michaelrosen.co.uk for information and details of forthcoming events.
For information on the Funny Prize go to: www.booktrust.org.uk/show/feature/Home/Funny-Prize