Bath Festivals and Waterstones Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell go global with the launch of free online Reading is Magic Festival

Published on: 13 July 2020

Bath Festivals has today announced the launch of the Reading is Magic Festival for young people, bringing together UK and international festivals to create and deliver a free, inclusive and engaging digital schools and family programme.

Along with many other literature festivals, Bath Festivals has been forced to announce the cancellation of its autumn Bath Children’s Literature Festival which includes a schools programme of live author and illustrator events. The partnership of festival organisations will create both a national and international platform and narrative that promotes the value of reading and books. Bath Festivals has joined forces with Bradford Literature Festival, Borders Book Festival, Boswell Book Festival, North Cornwall Book Festival, Wigtown Book Festival, and Toronto International Festival of Authors to put on more than 25 events over six days.

The festival has been inspired by Cressida Cowell’s key message as the current Waterstones Children’s Laureate: “reading is magic, and magic is for everyone”. The award-winning children’s author and creator of the How to Train Your Dragon and The Wizards of Once book series said:

“Books have a transformative magic in their unique ability to develop three key magical powers; intelligence, creativity and empathy.”

In association with Cressida, the festival will set a daily theme drawing on specific points from her Waterstones Children’s Laureate Charter, declaring that ‘every child has the right to…’

  • Be creative for at least 15 minutes a week
  • Have a planet to read on
  • See themselves reflected in a book
  • Have advice from a trained librarian or bookseller

The Reading is Magic Festival will promote creativity and connection through stories and shared experiences, creating content for children and young people in primary and secondary schools. The festival will open its virtual doors on Sunday 27 September with a special public event curated by Borders Book Festival. A week-long schedule of daily events will follow with Cressida joined by an all-star line-up of leading authors and illustrators.

Schools can incorporate the events into a learning programme, to be viewed either at point of broadcast or as on demand afterwards. Online materials and resources will support each event with book buying opportunities promoted via local independent bookshops. Fun Kids Radio is a festival media partner and will be interviewing authors and running competitions in the run up to the festival.

Cressida Cowell, Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2019 - 2022, said:

“I was delighted when Bath Festivals suggested the Reading is Magic Festival in partnership with a network of other festivals, based on some of the themes in my Waterstones Children’s Laureate Charter – the giant ‘to do list’ I announced on my appointment as Children’s Laureate. Research shows that reading for the joy of it has powerful, measurable real-life benefits that can transform lives. This ‘magic’ ought to be available to everyone which is why the work literature festivals do with their local school communities to inspire a love of reading is so important.
I am excited that the wonderful virtual programme of events in the Reading is Magic Festival will be available, for free, to schools up and down the country and internationally, so that young people, whether at home or in their classroom bubbles can experience the magic of books and reading.”

Ian Stockley, CEO Bath Festivals, said: “We are delighted to be working with Cressida Cowell and our festival partners on this project. One of our core values behind what we do is positively impacting the lives of young people. For over a decade we have brought children’s authors and illustrators to Bath through our Bath Children’s Literature Festival and we want to continue to do that even through this uncertain time.”

More details of the events programme and how to access them will be announced ahead of the new academic year. Schools and families can sign up now to receive email updates at readingismagicfestival.com

Reading is Magic Festival is supported by Bath Spa Uni, Bath Recreation, Bath Business Improvement District, Kingswood School, Bath, Novia and Arts Council England.

Waterstones Children's Laureate: Cressida Cowell

Author-illustrator Cressida Cowell is the Waterstones Children's Laureate for 2019-22. 

The role of Children's Laureate is awarded once every two years to an eminent writer or illustrator of children's books to celebrate outstanding achievement in their field. Find out what Cressida's been up to.

Find out more