Reading is Magic Festival: Discover the all-star line-up of authors and illustrators joining Cressida Cowell

Published on: 27 August 2020

An all-star line-up of authors and illustrators have signed up to take part in this year's digital Reading is Magic Festival.

The logo for the Reading is Magic festival

The festival - headed by Waterstones Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell and inspired by her Laureate charter - is being organised by Bath Children's Literature Festival and a host of other literary festivals.

With coronavirus putting physical events on hold, families and schools will be able to sign up to take part in the Reading is Magic Festival for free.

As well as enjoying the sessions streamed to them, they will even be able to take part in live Q&As - and everything will be available to watch afterwards, too.

The events, which will last between 10-30 minutes each, will be broadcast on a schools-friendly platform along with captions, a British Sign Language interpreter and audio description. The festival has also teamed up with Calibre Audio to help children who struggle to access print enjoy the featured books.

Hosted by TV presenter and Strictly Come Dancing finalist Karim Zeroual, the festival will kick off on Sunday, 27 September with Sir Charlie Stinky Socks creator Kristina Stephenson celebrating book festivals coming together, before the full programme of events from 28 September-2 October.

Cressida Cowell

'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,' Cressida said.

'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.'

Sign up to take part in the Reading is Magic Festival

Discover the full programme

Monday, 28 September: 'Every child has the right to... Be creative for at least 15 minutes a week'

9.15am: A video event with comic artist Adam Murphy inspiring us to create our own comics, brought to you by Boswell Book Festival.
9.45am: A podcast about creativity and performance from one of the UK's best-known spoken word artists, Steve Camden.
11am: An action-packed storytelling event from the brilliant brains behind the super-selling Supertato series, Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet.
1.30pm: A celebration of comics and why children engage with them, brought to you by Brooklyn Book Festival, with comic-enthusiast Ardo Omer, New York based mural artist Katie Yamasaki and comic-focused computer art student Caitlyn Buchanan.
2pm: Cressida Cowell will treat the audience to a spellbinding talk about the final book in her number one-selling The Wizards of Once series, Never and Forever, curated by Henley Literary Festival and Bath Children's Literature Festival. A live Q&A will follow this event.

Tuesday, 29 September: 'Every child has the right to... Have a planet to read on'

9.15am: Bradford Literature Festival invite children to write their own Letters to the Earth.
9.45am: A podcast with Cressida Cowell who will walk listeners through the wild woodland setting of her The Wizards of Once series.
11am: A storytime event from children's nature writer Anna Wilson talking from the North Cornwall Book Festival about nature, magic and vampires.
1.30pm: A pair of outstanding young naturalists talk about the protection of our planet. Dara McAnulty, acclaimed author of Diary of a Young Naturalist, has already won the respect and friendship of broadcaster and campaigner Chris Packham. He is joined by ornithologist and equal rights campaigner Mya-Rose 'Birdgirl' Craig who founded Black2Nature.
2pm: Waterstones Children's Book Prize winners Dapo Adeola and Nathan Bryon will inspire children to Clean Up! just like their young adventuring protagonist Rocket does when she visits her Grammy and Grampy's tropical island home. A live Q&A will follow this event.

Wednesday, 30 September: 'Every child has the right to... See themselves reflected in a book'

9.15am: #OwnVoices writer Elle McNicoll, whose research revealed that only 0.05% of protagonists in children's books are neurodivergent, will inspire and enlighten in equal measure as she invites us to create our own characters.
9.45am: Award-winning authors of young adult fiction Anthony McGowan and Phil Earle will talk about the importance of celebrating the drama, emotion and pathos in apparently mundane and everyday lives, focusing particularly on Anthony's recent Carnegie Medal-winning Lark.
11am: An exuberant storytime from Jessica Love, whose standout picture book Julian is a Mermaid won the 2019 Stonewall Book award – an event which celebrates the beauty of being seen for who we truly are by someone who loves us.
1.30pm: An event exploring the enduring popularity of the whodunnit mystery. Bestselling and award-winning authors Robin Stevens, Sharna Jackson, Serena Patel and Katherine Woodfine invite children to make their own mysteries inspired by their own lives and experiences.
2pm: An important event curated by the Boswell Book Festival and Bath Children's Literature Festival that will consider the black curriculum. Leading the discussion will be Eunice Olumide OBE, a Scottish model, actor and writer who has appeared on the Jeremy Vine Show and Question Time talking about the issue. A live Q&A will follow this event.

Thursday, 1 October: 'Every child has the right to... Have advice from a trained librarian or bookseller'

9.15am: A joyful event from the Wigtown Book Festival - The Bookshop Band will perform three magical book-themed songs especially for the Reading is Magic Festival.
9.45am: A podcast in celebration of National Poetry Day presented by poet and self-confessed library-lover Joseph Coelho. Joseph will teach children how to perform Poems Aloud and tell them about his personal challenge to join 209 UK libraries.
11am: Multi-award-winning novelist Alex Wheatle MBE brings a vital part of British and Jamaican history vividly to life in his latest novel Cane Warriors, giving a voice to those who were denied one. Alex credits a prison library with empowering him to use words and actions as a force for change.
1.30: Observer political cartoonist and acclaimed author-illustrator Chris Riddell will draw four characters from his magical visual interpretation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland while we hear contemporary book recommendations, selected for each character, from some extraordinary librarians and booksellers whose superpower is helping children find their own magical story.
2pm: An event from Toronto International Festival of Authors with #OwnVoices author David A. Robertson talking about The Barren Grounds, inspired by C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia and indigenous Canadian 'stories of the sky'. David will be in conversation with Eloise Williams, Children's Laureate Wales. A live Q&A will follow this event.

Friday, 2 October: 'Every child has the right to... Read for the joy of it'

9.15am: A follow-on event from Bradford Literature Festival as they encourage children to send and share their Letters to the Earth.
9.45am: Costa Book Award-winner Jasbinder Bilan and Waterstones Children's Book Prize winner Kiran Milwood Hargrave will chat about why reading and storytelling is magical, how they weave this magic into their own books, and the magic they found in the stories they read as children.
11am: A fun-filled storytime event from Wigtown Book Festival in Scotland with comic author Pamela Butchart.
1.30pm: Writer Steven Butler steps in to referee the head-to-head draw off between Brighton-based illustrators Steven Lenton and Sophy Henn as they battle it out illustrating.
2pm: Cressida Cowell and Jason Reynolds chat to Sunday Times children's book critic Nicolette Jones about their roles as UK Waterstones Children's Laureate and US National Ambassador for Young People's Literature respectively. They will celebrate the joys of reading and writing and the good that can come from it. A live Q&A will follow this event.

Sign up to take part in the Reading is Magic Festival

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