Waterstones Children's Laureate Joseph Coelho launches Poetry Prompts campaign on National Poetry Day to 'inspire a nation of poets'

Published on: 22 September 2022

The newly appointed Waterstones Children’s Laureate (2022-2024), Joseph Coelho, has today revealed details about the first campaign in his role as the foremost representative of children’s literature.

The award-winning performance poet, playwright and children’s author will launch ‘Poetry Prompts’ in partnership with BookTrust, on National Poetry Day – Thursday 6 October – marking the beginning of an epic celebration of the power of poetry in all its forms. Through the campaign, Coelho aims to break down the fear often associated with reading and writing and show why poems are for everyone, alongside the joy that writing, reading and performing poetry can bring to our lives.

National Poetry Day also marks publication for Coelho’s latest collection Blow a Kiss, Catch a Kiss: Poems to share with little ones (Anderson Press, 3+), and his YA verse novel The Boy Lost in the Maze (Otter-Barry Books).

Joseph Coelho, Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2022-24, said:

“Poetry Prompts is my invitation to the nation, young and old, to become poets. We turn to poetry at weddings, funerals and births because it goes beyond mere words and translates the soul. But there is baggage associated with poetry that I want everyone to put down – to allow everyone to reclaim the birth right of poet. So often I’ve met children and adults scared to put pen to paper, terrified of ‘getting it wrong’ – this has repercussions in all aspects of life.

I want to show everyone that poetry is for them, that we can enjoy the rules and break the rules.”

From National Poetry Day onwards, Coelho will share a weekly ‘Poetry Prompt’ video to inspire the nation, young and old, to write poems and to become poets. Each video will see Coelho exploring a different subject or technique – such as similes, onomatopoeia and figurative language – and showing how this can be brought to life in fun and engaging ways through poetry.

The first ‘Poetry Prompt’ will tie in with the theme of this year’s National Poetry Day – the environment – and will see Coelho creating a new poem inspired by the sounds of the environment, and showing the freedom that comes with poetry having no rules – ‘it’s your poem and you’re the boss’ – with the suggestion that poems can even be written on a leaf fallen from a tree, bark of a branch, or a stone.

The bitesize video series – each lasting under ten minutes – will be shared on the BookTrust website each Monday morning, with teachers encouraged to share during registration time to help inspire students to pick up a pen and start writing their own poem. BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity and who manage the Laureateship, are set to distribute a Poetry Prompts poster to almost 20,000 primary schools to help inspire children to take part in the campaign and create their own poems.

BookTrust and Joseph Coelho will also be collaborating with the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE), who are the National Poetry Centre for Primary Schools, to create a host of resources to accompany the Poetry Prompts, which will be available to download on the BookTrust website and free for use in schools, libraries and at home to encourage further learning and exploration of poetic form and literacy.  These resources will be accessible to everyone and will encourage children to read and perform Joe’s poetry and be inspired to come up with ideas for their own poems. Coelho has been a patron of the CLPE since 2019.

Diana Gerald, CEO of BookTrust, added:

“At BookTrust we believe all children should be able to enjoy the lifechanging benefits that reading and sharing stories can bring. Poetry can be a powerful gateway into storytelling and can help children to develop their creativity, imagination and inspire them to read, write or perform their own stories to express a whole range of emotions or topics that they are interested in.

We’re incredibly proud to support Joseph Coelho on his mission to break the misconceptions about poetry and hope children and families are inspired to celebrate poetry in all its forms and use it to find their own voice.”

Download the press release

Waterstones Children's Laureate: Joseph Coelho

Poet Joseph Coelho is the Waterstones Children's Laureate for 2022-24.

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 Joseph's been up to.

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