New projects remember Bookstart founder Wendy Cooling MBE

Published on: 20 June 2023

Three legacy projects are announced today in memory of Wendy Cooling MBE

Wendy Cooling was a pioneer and the founder of Bookstart, the BookTrust programme which gets books into the hands of millions of babies and toddlers each year in the UK and which inspired equivalent programmes around the world.

On 21 June, the three new projects were officially announced at the Yoto Carnegies award ceremony.  

Chair of Judges, Janet Noble, shared the news, noting that: 

Exactly three years ago, the children’s book world lost one of its most loved.” 

Janet Noble invited the audience (both physical and virtual) to remember Wendy for her vision, her passion, her energy and her legacy.  

The three projects are:

Bookstart travel bursary, funded by BookTrust, will be awarded to an organisation or individual from the global south who is looking to set up a Bookstart-style programme in their country. A pilot project, initiated by Jo Williams, is installing an aptly named “Wendy’s House” in a library Malaysia and a school in India. And finally, a tactile book for babies, written and researched by Alex Strick, will be published by Child’s Play.

The three projects are all inspired by Wendy’s lifelong belief in giving all children the right to access great books. Wendy said: ‘If you can readyou can do anything.

Wendy Cooling spent a career transforming lives. She was a teacher, author and anthologist, before developing the concept that would become Bookstart. After leaving BookTrust in 1993, Wendy remained as adviser to Bookstart as she embarked on a 25-year freelance career during which she was a friend to libraries, bookshops, families, organisations, authors, illustrators and publishers alike. She informed and inspired numerous audiences at conferences and enjoyed a valuable role with IBBY UK, Outside In World,  Little Rebels Children’s Book Award, Bookaroo Festival of Children’s Literature and many others. She received the Eleanor Farjeon Award and in 2009, she was awarded YLG honorary membership and the MBE for Services to Children’s Literature. All the while, Wendy (humbly) described herself simply as a “book dabbler”. 

Diana Gerald, Chief Executive of BookTrust, said:

"Wendy was one of life’s true visionaries. Without her passion and commitment, there simply wouldn’t be a Bookstart, not just in the UK but in so many different countries around the world. We are delighted to be able to offer this travel bursary in honour of Wendy and her commitment to children’s reading everywhere to help a country from the global south set up a Bookstart-style programme."

Her family have expressed thanks to the children’s book world for demonstrating a deep and lasting affection for Wendy and their excitement in seeing new projects develop in her memory. They said of the news:

“We remain overwhelmed by the level of affection the book world has for Wendy and are so thankful to the people taking their own time and effort to remember her and her contribution. It has been a source of huge support for us all to know she is loved and missed by so many.”

Download the press release

The Wendy Cooling Legacy Group welcomes any further approaches from parties wishing to link activity or projects to Wendy. Contact: [email protected]

Topics: Bookstart, News