Waterstones Children's Laureate Joseph Coelho launches 'Bookmaker Like You' with a mission to ensure 'every child can see themselves as a storyteller with a voice to be heard'

Published on: 07 June 2023

Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2022-2024, Joseph Coelho, has revealed details for a new project with a mission to ensure that every child can see themselves as a storyteller.

Showcasing under-represented artistry

Launching in the autumn, ‘Bookmaker Like You’ will highlight the artistry of creatives from under-represented communities and backgrounds – with a particular focus on new and emerging talent – showcasing the exceptional skill that brings a story to life. Through this showcase, the project will introduce children to a range of bookmakers that truly reflect everyone in our diverse society – so that every child can see themselves as a ‘bookmaker’.

Whilst Joseph Coelho is now an award-winning performance poet, playwright and children’s author – acclaimed for work including the Luna Loves picture books, middle grade series Fairy Tales Gone Bad, YA verse novel The Girl Who Became a Tree, as well as poetry collections for all ages including Overheard in a Tower Block and Poems Aloud – for a long time this dream was beyond anything his younger self could have imagined.

The ‘Bookmaker Like You’ celebration will introduce children to a huge variety of inspirational bookmakers and inclusive stories that reflect themselves and the world around them. By diversifying bookshelves, Coelho hopes that every single child can see themselves as a storyteller:

“I have loved reading and writing for as long as I can remember, but it never occurred to me that this could be a job, or become my career, or shape my future. This all changed when the late, great Jean Binta Breeze visited my school in Sixth Form. It blew me away and at that moment I realised that I could be a writer too, that I could be a poet.

"At the heart of ‘Bookmaker Like You’ is a celebration of the staggering talent across the publishing industry, and it’s also an opportunity for me to tell other people what I’d go back in time to tell little Joe: that their voice is valid, that their words are waiting to be heard, that they can write their own story.”

About Bookmaker Like You 

Coelho’s ‘Bookmaker Like You’ project will celebrate authors and illustrators from under-represented communities and backgrounds through a variety of festival events, interviews, social media takeovers, and a partnership with BookTrust Represents including a virtual schools visit in Spring 2024. The project will run across his remaining tenure as Waterstones Children’s Laureate – the foremost representative of children’s literature, which is managed by BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity.

‘Bookmaker Like You’ will launch with events at Bath Children’s Literature Festival (29 Sept –  8October) and Reading is Magic Festival (2 – 6 October):

Bath Children's Literature Festival (bathfestivals.org.uk)

Friday 29 September – Bookmaker Like You - Industry Day

Joseph Coelho, Waterstones Children's Laureate, will introduce a full day of workshops and talks for GCSE and A Level students as part of his Bookmaker Like You project. The day will provide experience and insight into a wide range of roles in the publishing industry. What is it really like to be an author? How do illustrators and authors work together? What does a publicist do? What are the stages a book goes on from manuscript to bookshelf? The Industry Day will answer these questions and more.

Saturday 30 September – Bookmaker Like You with Joseph Coelho and Selom Sunu

Join Waterstones Children's Laureate Joseph Coelho and fantastic illustrator Selom Sunu for this special 'Bookmaker Like You' event. Selom will be telling us all about the books he illustrates from Jason Reynold's Run series to Mel Taylor-Bessent's The Christmas Carrolls as well as his work on Cbeebies show Jojo and Gran Gran. Joseph and Selom will be exploring how an author and illustrator work together to bring a story to life and Selom’s journey to becoming an illustrator with lots of top tips along the way.

Reading is Magic Festival (readingismagicfestival.com)

Friday 6 October – Bookmaker Like You with Joseph Coelho and J.T. Williams

Join Waterstones Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho and brilliant new talent J.T. Williams for this special ‘Bookmaker Like You’ event. J.T. Williams will be telling us all about her Lizzie and Belle Mystery series, fantastic adventures that feature characters inspired by hidden Black British history. They’ll chat about the journey to being an author and what it takes to bring a story to life as well as sharing some top tips for writing your own stories, showing you that you can be a Bookmaker too!

The ‘Bookmaker Like You’ project will also offer insights from experts including editors, designers, publishers and agents, with the aim of demystifying publishing and inspiring more talent into the industry.

Diana Gerald, CEO of BookTrust, added:

"At BookTrust, we believe that all children should be able to see themselves and wider society represented in the books they read and our own research shows that this has a critical impact on children’s motivations and desire to read.

Whilst there has been steady progress in representation in children’s books over recent years, the UK’s overall body of children’s literature remains far from representative. We are therefore delighted to support Joseph’s new project and to have the Waterstones Children’s Laureate deliver a virtual author visit for BookTrust and the children we support.

These events enable us to bring talented creators of colour directly into classrooms across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, giving thousands of children an opportunity to discover new books, authors and illustrators and inspiring them to tell their own stories.”

Download the press release

You might also like:

Watch Joseph Coelho's Poetry Prompts series

Register for a BookTrust Represents virtual author visit

BookTrust Represents

Our project promotes and supports children’s authors and illustrators of colour, so young readers find the books that represent them.

Learn more about BookTrust Represents