Letter from a Laureate: Michael Rosen
To celebrate 20 years of the Waterstones Children's Laureates in 2019, we asked every Laureate to tell us their thoughts, memories and aims while holding the most inspiring post in children's literature.
Here's what Michael Rosen had to say.
When I was Children's Laureate, my main focus was on fun and poetry.
In the fun field, I helped set up what was at the time called the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. This has changed a bit down the years and is now the Scholastic Lollies Award (laugh out loud). Hooray for that.
In the poetry field, I went on a national tour, meeting up with poets all round the country. I turned this into A-Z of Poetry from Agard to Zephaniah for Puffin Books.
Videos of poetry online
I helped organise a national conference and exhibition at the British Library on the history of children's poetry. That became a book which I contributed to and which Morag Styles, Louise Joy and Andrew Whitley edited and called Poetry and Childhood, published by Trentham Books.
I tried to set up an interactive poetry video channel and we kicked it off on the London Grid for Learning but for some reason this petered out – but all was not lost because this is what has got me going with my own Poetry and Stories YouTube Channel, which to date has over 264,000 subscribers and 52 million views.
My son Joe directs this. As it happens, one consequence of that is that I've now hooked up with litfilmfest.com, a group of practitioners in London who do precisely what I tried to do with the London Grid for Learning, helping children make videos of the poems they have written and performed.
Reading for pleasure
Another theme which emerged during my time as Laureate was "reading for pleasure". This was talked about long before I got there but I joined in enthusiastically and made two TV programmes for BBC4 called 'Just Read' (I think!), and I ended up arguing with several education ministers about the need for a coherent policy on the matter. As a coincidence or a consequence (I'm not sure which), Ofsted wrote the recommendation that every school should have a policy on 'reading for enjoyment for all' and put that in their report 'Moving English Forward' (2011). Later, this same recommendation went into the National Curriculum.
Though this is not directly a consequence of the Laureateship, I particularly treasure my collaborations with two other Laureates, Quentin Blake and Chris Riddell, with the books that I've done with them.