Earlier today, at the National Library in Canberra, The Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation made the exciting announcement that award-winning author, Ursula Dubosarsky is taking on the position of Australian Children’s Laureate for 2020-21.
The author of over 60 books for children and young adults, she has won many national prizes, including the NSW, Victorian, South Australian and Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award, and has been nominated for the international Hans Christian Andersen Award and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for children’s literature.
“Now, more than ever, we need to continue to promote the vital role of creativity and reading in children’s lives. I am thrilled to be appointed to such a significant role in the Australian literary landscape.” said Dubosarsky.
The Laureate is the national ambassador for reading and Australian children’s literature, speaking on behalf of all creators and of the entire industry representing reading advocates, educators, librarians, booksellers and publishers. You can find out more about the role here.
The theme for Ursula Dubosarsky’s two-year term as Australian Children’s Laureate is Read For Your Life.
“My intention wherever I go as Laureate over the next two years is to make an inspiring call to children, parents, teachers everyone to encourage children to join their local library and get their own library card. To create a generation of readers – readers who will continue to read their whole life long – children need access to a lot of books, all kind of books, more books than any one family or even school can every provide”, said Dubosarsky.
The program launched in 2008 and the role has previously been held by Australian children’s literature powerhouses including Alison Lester, Boori Monty Pryor, Jackie French, Leigh Hobbs and the outgoing Laureate Morris Gleitzman.
We were very lucky to speak to Ursula Dubosarsky about her plans for the role and what she hopes to achieve during her two years.
Congratulations on being appointed the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2020 – 2021. What was your reaction when you heard the news?
Shocked, astonished, thrilled, daunted, excited. Quite a tumble of emotions! I still feel all of those, and I hope I go on feeling them. It’s a big event in my life and I’m going need plenty of energy!
What are some of the key things you are hoping to achieve in this role?
The role of the Laureate is to celebrate and encourage children’s reading. Now I think everyone in Australia would agree that they want our children to be good readers. And simple as it may sound, the only way to become a better reader is by reading. But we’re in a wild and thrilling digital age, and given that, we need to make sure we find those opportunities for our children simply to read more.
So my chief project is, everywhere I go, to urge children to join their local public library. I mean actually go the library and get their own library card with their name on it. And then to visit the library regularly, let themselves loose among the books until they discover the kinds of books they are interested in reading. It’s a question of human motivation – children need to want to read for themselves. Joining the library will give them the opportunity to find those books that mean something to them, that they want to read. Once they find them, they will never stop reading. They will read for their whole life. That’s my Laureate slogan, in fact – “READ FOR YOUR LIFE”.
What is it about children’s literature that is so important for you – as a writer and an advocate?
The experiences of childhood have an intensity and meaning that carries through the whole of a person’s lifetime, and certainly reading as a child can be of those very intense and exhilarating experiences. I would wish that all children have access to the unique enchantment that reading a really good book brings.
What did reading mean to you as a child? Were there any particular books or reading moments that stood out?
I was late learning to read, but once I started I was insatiable! I lived for library day at school and for the Saturday morning bus ride to the local library. I read everything, it was all a great adventure of discovery.
Of course, like all children, I loved to read the same book over and over again, until I knew the words off by heart. I can still recite Dr Seuss’ “I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew” for example. (Just ask me!)
What will be your first task in the role?
I’m going to Gunghalin Library in Canberra, to read to pre-school children, and hopefully show them my beautiful feathery Magpie puppet. The Magpie is the mascot of the Laureate – playful, excitable but very focussed too!