Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman targets digital youth

By Tim Masters
Entertainment and arts correspondent, BBC News

image captionMalorie Blackman is the bestselling author of the Noughts & Crosses series

The new Children's Laureate, Malorie Blackman, hopes technology can help get young people to engage with books.

Blackman, the bestselling author of the Noughts & Crosses series, was announced as the new laureate on Tuesday.

She takes over from Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson, who has held the post since 2011.

"I've been a professional author for over 20 years, so I feel now is the time to give something back," Blackman said.

She also called on teachers and parents to spend at least 10 minutes a day reading with children.

The Laureate role, which has a bursary of £15,000 and is sponsored by Waterstones, is awarded every two years to an eminent writer or illustrator of children's books.

Previous Children's Laureates include Anthony Browne, Michael Rosen, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and Quentin Blake.

media captionThe new Children's Laureate, Malorie Blackman explains how books became so important to her.

Blackman told the BBC that one of her major projects was a website to host "creative responses" to books by young people who had grown up immersed in technology and social media.

"The first time I touched a computer was when I was 19 but it's part and parcel of their lives," she said.

"I would like to encourage them to express themselves using music, art, film or whatever and upload it to a website having been inspired by particular stories."

Blackman started her working life as a computer programmer before her writing career took off.

A former scriptwriter for TV drama Byker Grove, she is the author of more than 60 books for children and teenagers, including Hacker, Cloud-Busting, Thief! and Pig-Heart Boy.

She was presented with her children's laureate medal at a ceremony at King's Place in central London.

"A love of books has opened so many doors for me. Stories have inspired me and taught me to aspire," Blackman said.

"I hope to instil in every child I meet, my love and enthusiasm for reading and stories. And, as I would never have become an author if it hadn't been for my local library as a child, I intend to continue Julia Donaldson's amazing, indefatigable work advocating for our nation's public library service."

She urged teachers and parents to spend at least 10 minutes per day sharing a book with their pupils and children in a bid to get "more children reading more".

She recalled how she used to enjoy teachers reading stories to her class at school. "It became something we all really looked forward to. That was part of the reason I grew to love stories," she told the BBC.

In her Noughts & Crosses series, Blackman explored issues of race and ethnic identity by depicting a world in which black people, or Crosses, are the ruling elite and white people, or Noughts, have minority status.

"Malorie Blackman's stories are gripping, daring and reach out to young people who might otherwise spend all their time on video games and the internet," said Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy, a member of the laureate selection committee.

"The panel are unanimous in believing she will be a brilliant and passionate Children's Laureate."

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