Reading is Magic Festival
Monday, September 27 – Friday, October 1, 2021
Family favourites Cressida Cowell and Michael Rosen among stars at online books festival for schools and families
Reading is Magic Festival, the digital books festival born out of necessity during last year’s lockdown, will return this autumn to entertain and engage children and young people. A host of writers and illustrators are to take part in the five-day festival which will be beamed into schools and homes all over the world.
Reading is Magic Festival was founded by Bath Festivals, producers of Bath Children’s Literature Festival. It takes its name from Waterstones Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell, the internationally bestselling author-illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon series and a tireless campaigner for children’s literacy. Cressida coined the term “reading is magic and magic is for everyone” as she set out her ten-part manifesto championing young people when she became the Waterstones Children’s Laureate in 2019. She will also take part in this year’s festival and share her latest project, Life-changing Libraries, which showcases the transformative impact a well-resourced primary school library has on a child’s opportunities in life alongside the vast inequality facing children across England.
Joining the free and inclusive programme in 2021 is Michael Rosen, author of many children’s favourites including We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. The former Waterstones Children’s Laureate creates author events that are loved by children and parents alike. Also bringing interactive events to the festival are illustrator Rob Biddulph, the artist behind the online hit Draw With Rob; Laura Ellen Anderson, illustrator and creator of Amelia Fang; and Frank Cottrell Boyce, author of laugh-out-loud books for children, including Millions and who worked with Danny Boyle to write the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.
There will also be talks from YA authors Holly Bourne and Will Sutcliffe (whose book Whatever Makes You Happy became a hit Netflix film Otherhood); graphic novelist Alice Oseman; poet Rebecca Tantony; and US middle grade author BB Alston, creator of Amari and the Night Brothers. There will be hands-on projects to do at home or in the classroom, draw-alongs and plenty of inspiration to get children reading and writing.
Over the five days, from Monday, September 27 and Friday, October 1, different themes from Cressida Cowell’s Waterstones Children’s Laureate Charter will be discussed. These range from empowering children to play their part in looking after the area where they live, to opening discussions about issues facing LGBTQ2S+ and people with disabilities, as well as the power of friendship. There will be events that encourage creativity in words and pictures and others to make young people think about what they want from books and relationships.
Each event is carefully targeted at different age groups, ranging from five-year-olds through to young adults. Festival programmers have talked to teachers about what was successful in last year’s Reading is Magic Festival and taken care to reflect what is taught in schools. As with last year’s festival, Bath Children’s Literature Festival has teamed up with festival partners in different parts of the world, with events coming from Kingston in Jamaica, Toronto and Dublin, among others. The partnership of festivals and programmers is made up of Bath Children’s Literature Festival, Boswell Book Festival, Bradford Literature Festival, Kingston Book Festival, the Irish Children’s Laureate, New Dutch Writing, Seven Stories, Toronto International Festival of Authors and Wigtown Book Festival.
Toronto International Festival of Authors is proud to present Speaking Poetry to Power on September 28 at 8:30am ET, in partnership with JAYU.
The 2020 Reading is Magic Festival was estimated to have been watched by 150,000 children and young people in more than 65 countries worldwide.
“We loved all the different videos aimed at different year groups this meant the whole school could participate. We created a Reading is Magic corridor full of potions for the perfect book, a big display on how we can save the Earth, magical vocabulary artwork taken from our favourite magical stories, Reception even managed to draw illustrations from their favourite books!” – Feedback from a teacher whose school was involved in the 2020 festival.
“Sharing is at the heart of the Reading is Magic Festival and sharing stories has never been more important. It was an absolute pleasure to be asked to produce an online event for the Borders Book Festival, in the hope of reaching out to entertain and inspire families at home. How utterly amazing then to have that reach extended nationally and internationally by the genius concept of a shared festival platform. To be afforded the opportunity to introduce my books to so many new readers in this way has been a privilege. In the true spirit of sharing, the Reading is Magic Festival is magic indeed!” author-illustrator Kristina Stephenson.
Thank you to Reading is Magic Festival supporters Ballie Gifford, sponsors Kingswood School and Novia, media partners Fun Kids Radio and First News, and to accessibility partners Calibre Audio for their continued support.