Australian children need stories and books more than ever to help them deal with a “daunting and unsettling world”, says newly appointed Children’s Laureate Morris Gleitzman.
The famed author will formally take up the role designed to champion children’s literature this week and said he would target parents to play a greater role in getting kids to read.
“The big challenge for young people today is to move towards their adulthood in a pretty daunting and unsettling world,” Gleitzman told ABC News Breakfast.
“I think stories have the opportunity and therefore the responsibility to show all sides of human experience.
“[They] equip young readers to embrace an often dark and uncertain world with optimism, resolve and creativity.
“Young people need stories more than ever.”
The Laureateship was founded in 2008 and is bestowed every two years on a writer or illustrator of children’s books.
Gleitzman will take over from author and illustrator Leigh Hobbs, who used the platform to campaign for school libraries.
Gleitzman will be expected to travel around the country and said his theme would be “stories create our future”.
“I like to think of them as a bit like vitamins,” he said.
“They are not a substitute for lived experience, but because they are so good for young people at developing empathy and insight and resilience and understanding of how problem solving strategies work and how we learn from failure, they allow that lived experience to be that much more fulfilling and satisfying.”
‘I’ll champion stories to adults’
Gleitzman has been writing children’s books for more than 30 years, with titles like Two Weeks With the Queen, Boy Overboard, Bumface and the Felix series.
While his stories are aimed at children, they often include serious themes like cancer, war and grief, and he wanted adults to realise the value kids’ books can have.
“I encourage them to see that in their kids’ stories are things as important as anything that happens in their own corporate and political worlds,” he said.
“I challenge them to look deeply into the stories their children are reading and to be open to what they find there.
“Part of my role as laureate to get out into the adult community as well and do a bit of gentle nudging and reminding that every young person deserves that time and opportunity to read as rich and wide a variety of good stories as possible.”