Joseph Coelho X Apples and Snakes x Otter Barry books

We believe representation matters and that’s why we are working with Joseph Coelho, Waterstones Children’s Laureate, and Otter-Barry Books on a project which aims to help diversify children’s literature by developing voices traditionally underrepresented in children’s literature.

Funded by Arts Council England, the project includes a development programme supporting 10 poets from across England to write new poems to be published in an anthology edited by Joseph Coelho and published by Otter Barry Books in March 2024.

The anthology will include three poems by the winners of a children’s kindness poetry competition run as part of the SPINE 2023 programme. Finally, the poets will perform in libraries as part of Apples and Snakes SPIN shows – poetry gigs for kids – as part of SPINE Festival 2023 bringing their new work directly to new audiences.

Research commissioned by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education in 2019, found just 1% of British children’s books featured black or minority ethnic main characters. Fewer than 2% of all children’s book creators – authors and illustrators – are British people of colour, according to the latest research into the publishing industry’s systemic lack of diversity.

By supporting these poets to develop the skills and insight needed to write for children, we hope to actualise our shared ambition for more diverse writers for children. This will result in more representative characters and subjects. We hope that if more children can see themselves represented in the authors and books they read, then more children from all backgrounds will get to enjoy reading and understand that they could be authors in the future too!

Read more about Joseph Coelho’s commitment as the Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate in this blog post and here.

Programme activity

The development programme will consist of 10 online workshops led by Joseph Coelho. Each poet will perform at a library, record their poem and share this as a promotion of the Anthology. Following the workshop programme, participants will submit 5 poems written for children for publication, as well as develop a 10 – 15 minute spoken word poetry set aimed at children aimed 5 – 11.

Performances will take place during April/May 2023 with the anthology published in April 2024.

Following a call-out these poets were selected to participate:

Anneliese Amoah, Antoinette Brooks, Eileen Gbagbo, Gayathiri Kamalakanthan, Ioney Smallhorne, Jasmin Thien, Jay Sandhu, Rowan Kiffin-Murray, Sadatu Futa, Shagufta K Iqbal

This programme is a collaboration between Joseph Coelho, Apples and Snakes and Otter Barry Books. The aim is to diversify children’s literature so that more children can see themselves in the authors and books that they read. Joseph Coelho has a firm belief in the importance of libraries to children and their literary education; that young voices are important and every young voice is valid.


Arts Council EnglandApples and Snakes 40th

This project has been supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

It is also being supported with funding from Apples and Snakes. Apples and Snakes were able to offer a bursary for attending the sessions, with Otter Barry Books paying fees for poems printed in the anthology.