On 18 September 2019, in front of 150 enthusiastic pupils at Jubilee Park Primary School in Newport, Literature Wales announced popular Pembrokeshire-based children’s author Eloise Williams as the inaugural Children’s Laureate Wales. The mission: to inspire and spark the imaginations of children and young people across Wales through literature.
Two years on, as we prepare to announce the next Children’s Laureate Wales on 7 October, we look back at some of the wonderful highlights of Eloise’s laureateship and share her special closing message.
At the beginning of her laureateship, Eloise shared a letter to the children of Wales. In this letter, she emphasised how excited and honoured she was to be their Laureate; how she would do her very best to help them find the right stories for them; would push for them to see themselves well represented in literature; and most importantly, that their voices mattered.
Today Eloise ends her laureateship by sharing a special recorded message which includes some of her experiences during her time as Children’s Laureate Wales and her thoughts on what is vitally important for our children and society going forward. Watch the recording below or download a written version of the message here.
The buzz of the launch in September 2019 resulted in many schools inviting Eloise to visit them. In her first school term as laureate (Autumn 2019), Eloise either visited or arranged to visit 36 schools across Wales. The impact of the visits was clear to see…
“It was, without exaggeration, one of the best days I’ve had since I became a teacher, and by far the best of these events that I have been involved in. Never before have I seen young writers so focused and inspired. It truly was a masterclass in enthusing, challenging and engaging children through creative writing. It was a truly magical day.” – A teacher at Sully Primary School
World Book Day celebrations, in partnership with Theatr Clwyd
On 5 March 2020, to celebrate World Book Day, Eloise teamed up with Gwenno Eleri Jones, resident visual artist at Theatr Clwyd in Flintshire to run a day of creative writing and art workshops for pupils at Nercwys Primary School. They worked with pupils to write their own pieces of flash fiction before creating concertina books filled with prints inspired by their stories. The stories and books were displayed at Theatr Clwyd’s exhibition space during the same month.
Read more about the day here.
Weekly Writing Challenges
Six months into Eloise’s laureateship, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Schools closed, many people were forced to work from home, parents and guardians faced home-schooling, and no one really knew what was around the corner. It was more important than ever that children of Wales could find comfort and entertainment through reading and creative writing. For the first two months of the initial lockdown in March – May 2020, Eloise, along with Bardd Plant Cymru Gruffudd Owen, set Weekly Writing Challenges for children.
Over eight weekly challenges, hundreds of poems, stories, videos, animations and illustrations were shared with us by children from Wales and beyond.
Below are links to the challenges that were set:
Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8
Am Reading with Children’s Laureate Wales
Over summer 2020, Eloise encouraged children and adults alike to share their favourite children’s books from Wales, or by Welsh writers, on social media using the Am Reading with Children’s Laureate Wales templates and #AmReadingWithCLW hashtag, before nominating friends, family, and teachers to do the same. The aim was to highlight fantastic children’s books from Wales, and to promote the benefits of reading for pleasure.
Below are the Am Reading with Children’s Laureate Wales templates:
Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
Winter Writing Workshops
In November and December 2020, Eloise released a series of free online writing workshops for 7 – 14-year-olds. The four sets of workshops each consisted of six short videos for teachers to play in front of a class, with various exercises and tasks for pupils to complete between each video.
Below are the workshop videos and accompanying resources for pupils:
Workshop 1 – Winter / Island (for ages 7-9)
Workshop 2 – Ghost / Spooky (for ages 10-14)
Workshop 3 – Witch / Legends (for ages 9-11)
Workshop 4 – Victorian / Christmas / Local history (for ages 9-13)
International Children’s Laureates video
In December 2020, Children’s Laureates from several countries around the globe came together to share a positive message about the power of books and reading at the end of a challenging year. The video was shared widely, and in addition to Eloise, featured Áine Ní Ghlinn (Laureate na nÓg, Ireland), Cressida Cowell (Waterstones Children’s Laureate UK), Henrika Andersson and Amanda Audas-Kass (Finland), Alessandro Sanna (Italy), Bagir Kwiek (Sweden), Manon Sikkel (Netherlands), Ursula Dubosarsky (Australia), and Gruffudd Owen (Bardd Plant Cymru). Watch the video here.
Letters of Kindness
To coincide with the unveiling of her special themed Royal Mail post box in Cardiff on World Book Day in March 2021, in recognition of helping to keep children entertained during lockdown through literature activities, Eloise launched the Letters of Kindness project.
The project encouraged children to write a letter of kindness to themselves to highlight kind things that they do or have done, and things about themselves and in their lives that they appreciate and are proud of. The idea was inspired by one of Eloise’s characters, Wilde, who writes a letter to herself and learns to celebrate her individuality and the things which make her different during the story. The project aimed to promote mindfulness and increase a feeling of self-worth in children.
Cymru Euro 2020 Poetry Competition
In celebration of Cymru qualifying for their first consecutive Euro finals tournament, the Football Association of Wales and Literature Wales joined to launch the exclusive Cymru Euro 2020 Poetry Competition in April 2021. The competition invited the children of Wales to submit poems on the theme of identity for a chance to win a host of fantastic prizes. Eloise was joined on the judging panel by two Cymru international footballers, Ben Davies and Rhys Norrington-Davies, Gruffudd Owen (Bardd Plant Cymru), and singer-songwriter Kizzy Crawford.
The competition attracted 495 entries in total, and the winning English-language entry by Martha Appleby from Pontarddulais which is about girls playing football has been made into a film and is part of the Cymru Women’s World Cup 2023 Qualifying media campaign. Watch the film here.
Tonyrefail Young Carers Sessions
Through an initiative led by the First Campus Team at Cardiff University, Eloise led creative writing sessions over three months with a group of Young Carers at Tonyrefail Community School in Rhondda Cynon Taf.
One parent said: “[My son has] enjoyed talking to Eloise and the other children. He’s been asking lots of questions, such as about how she got inspiration for the book. He’s made lots of friends through doing it. It’s encouraged him with his reading too.”
Read more about the project here.
A successful grant application means that the partnership with Tonyrefail Community School will continue over the whole 2021-2022 academic year. Eloise will be working with the school for a day each week and will provide a fantastic case study of how engagement with an author over an extended period of time can benefit children with their confidence, health and well-being.
In summer 2021, Eloise chaired two Digital Discussions.
The first was a discussion with three passionate primary teachers, Claire Douglas, Scott Evans and Simon Fisher, about creating a reading culture in schools and inspiring children to read for pleasure. Watch the discussion here.
The second was a discussion with four Rising Stars Wales Award winners Bev Lennon, Connor Allen, Sadia Pineda Hameed and Taylor Edmonds. The Rising Stars Wales Award is a partnership between Literature Wales and Firefly Press, and gives Children’s Poets from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds based in Wales the opportunity to further develop their skills and writing for children. Watch the discussion here.
Dy Lais / Your Voice
In partnership with Senedd Cymru during summer 2021, Eloise was one of four writers, alongside Anni Llŷn, Gruffudd Owen, and the Poet in Residence for the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Taylor Edmonds, who held workshops with primary schools in every Local Authority in Wales. The children learned about the work of the Senedd before creating poems about the Wales they want for the future. A bilingual poem edited together from the individual school poems will be performed live at the official opening of sixth Senedd term in autumn 2021 attended by Her Majesty The Queen.
During her laureateship, Eloise worked tirelessly to promote and raise awareness of children’s authors from Wales on Twitter. Her fourth novel, Wilde (Firefly Press), was published in May 2020 and was shortlisted in the Children and Young People category for the Wales Book of the Year Awards 2021.
Literature Wales would like to thank Eloise for her outstanding commitment to the role over the past two years. Children across Wales have found a love for reading and a platform to express themselves through her work. Diolch, Eloise.