Award-winning author SF Said takes up his position as the new Writer in Residence at BookTrust on 1st March 2023. The BookTrust Residency has been running since March 2009 and SF Said follows in the footsteps of some of the UK’s best-loved children’s authors and illustrators, including Cressida Cowell, Patrick Ness, Bali Rai, Onjali Q Rauf, Chris Riddell, Michael Rosen and Nick Sharratt. The Residency provides a platform for writers and illustrators to explore the issues that they are most passionate about and to use their creativity to inspire more children to discover the joy of reading.
Said will use his six-month residency to emphasise the benefits of reading for pleasure, challenge the idea that there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way for children to engage with books, and champion children’s right to read whatever books they most enjoy – whether that be graphic novels, picture books, novels or non-fiction.
SF Said says: “I am delighted to be the new BookTrust Writer In Residence! I want to use my time in this role to celebrate the life-changing power of reading for pleasure, and to make the case that every single child can be a reader.
“We know from research that reading for pleasure has the greatest positive impact of any single factor on children’s life chances. I think this means we have to do everything possible to enable every child to find the books that will unlock reading for them; the ones that will light the spark of literacy, and give them a space in which they feel included and inspired.
I will be advocating for all different kinds of books and different ways into reading. I will be talking to some brilliant teachers and librarians about reading for pleasure, and getting their top tips on how to help every child become a reader.”
Said is the author of several award-winning books, including Varjak Paw, which won the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize for Children’s Literature, and its sequel The Outlaw Varjak Paw, which was BBC’s Blue Peter Book of the Year. His third book Phoenix was nominated for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals. Said’s most recent novel Tyger draws upon his own experience of growing up in London in the 1970s as a British Muslim of Middle Eastern origin. Looking back on his own childhood reading, he says “there were no books that I can remember that in any way reflected my identity or experiences” and he looks forward to a point where there’s a “representative ecology in children’s publishing.”
Diana Gerald, CEO of BookTrust says: “SF’s commitment to making reading feel accessible to all children makes him a fantastic force for change and we are honoured to have him on board as our new Writer in Residence. For children to experience the life-changing benefits of reading regularly, it’s vital they are encouraged to choose and enjoy whichever books appeal to them most.
“We need to get the message out there that no book or approach to reading is “right” or “better”. As long as children feel motivated and inspired to read, and are supported along that path, that’s what matters.
We’re so pleased SF will use his residency to amplify this message and we’re looking forward to this being a positive legacy of his residency.”