Waterstones Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho completes his epic nationwide ‘Library Marathon’ with British Library celebration

man in pink shirt

“I have visited libraries in every library authority in the UK: from large Carnegie libraries to tiny libraries in converted one-bedroom flats, on busses and even bikes. The dedication and passion of librarians has been inspiring – not only offering book recommendations, but also safe havens for people to be warm, to feel less socially isolated, to learn new skills or simply to weigh their newborn babies. Libraries have always played a vital part of my life, and so it has been wonderful to see librarians use my visits as an opportunity to get new people to sign up. I hope that the Library Marathon has encouraged many new members into the library and reminded many existing members of all the wonderful work these essential spaces carry out.”

Joseph Coelho, Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2022–2024


On 7 October 2023, Waterstones Children’s Laureate (2022-2024) – Joseph Coelho – will complete his extraordinary ‘Library Marathon’ by joining the final library of this epic, nationwide tour: the British Library.

Libraries have formed a ‘vital part’ of Coelho’s life, and his ‘Library Marathon’ is a heart-felt homage to the vital role they play within communities and in inspiring a love of reading in young people. It is also a call for people, young and old, to join their local library. This final milestone will mean that the current Children’s Laureate – who is an award-winning performance poet, playwright, and children’s author – has joined 213 libraries as part of his cross-country mission.

On 7 October – after a final week on the road visiting libraries up and down the UK – Coelho will cycle, on his trademark homemade bamboo bicycle, to the British Library where he will register as a Reader and kick off a spectacular day of books and reading. The celebration falls within National Libraries Week (2-8 October 2023), an annual showcase of the innovative and surprising things that libraries are doing to support their communities.

Aimed at children aged up to eleven, the British Library’s ‘Family Day: Book Adventurers’ – curated in collaboration with BookTrust and Joseph Coelho – is free although booking is essential. There will be workshops, storytelling, draw-alongs, book-making and performances courtesy of a jam-packed line-up of writers, illustrators, book-creators, dancers, storytellers, puppeteers and artists, all sharing their love of tales, poems, books and ideas. Young visitors are invited to begin a new creative adventure with opportunities to make miniature and pop-up books, comics, fairy tales and puppets, as well as enjoy performances on stage from much-loved authors and illustrators. The storytelling sessions and talks will be supported by BSL interpretation.

The ‘Book Adventurers’ Family Day at the British Library on 7 October 2023 is free but booking is essential. The full programme will be available online from the 22 September, and highlights include:

  • accompanying Michael Rosen into the land of nonsense
  • taking a trip to India with Jasbinder Bilan
  • drawing spooky characters with Flavia Z. Drago
  • designing and creating characters and stories with OKIDO, Viviane Schwarz, Rose Robbins and Sharon King Chai
  • joining the Royal Opera House’s ‘Everybody Dance’ to learn choreography inspired by Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • performing with Fairy Tale shadow puppets, sensory storytelling and building an adventure in the Magical Library


Diana Gerald, Chief Executive at BookTrust, said:

“Joseph’s Library Marathon has been a heroic effort and a fabulous way to highlight the crucial role that libraries play in giving children access to a wide range of books and engaging them with reading through activities and events. This matters because we know from research that children who read regularly and who enjoy reading are happier and do better at school than those who do not. They are more creative and empathetic and go on to do better in life. In these times when money is tight, families need their local libraries more than ever to help make sure that their children get the very best out of life.”

Alex Whitfield, Head of Learning Programmes at the British Library, said:

“We are delighted that Joseph Coelho will be finishing his Library Marathon at the British Library next month. This year marks 50 years since the British Library began operations and one of our core purposes is to inspire learners of all ages. We want children to experiment and gain confidence as storytellers, poets and illustrators – after all, they will be the writers, artists, editors, librarians and book lovers of the future.”

Further information about Coelho’s ‘Library Marathon’ – which has seen him register with a library in every local authority in the UK, as well as Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man – and his two-year tenure as Waterstones Children’s Laureate, managed by the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, BookTrust, can be found here.