How to Train Your Reader... and Life-Changing Libraries

By Matthew Moss 2min read
Crescida Hurford Brown

At the beginning of Cressida Cowell's book A Hero's Guide to Deadly Dragons, the hero, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third (a famously smallish Viking with a famously longish name) is balanced on a ledge about to steal a book from the Meathead Public Library.  Viking culture is deeply suspicious of books, so they are guarded by soldiers, a battalion of dragons, and the Hairy Scary Librarian.  For the avoidance of doubt, the Meathead Public Library is most certainly not open to the public.  But by the end of the book, Hiccup, like his creator, is making the case for access for all to the library.

Because, Cressida Cowell reminds us back in the real world, children on free school meals are twice as likely not to have access to a library, and it's not a situation that the former Children's Laureate is going to accept lying down: for her, libraries are nothing short of life-changing.  And on 20 April she will explain why in the 2023 Philippa Pearce Lecture in Homerton, entitled How to Train Your Reader, and Life-Changing Libraries.   To attend this free lecture, register here.

The Philippa Pearce Lectures are a landmark in the world of Children's Literature in the UK.  Former Lecturers include Michaels Rosen and Morpurgo, Meg Rosoff, Philip Pullman, Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Jacqueline Wilson and most recently Geraldine McCaughrean, who gave the lecture to mark what would have been Philippa Pearce's 100th birthday - you can see the recording here.  Homerton is proud to host the lectures each year, and to be home, too, to one of the UK's most significant collections of children's literature, comprising 10,000 borrowable books, 2,500 rare books and 5,000 children’s annuals. Homerton's collection begins in the 1800s and is added to each year.

Cressida Cowell is the author and illustrator of the brilliantly written (and illustrated!) series How to Train Your Dragon - and also the Wizard of Once books, the Emily Brown series (with Neal Layton), the Treetop Twins series, and the Tiny Detectives series.  It's hard to count quite how many books that makes.

Philippa Pearce (1920-2006) was best known for Tom's Midnight Garden, which won the 1958 Carnegie Medal.  The Lecture series was established by her friends, colleagues and family, and is her enduring legacy.