BookTrust’s new Writer in Residence will champion the power of non-fiction to get children reading

Rashmi Sirdeshpande will explore the unique power of non-fiction to get families reading together as BookTrust’s new Writer in Residence

Award-winning author Rashmi Sirdeshpande has today (Monday 19th February) been announced as the new Writer in Residence at BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity and will be taking up the role from 1st March 2024. She follows in the footsteps of some of the best loved children's authors and illustrators in the country, including Michael Rosen, Cressida Cowell and Nick Sharratt.

Sirdeshpande will use her residency to champion the benefits of an underrated form of storytelling: children’s non-fiction books or factual books. The theme of her time as BookTrust’s Writer in Residence will be “Using factual books to fascinate young readers” and will encourage children and grown-ups to discover mind-enriching facts together.

During her residency, Sirdeshpande will talk about the magic of curiosity and wonder, and how this can be cultivated in children through sharing non-fiction books. She will explore how factual books can open children’s eyes, make them laugh, make them think, spark interesting conversations with others, and help turn empathy into action. Her message for families is that choosing to read non-fiction together is a powerful way to bond, to explore interests and to have fun.

Rashmi Sirdeshpande is the author of uplifting and hopeful children’s books including Never Show a T-Rex a Book (illustrated by Diane Ewen), Dadaji’s Paintbrush (illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane), and Good News: Why The World is Not as Bad as You Think (illustrated by Adam Hayes). A former World Book Day author, Rashmi has won a number of awards, including the Diverse Book Awards and the Society of Authors Queen’s Knickers Award, which celebrates “outstanding” picture books. Her factual book Good News was shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards, Best Book with Facts. As a British South Asian writer who has been diagnosed with autism and ADHD as an adult, Sirdeshpande is an advocate for diverse representation of all kinds in children’s literature.

BookTrust’s Writer in Residence programme provides a platform for writers and illustrators to explore issues that they are passionate about and use their creativity to inspire more children to discover the joy of reading, so they can enjoy all the benefits this brings.

As a creator of both children’s picture books for pre-schoolers and factual books for primary school age children, Sirdeshpande has experience in capturing the imagination and interest of a broad range of young readers. Her picture books promote creativity and lateral thinking, while her non-fiction titles encourage children to self-reflect, explore their personal interests, and stay curious about the world around them.

This aligns with BookTrust’s findings about the holistic benefits of reading for pleasure – and how it can help make children happier, healthier, more creative, more empathetic and more successful at school. This is why the charity’s Reading Together campaign is calling for sustained government investment in children’s reading in early childhood. Promoting pathways to excite and inspire families to read together is vital for helping more children develop a love of reading, so they can experience the benefits.

Rashmi Sirdeshpande says: “As BookTrust’s new Writer in Residence, I’d love to get children and grown-ups reading more factual books together. I want to see those shared moments of reading spark conversations and awaken inner storytellers. I was diagnosed with autism and ADHD aged 39 and, looking back, I see why factual books were always so perfect for me as a child. They let me follow my areas of intense interest down the deepest rabbit holes. But I believe factual books are truly for everyone – neurotypical readers too – because we’re all curious about the world. I want people to see that these books can make reading accessible and irresistible. I love seeing children's eyes light up when they discover a fascinating fact and you can see they're bursting to share it with someone. Today, in this golden age of children’s factual books, there is so much richness and variety (and stunning art too!). If you find the right book, it brings children (and grown-ups) together in a shared ‘wow’ moment that can really stay with them. I've seen it. It sets children on an amazing path of loving books and loving learning.”

Diana Gerald, CEO of BookTrust, continues: “We’re so happy Rashmi Sirdeshpande is lending her voice to explore this vital theme as BookTrust’s Writer in Residence. At BookTrust, we hear time and time again how much families enjoy the non-fiction books gifted through our charity’s programmes to those on low incomes or who are most vulnerable. Parents and carers tell us their children love sharing facts from their new books – whether they’re about animals, aeroplanes or history. It shows how powerful books can be for creating conversations between families, which supports children to bond, feel safe and develop socially and emotionally. For older children, a non-fiction book is a deep dive into a topic that captures their imagination. If a factual book sparks a reluctant young reader’s interest, it could be the catalyst for their reading journey. We can’t wait to see how Sirdeshpande champions this during her residency at BookTrust.”

The BookTrust Writer in Residence project has been running since March 2009 and has featured several authors and illustrators including Cressida Cowell, Sita Brahmachari, Patrick Ness, Polly Dunbar, Bali Rai, Matt Haig, Laura Dockrill, Chris Riddell, Nicola Davies, Cerrie Burnell, Sarah McIntyre, Philip Ardagh, Taran Matharu, Nadia Shireen, Candy Gourlay, Phil Earle, Ed Vere, Smriti Halls, Onjali Q Raúf, Dapo Adeola, Michael Rosen, Nick Sharratt, SF Said and Michelle Robinson.

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