More than 80 poets, including Roger McGough and Michael Rosen, are supporting a campaign to get bookshops to give more prominence to children’s poetry.
The push has been initiated by poet Chrissie Gittins, who attends regular children’s poetry summit meetings at the Poetry Book Society, and has said the lack of stock in stores is “something that comes up frequently”.
“I write children’s poetry myself and I know from going to school’s and libraries that children adore poetry when it’s put in front of them but it’s not easily available,” she said.
Gittins said the lack of attention on children’s poetry is a “general problem” but she has chosen Waterstones as the focus for the campaign because “they are the bookshop everyone knows about”.
Poets who have lent their support to the campaign include Valerie Bloom and Wes Magee, alongside Chris Holifield, director of the Poetry Book Society, and Susannah Herbert, who runs National Poetry Day. Writers Philip Ardagh, Meg Rosoff, David Almond are also supporting the call for more children’s poetry in shops.
Gittins said she conducted an informal survey and asked friends and colleagues for feedback on how children’s poetry is stocked in their local Waterstones and out of 32 shops, only two – Leeds and Cambridge – had two shelves or more. Other shops had one shelf and, in some cases, just a small number of volumes.
The poetry books are also categorized under different labels, varying from jokes, hobbies, fairytales, rhymes and gifts.
Gittins said: “I’d like to see a bookshelf with 'children’s poetry' on the top of it. I would like to see a much wider selection and for staff to treat them in the same way as other books, by reading them and making recommendations."
In response, Florentyna Martin, children’s assistant buyer at Waterstones, told The Bookseller: “Across all departments, our booksellers are encouraged to prioritise space allocation and theming in accordance to their local customer base and size of store. We are adapting areas of backlist and range to support the new national curriculum, which includes Children’s Poetry, and we always look forward to seeing new title publishing in this area.”
Gittins is the author of several collections of poetry, including Stars in Jars (A&C Black Childrens & Educational), published in February, and I Don’t Want an Avocado for an Uncle (Rabbit Hole Productions).