An award-winning artist who collaborated with Joe Wicks on his first children’s book this year will become Northern Ireland’s new children’s writing companion.
Paul Howard, who accepted the post based at the Seamus Heaney Center at Queen’s University Belfast, said he wanted to use his experience to make literature accessible to young people in Northern Ireland.
Howard, who lives in Belfast, is best known for illustrating Jill Tomlinson’s classic The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark and, most recently, The Burpee Bears, a new series of picture books from fitness guru Joe Wicks .
Howard said: “As an illustrator, my main aim is to bring a new dimension to the role by promoting visual literacy as an alternative and accessible gateway for students and children of all literacy levels, giving them self-confident enough to read and create their own stories.
“The scholarship will also allow me to take the opportunity to take my storytelling workshops to schools that for some reason have never seen a visit from an author or illustrator before, s ‘strive to seek creative inspiration outside of the classroom and shed light on the incredibly rich heritage of children’s literature that we have in this part of the country.
He added: “I am truly honored to be named our new Children’s Writing Fellow, adding to the incredible accomplishments of my former Fellows, Myra Zepf and Kelly McCaughrain.”
After graduating in Graphic Design and Illustration in 1989, Howard worked at the Natural History Museum before becoming a full-time illustrator. His work has since been acclaimed by the publishing industry and children around the world.
During his 30-year career, he has collaborated with some of the most well-known names in children’s literature, such as Allan Ahlberg, Michael Rosen, Geraldine McCaughrean, Anne Fine, Trish Cooke, Martin Waddell and John Boyne.
It has won awards including a Blue Peter Award for The Bravest Ever Bear and The Primary English Award for The Year in the City.
Howard has lived in Belfast for over 20 years with his wife and three children.
Seamus Heaney’s daughter, Catherine Heaney, said: “With decades of experience as an author and illustrator of children’s books, Paul knows exactly how to connect with young people in the classroom and beyond, stimulating their imagination and encouraging them in their own reading and writing.
“We look forward to seeing him build on the incredible work done by his predecessors, Myra Zepf and Kelly McCaughrain, and wish him every success in this role.”
Professor Glenn Patterson, Director of the Seamus Heaney Center at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “Paul is a respected and award-winning children’s author and illustrator. It is not only school-aged children who will benefit from this rendezvous: our own students will learn a lot from, and be inspired by, his vast creative knowledge and wealth of experience.
Paul McVeigh, Acting Head of Literature at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added: “In his role, Paul will work with children of all ages and reading levels to explore the joy of books, while encouraging them to embark on their own storytelling adventures through illustrations and words.
Howard will take office in January 2022.
The scholarship was created as part of the Queen’s University and Northern Ireland Arts Council 10-year joint legacy project, supported by Atlantic Philanthropies.
Howard will be based at Queen’s Seamus Heaney Center for two years, working with students and engaged in outreach activities.