New Children's Laureate installed
The new Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman has said she will use her position to be an advocate for public libraries and campaign against "short-sighted" closures.
Blackman, the author of dozens of books including the award-winning Noughts & Crosses series for teenagers, took over from previous laureate Julia Donaldson at a ceremony in central London.
The 51-year-old, who worked as a computer programmer before becoming a full-time writer 23 years ago, said she owed her success to her local libraries when she was growing up in Lewisham, south-east London.
She said: "Each laureate can bring their own passions to it, but one of my passions is the public library service and I wouldn't have become an author and I certainly wouldn't have been standing here now as the Children's Laureate if it had not been for my local library service so that's definitely something I want to be an advocate for and cherishing our libraries and speaking out against library closures as well.
"I will do everything I can to ensure our library service is maintained or improved especially when you look at other countries like South Korea which in 2012 initiated a programme to actually build 180 libraries and Russia are building libraries and we seem to be closing them and I just think its a very short-sighted move."
The mother-of-one, whose novel Pig-Heart Boy was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and made into a BBC series, said it was "a real honour" to be chosen for the role and that children's books needed a champion.
She said: "They inspire our children, they raise their ambitions, they teach them to have better vocabulary, they teach them empathy. There are so many reasons for books and it needs someone to go out there and bang the drum for them and say 'yes our children should be reading'."
Blackman, who lives in Kent, follows previous holders of the role include Quentin Blake and Jacqueline Wilson.
Broadcaster Krishnan Guru-Murthy, who was a member of the laureate selection committee, said: "Malorie Blackman's stories are gripping, daring and reach out to people who might otherwise spend all their time on video games and the internet.
"The panel are unanimous in believing she will be a brilliant and passionate Children's Laureate."