During her first ever visit to Hong Kong, Lauren Child of Charlie & Lola fame, spoke to hundreds of children, teachers and parents. She visited various venues, including CIS, Canadian Int’l School, Peak School, HK Education Bureau and HK Central Library and even a law firm (Stephenson & Harwood) where she spoke to 80 librarians and teachers. Playtimes had a chance to meet Lauren Child, Children’s Laureate and Author/Illustrator, at the Bring Me A Book offices in Central. Here’s what we learned.
Lauren is an absolutely passionate advocate for visual art. As Children’s Laureate in 2017 – 2019 she thoroughly enjoyed being a champion of children’s books and highlighting the true importance of these books. In her laureate position, Lauren had the chance to talk about the things she thinks are incredibly important. She focused on creativity, highlighting how important it is in the development of children, and also the art of doing nothing – we need time each day to not think. A time without distractions is key to allowing creativity to be consolidated.
Lauren’s Path To Becoming An Author And Illustrator
The path Lauren took to becoming a renowned author/illustrator was one paved with art, drawing and design among other creative endeavours. As a child, Lauren was always drawing. She also watched a lot of television and was influenced by film. What TV did was get her interested in a series which drove her back to books (Little House on the Prairie). She believes you can’t think TV is bad and reading or drawing is good as they both led to her learning how to plot a story.
Lauren dabbled in things like writing a film and designing lampshades. Early on in her formal education, and at the young age of 18, she wrote her first book which was accepted but did not go on to be published. In her 20s she wrote many books that were rejected by publishers for one reason or another until she was given an opportunity to write a film. Clarice Bean was born.
With the influence of the likes of Tim Burton, Lauren wrote a fantastic film about a girl, her family and everyday life. The Clarice Bean film script became a series of children’s books full of different perspectives and wonderful imagery. As a reader, you experience the thoughts of Clarice’s parents, siblings and grandparents as she would interpret them. It’s wildly clever and the pages are beautifully crafted. About five years after Clarice Bean was written, it was published and became the start of a successful children’s book career for Lauren.
Creating Charlie and Lola
The creativity seemed to flow the other way in the Charlie and Lola series of picture books as they later became animated television characters. If you haven’t read a Charlie and Lola book or watched an episode of the show, you might be in the minority in Hong Kong. In the series, Lola is a funny, imaginative little girl and Charlie is her very patient older brother who teaches her quite a lot in life.
The beauty of Lauren’s books is that they magnify the smallest of daily life issues and address what children go through in the process of growing up, all while entertaining and giving them gorgeous, artful pages to look at. Some of the inspiration for these books came from her own childhood. Lauren grew up with an older sister who would help her clear her dinner plate by scooping what she just couldn’t possibly finish into the bin when her parents weren’t looking. There is much to learn from exploring these small acts of childhood in a creative way.
Teaching and Learning
Lauren is passionate about teaching children to be inventive without limits and before children see barriers to ideas they might have. She emphasises that it is so important to try things because you never know if music, knitting, dancing, drawing or writing might be your thing. By exposing yourself to a particular discipline, you begin to understand it and you don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it. Trying and failing is important too as there is so much to learn from failure.
The chance to learn something is sometimes all we need. When things are purely goal driven, we may lose opportunities. Lauren feels that having time and space to think allows you to connect thoughts and ideas. It just takes 15 minutes a day of having no distractions and doing nothing.
Since children are born with an ability to read visually, pictures and images are a common language, which for Lauren is the most lovely thing about being a visual artist. Research has shown that picture books are absolutely key and visual literacy is the beginning of reading literacy. It’s even important in the teen years.
If you can get children reading when they are young, they become readers for life. A book can give nourishment and comfort and the ability to read leads to far higher prospects in life.
Lauren Child was brought to Hong Kong by Bring Me A Book Hong Kong, the leading advocate for family literacy in Hong Kong.