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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 June 2007, 06:34 GMT 07:34 UK
Talking shop: Michael Rosen
Michael Rosen
Rosen takes over from Jacqueline Wilson as Children's Laureate
Author Michael Rosen has been made the fifth Children's Laureate, and said he will use the role to be an "ambassador for fun".

The 61-year-old has been publishing poetry for 33 years, with books including We're Going On A Bear Hunt and Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy.

He also lectures and teaches in universities on children's literature, and takes his one-man show to schools around the world.

As he commences his two-year stint in the role, taking over from Jacqueline Wilson, he tells the BBC News website about his plans and his passion for writing.

How does it feel to be chosen as Children's Laureate?

Very heady stuff, really. I just hope I can live up to the expectations.

Your predecessor Jacqueline Wilson used her time in the role to promote reading to children at bedtime. Do you have any plans?

One of the things I would like to do is help set up a website where poets and children can perform their poems, like a Youtube for performance poetry.

Illustration from We're Going On A Bear Hunt
We're Going On A Bear Hunt is one of Rosen's most popular books
Where did that idea come from?

Partly from my son Joe. He's a film-maker and he cut through all the flim-flam of poems on the page and said: "Come on, this is the medium of today, dad."

Have your children always been an inspiration?

Oh, yes indeed. They gave me ideas and taught me things. But I've always been nervous of using them as a test bed. Just because dad thought something was funny doesn't mean they ever did. Respect is fatal, isn't it?

You've been quite critical of the way schools teach stories and story-writing. Will you be using your position to campaign for a change?

Well, I thought I'd be positive about it. Instead of being critical and negative, we could get teachers to contribute ideas on how to encourage children to read, perform and enjoy a huge variety of poems.

Instead of teaching right and wrong answers, it's about thinking poems are things you can climb into and investigate - just as you would climb into a cupboard and feel your way around to find out where you are.

Children are generally enthusiastic about nursery rhymes and poems like yours, but how do you encourage them to progress to more challenging work like Under Milk Wood or The Iliad?

Well, I think Under Milk Wood is a perfect example. The exciting thing Dylan Thomas did was to write a radio play of many voices. You could take a classroom and split the voices between people. Get them to stand on chairs and call it out around the room to see what happens. You could read some lines in unison, and others you could chant like a song.

You can show children that there are many different kinds of poem, and you use your voice and your body to make them more enjoyable.

Harry Potter illustration
Rosen admits he has to catch up with JK Rowling's Harry Potter series
The promotion machine for Harry Potter has been grinding away for a couple of months already - what do you think about the impact of the book?

I don't think there's been much impact on the way children read. We've had massive cult books before - people used to queue around the block for the next Roald Dahl. But I love the idea that there is excitement around the book. That's very powerful.

Will you be reading it?

Possibly. I read the first two-and-a-half. I'm not going to boast I got any further than that.

Will I read the last one? Well, maybe in my job as the Children's Laureate it would be quite a good idea in case people ask me what I think of it.

You write a lot of nonsense verse. Do you think people are silly enough in the real world?

I think the lovely thing about nonsense is that, usually in literature, we're looking for motivation. But if you take Hey Diddle Diddle, there is no reason why a dish should run away with a spoon. It doesn't have the usual logic of stories - that's quite liberating and bracing for a moment.

Finally, you've been a published poet for 33 years. What's the best rhyme you've come up with?

The jammiest one was "Don't throw fruit-at-a computer". Do you get it?

Michael Rosen was speaking to BBC News entertainment reporter Mark Savage.

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