The Best Children’s Literary Festivals

Henley Literary Festival children

If your children love reading (or could do with some encouragement) book festivals are a great way to engage them in storytelling and have a lot of family fun in the process. We choose 5 of the best children’s literary festivals this autumn.

Literary festivals sometimes get a bad rap, conjuring images of grey-haired Guardian readers waxing lyrical in William Morris-print tents. But festivals are turning their attentions to children, and becoming more imaginative about how they do it. Which is great news for parents: not only do you get the smug glow that comes from doing something educational, you also get a decent day out. Here are five we are going to book (excuse the pun).

Bath Children’s Literature Festival

This Telegraph-sponsored event is the UK’s biggest children’s book festival, which means there’s no shortage of names. Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler and Michael Rosen are all making an appearance this year, while there’s also an opportunity to hear Judith Kerr talk about her life and work.

But don’t expect a dry, adult-oriented affair. The festival’s ethos is all about entertaining children and getting them excited about reading. So, along with readings and author Q&As, there are plenty of quizzes, games and activities. Children can join Aardman Animation’s model maker and create their very own Shaun the Sheep, or learn about illustration with Horrible Histories’ Martin Brown.

Friday 25 September to Sunday 4 October 2015

Write On Kew

The latest addition to the literary scene, Kew Gardens’ brand new festival offers 80 events across a wide range of genres. The children’s section sees talks from a clutch of celebrities and star authors, including Jacqueline Wilson, Lauren Child and Sandi Toksvig. All three will be discussing their work and inspiration. As well as writer talks, there are also hands-on creative workshops. Kids can meet ‘Messy’ and the team from science and art magazine OKIDO in the Ice-creamery, or create an Atlas of Adventure with illustrator Lucy Letherland. Ticket prices include entry to the gardens, so you can easily make a day of it. 

Thursday 24 to Monday 28 September 2015

Ilkley Literary Festival

Ilkley Literature Festival

Famous authors have been flocking to this Victorian spa town’s annual literary festival for more than 40 years. One draw is the setting – it’s surrounded by stunning Yorkshire countryside, while being a mere stone’s throw from Leeds, Bradford and Harrogate.

The children’s festival runs alongside the main event, and is suitable for ages 3-12. There’s a broad line up, which includes book trails, writing workshops and a live version of The Wimpy Kid at the Ilkley Playhouse. Kids can meet Kate Pankhurst, creator of Mariella Mystery, and Demolition Dad writer Phil Earle. Comedian and novelist Julian Clary will also be talking about his book The Bolds.

Friday 2-Sunday 18 October 2015

Henley Children’s Literary Festival

This year’s festival promises to be the biggest yet, with no less than 50 talks and workshops, and 17 free events over the weekend in a town square marquee. Highlights include talks from Lauren Child and Hugless Douglas author/illustrator David Melling, while ex-children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo will be talking at a special event, War Horse and Other Animals.

There’s plenty here to amuse children aged two and up, including Maisy Mouse for younger ones. Older children, meanwhile, will enjoy the session with How to Train Your Dragon creator Cressida Cowell. 

Monday 28 September to Sunday 4 October 2015

Book It!

This is the family and young adult section of the Cheltenham Literary Festival, another biggie on the lit circuit. Again it boasts the usual line up of big names: Julia Donaldson, Lauren Child and Judith Kerr are having a busy autumn, by the looks of things – while new Waterstone’s children’s laureate Chris Riddell also makes an appearance.

It’s worth signing up to the Write On! workshops, where kids can learn about everything from creative writing to making dolls’ clothes. Children who aren’t up for those, meanwhile, might enjoy comedy from Jim Smith’s Barry Loser and John Dougherty’s Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face.

Friday 2 to Sunday 11 October 2015