Children’s Poet Laureate Joseph Coelho is getting ready to judge the 10 best entries in a “poetry in motion” competition run with the Thameslink rail network.

The competition follows research revealing eight out of 10 parents wish there were ways to keep youngsters occupied on the train without having to rely on gadgets like tablets, iPads, phones and Nintendo games consoles.

The 10 best poems Joseph chooses will be displayed at stations and on trains after the judging in May and June, with the top young authors getting free return tickets for five family members to use during the school summer holiday.

“Poetry is a way to get children exploring their creativity,” Joseph explains. “It helps them see that their words have power. One of my earliest memories of writing is a poetry competition when I was 12.” 

Joseph Coelho is a best-selling children’s playwright and author of 40 books. He was given the Extraordinary Book of 2023 award at the International Children’s Literature Festival in Berlin and is currently the Waterstone Children’s Laureate 2022-24.

Only one-in-five families apparently now play traditional travel games like ‘I Spy’, the survey among nearly 500 parents with children up to age 13 has found.

So the competition is on for children aged five to 13 to put together a poem about somewhere they want to see by train on the Southern, Great Northern or Thameslink networks. It aims to encourage their creativity and reduce screen time by getting them writing.

Thameslink director Jenny Saunders said: “I know how hard it can be as a mum myself to keep children occupied. This competition is a distraction aimed at sparking their creativity.”

Rail bosses at Thameslink are hoping the competition gets young passengers off their screens and puts their creativity and imagination to the test.

Submissions close at midnight on May 10. Poems are judged on language and structure, theme, creativity and unique inspiration. Winners will be contacted between June 3 and 14 before the public announcement on June 24.

Eager young poets can enter at