Generosity of speed-reading devices helps create new school library | Books | entertainment
Author Lee Child supports the Daily Express’ Give a Book campaign
Give A Book is a charity dedicated to promoting books and the joy of reading in the hardest places. I started it after my husband, Simon Gray, passed away in 2008.
Playwright, novelist, and diarist, Simon loved to read and share his reading. In creating the charity with him in mind, we were motivated by the belief that reading matters – and we wanted to share it with those hard to reach.
We realized that there was a huge void in some primary schools in disadvantaged areas. Around the same time, we partnered with Prison Reading Groups (PRG).
Like us, PRG strives to spread the joy of reading in tough places. Combining our work with children and the PRG’s work with prisoners, we have developed a number of family reading projects across the UK for prisoners and their children to connect with books.
When the Daily Express reached out about making Give A Book a Christmas charity, we had no idea where it would lead. They heard about us through author Anthony Horowitz and shared with the strength of our spirit that reading is important.
Mrs. Antonia Fraser began our Christmas campaign with a simple Express wish: “I want everyone to be able to share in the joy of reading,” she declared with relish. “Books save many people’s emotional lives. When I get to heaven, which is somewhat unlikely, I will ask, ‘Where is the library?’”
Every year we hope to be able to set up a library in a school—usually an elementary school—that doesn’t have one. This changes the future – affecting not only current pupils, but future readers at the school as well as the wider community. The newest recently built school library – at Larkspur Primary Academy in Ware Bhairts – has appeared.
Without a proper library space, there was little opportunity for books, so we were happy to help bring the joy of reading back into the heart of the school.
But our work is not only in schools but in prisons and pupil referral units as well.
Express Readers’ generosity has helped set up a new library at Larkspur Elementary Academy
Speaking of the former, another proponent, Mrs. Penelope Wilton, told this paper: “Reading to a child means that the prisoner contributes to the child’s life, though not with him all the time. What else are you talking about?”
“You can’t just sit there. But if you put a little person on your knee and read to them, you’re contributing in an appropriate way — doing something together.”
We have created many projects around family reading, including having incarcerated parents make their own storybooks for their children, as well as supporting regular family visits with books and volunteer readers.
Since so much of our work is about connecting families through reading, during lockdown we wondered how we might move forward. With prison access difficult, access to libraries limited, and education and visits limited, we began sending prisoners books to share on the ward, or by phone or video call with families, to maintain connection through reading.
Many schools were closed, but places for the children of key workers remained open and we were able to support them with books. Many schools have turned into community centers – so we sent out books to use in our food parcels.
We have recently begun offering specially selected books to children in the luxury and criminal justice sectors, and the feedback is encouraging.
Not many of them had ever had a book of their own. You can’t save a life with a book, but it sure often feels like it. We are overwhelmed by the generosity of Express readers, especially the wonderful letters of support that make people take the trouble to write.
The stories you shared about how important reading is resonate with everything we strive to do at Give A Book.
Victoria Gray is the Executive Director of Give A Book
Just some of the things she said to us: “I was lucky as a kid because my mom introduced me to reading books at an early age and I’ve enjoyed reading books my whole life.”
And: “I can’t imagine a house without books.”
People have told us about reading with their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and making donations even during this really trying time because they can’t imagine life without books. Donations sent with love.
“There wasn’t a lot of spare money when I was growing up during the war years, but I always had a book at Christmas, and I also went to the library even though it was a good mile from home,” one reader told us.
Another pensioner wrote: “During my life I have traveled around the world, seen many wonders, had many different adventures, even gone back in time, stepped into space – all this from my easy chair with a book in my hands.”
Another told us: “All a child needs is love, a book and a ball.”
Then there was a letter from a prisoner on duty, telling us: “I was very fortunate to enter the prison system with a good level of literacy, but through some of the work I did to instruct and support other prisoners, I saw first–face the great lack of many experiences in This field and the benefits of books and reading accordingly.
The prisoner included a poem he had written about reading it and calling us to use it “in any way to support your work… I hope it encourages those in my position to pick up a book… On behalf of prisoners across the country ‘I thank you for your support and I look forward to reading the results of your celebratory campaign’.”
The authors, cast, and many individual thanks here, endorsed the campaign. Alex Whittle wrote how reading was a great equalizer, especially in a cost-of-living crisis where anyone could go to the library and raise their expectations. Others remember their favorite childhood books with pleasure. Sir Michael Morpurgo said the book could begin the journey of a lifetime.
Today I am pleased to reveal that thanks to the support of the Daily Express readers, we will be able to set up a new school library this year in an area of deprivation. We will be able to share progress with you from the start.
We couldn’t be more grateful for this campaign which we know will have a lasting impact.
One Express reader added, “Some of my best friends have been books.” “We keep reading!”
- If you know of a school that might be of interest, please contact via giveabook.org.uk Or write to us at 112-114 Holland Park Avenue, London W11 4UA.