This Black Friday, as our Chichester Copywriter was merrily filling browsing Amazon’s lightning deals, BookTrust sprang to mind. Every year the UK’s largest children’s reading charity runs #JustOneBook appeal that encourages people to give just £10, which will buy a book and bring delight to a child that is vulnerable or in care. Last year Katy was heartbroken when she missed the deadline by a day so, this year, she’s doubled the donation. Why does Katy donate to this charity? Because it’s something very close to her heart. Here’s her story…
Books are magical
Brought up by a single mum on benefits in a fragmented family and frequently held back by financial strains, I didn’t have a carefree childhood and was often lonely. Books were my saving grace, my escapism and my gateway to a wider world. Books are a way that children, no matter their background, can experience magical things. I’ll refrain from bursting into a song from Matilda The Musical but I did have my own Miss Honey. Actually, I had three.
My Miss Honeys
My mum not only named me after a book (What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge) but also strived to buy me at least one book from the Puffin (and then Penguin) book clubs whenever the coveted shiny booklet was sent home. My gran, who by the time she was 14 taught all the younger children at her school their letters, read me bedtime stories – character voices and everything! – the likes of Dogger by Shirley Hughes. Along with my grandad, she also fired crossword clues and answers across the biscuit tin (subconsciously piquing my interest in words and vocab) whenever we went for tea.
Then there was Mrs Brown, my favourite primary school teacher and fellow arctophile (an avid bear collector). Though I went to a school that was half full of children from underprivileged backgrounds, the efforts of Mrs Brown must have spread far and wide. Not only was she behind school book fairs and author visits (poet Roger McGough and local Gumdrop author Val Biro both came to see us) but she also encouraged us to pen pal with our favourite writers. After carefully crafting a note to Babette Cole, whose charming words and illustrations coloured the 1980s, I was thrilled to receive a response and cherished that letter for years to come. I took this love of books further and became a proud school librarian in Year 6. Although, admittedly, staying inside to sort bookshelves rather than trudging around a dank playground held much of the appeal!
Pay the passion forward
A love for books and writing – with an understanding of what it’s like to come from an underprivileged background – was my motivation for founding Story Factory Chichester with fellow writer Vicky Edwards.
For four years, we held workshops twice annually for children from all over West Sussex and Hampshire. With the help of Sussex Arts Academy, we were able to make a number of half-price places available so that children from all backgrounds and of all abilities could take part in the storytelling fun. This culminated in Story Factory Chichester being awarded a Contribution to the Arts in the Community award in 2017.
Although I’ve closed the Story Factory chapter in my career, I like to pay things forward and make sure children continue to be wowed by stories. This is why I’ll be happy to know that as I open my presents on Christmas day (which, let’s be honest is sure to include a book) there will be two children somewhere in the UK who are also unwrapping books made possible by BookTrust and Chichester Copywriter. It’s important to remember where you’ve come from, celebrate what you’ve achieved and inspire others to do the same – no matter how small the gesture. Why not make a difference with #JustOneBook yourself this festive season?