Monday, 1 December 2014

Spreading Festive Book-Cheer - Robin Steven tells us why she supports the Blackwell's Oxford Giving Tree

Why I Support The Blackwell’s Oxford Giving Tree

Christmas, for me, is about trying to show my appreciation of the people who make my life wonderful. I love giving gifts to friends and family because it’s a small way of telling them how much I’m glad of them – and I also think that Christmas is a good time to look further than the people in my own life, to recognise how lucky I am to have everything that I do.

As an author who also works for a children’s publisher, my whole life revolves around books. If I wasn’t literate I’d be a very different, and much less happy, person. Reading has given me so much, and I think it’s important for me to acknowledge that and try to pass on that gift to others.

That’s why I was so glad to have been asked by Blackwell’s bookshop in Oxford to help launch their Giving Tree charity scheme for 2014 (Press here for more information), along with fellow authors Jo Cotterill, Susie Day and Sally Nicholls. The Giving Tree is a drive that Blackwell’s has run for the past three years – in partnership with The Children’s Society, it allows shoppers to buy books for disadvantaged children who would not otherwise receive them this Christmas.

It is very sad that a scheme like this is necessary, but it absolutely is. The facts are stark and deeply upsetting. The number of children living in poverty has risen sharply since the beginning of the recession. It’s now approximately 27% of all children in the UK – a quarter of all British children live in families who, through no fault of their own, struggle to feed them and keep them warm and dry. In those circumstances, it’s hard to think beyond necessities. It’s not surprising that parents choose to buy food for their children rather than books – but those children still need books just as much as anyone else.

We know that children who read at home do better in school giving children books really can help lift them out of poverty. Reading gives children the tools they need to succeed as adults. But for me there are other, less measurable advantages. Reading builds empathy and imagination. Books bring young readers happiness, interest and excitement, and they help children learn to dream. If a child goes to sleep hungry most nights, life can seem very narrow and dark. Reading about other experiences allows those children to see that there is something else to hope for.

Books give value to people’s lives, and that’s why I want to urge you to support the scheme – either by visiting the store, or by purchasing a book online by pressing here. Either method will get a book into a child’s hands.

Remember that, in being able to afford books, we are lucky beyond measure. Remember that, as libraries are threatened with closure all over the country, it is becoming more and more difficult for underprivileged people to access books. Remember what books have done for you. And please be generous this Christmas.

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