I’ve been asked why I enjoy being a #BookBuddy. Well, to understand that you need to understand a little about me.
Reading has been a massive part of my life. One of my earliest memories is of learning to read from a picture book with my mum, I was pre-school and always stumbled over ‘occasional table’. Occasional is still one of those words I have to check, so as a 4 year old I can understand why it was always a stumbling block. Throughout my childhood I always had my head in books. My friends disliked getting vouchers as presents, I adored getting book tokens – it meant I could go to a bookshop and browse for a new book. I mostly read books from the library, we were regular visitors, so the idea of buying a new book that I could keep was always important, and choosing the right books was paramount but time consuming, fortunately I had book-loving parents who understood.
I have strong memories of two of the first books I bought. Firstly, The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown. I so wanted to part of the group opening up a real live theatre and hearing the curtain swish across the stage – such a joyous read. Secondly, was Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Verse – I re-read that book until it fell to pieces, and then I bought another copy. I could recite most of the poems.
As I grew older I switched between genres, factual, fiction, fantasy or thriller… it didn’t matter, I consumed them. Dad and I shared a love of Pratchett and Lord of the Rings and had lengthy discussions about world building. I’m one of those people that has lots of odd facts in my head and when people ask how I know these things I always answer the same… “I read a lot.”
I always longed for grandchildren I could read to, encourage a love of books and share in discussions about characters and places as they began to learn the joy of reading. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. In order to have grandchildren, you first need to have children – and I never did.
Then I wrote a children’s book and to understand where my book would sit in the book-selling market I began to read other middle grade books. The first few books I read blew me away, the story-telling was so good. I was hooked on middle grade books… but what to do with them once I’d read them? And then, one Saturday twitter exploded with discussions of getting books in to schools, where libraries were struggling through budget cuts. A conversation between Maz Evans and a few others took over that day and #BookBuddy was born. I knew this was something I wanted to be part of, I would have somewhere to send the books on to where they would be enjoyed. I located a local school and we were matched together, and so the relationship began.
I read a book or two each week on my commute to work, so I could send off a #BookBuddy parcel every couple of weeks and gradually the children got used to these arriving. They began to get excited to see what books were in them and feedback from their teacher was that new books were being snapped up and there was a definite buzz around these deliveries. Then one day I received a thick envelope. I had 25 thank you letters from the school children, some telling me which books they had especially enjoyed, some telling me they had discovered their new favourite author among the books I’d sent in. I got a great feeling of pleasure from knowing that such a simple act of sending in books that I had enjoyed was being enjoyed so much. I began to write little cards for each book, telling them what I had enjoyed about it. I find I look for different authors to introduce them to a variety of books, knowing that not everyone enjoys the same kind of story, and in doing so my enjoyment of reading has grown too. I cannot remember a year when I have read so many first-rate books. I am hoping to visit the school very soon and hear first-hand about which books they enjoy. I tell everyone I can about the scheme and I now have work colleagues passing books to me to send in too.
Reading has been a massive part of my life, it’s a basic part of being a child… to have books to read for fun, and by passing books on through the #BookBuddy scheme, I know I may be making a difference to a few children who will develop a love of reading too.
And now I always have space on my bookshelf for more new books.