The first batch of books from our Big Issue Big Book Giveaway has landed at a west London school with a special visit from champion of kids’ literacy, former children’s laureate and author of the bestselling We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen.
“It’s great to be here to present these books to you all!” Rosen bellows to an assembly hall of open-mouthed primary school children, thrilled to be entertained by one of the UK’s favourite kids authors.
He is here at Ark Burlington Danes Primary Academy in west London to present our first batch of books.
When we asked Rosen if he would do the honour of delivering our first batch of books (to a school whose library is still incomplete three years after it opened), he jumped at the opportunity.
Today, he’s reading an extract from his new book, Bah! Humbug!, his reworking of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, then leads the children in a lively rendition of his poem This Is The Hand (complete with actions, of course).
“If we think it’s important to help children read, then they need access to books, it really is that simple,” Rosen says. “Reading for pleasure is not, as it sounds, something cosy and sweet. It’s a crucial way in which we get to understand the world – through finding the books we want to read and talking about them. That helps you understand the world, and once you want to read you do it more and more and more. You have to stimulate reading for pleasure.”
We kicked off our campaign four weeks ago with a simple idea: to put books into the hands of people who need them, but for various reasons can’t get them. With public libraries facing closure, school libraries struggling and reading opportunities being cut across the country, we wanted to share the books that are sent to our office each week to ensure people who want and need them can have them.
We asked you to let us know of any groups that needed books – and we were bowled over (though not shocked) by the response. We were asked by around 50 organisations to help them out.
It was Leah Leslie, mum of reception class pupil Sofia, who let us know of the Ark Burlington Danes Primary Academy’s dire need.
The school was the brainchild of headteacher Lisa Crispin. She wanted to meet the challenge of primary school places in her area and build on the success of the secondary school it shares a ground with. She believed so passionately in the power of books that each of the classes are named after famous children’s authors (Bond, Blyton, Dahl, Donaldson, Milne, Potter – and, fittingly, the reception class is named Rosen). Sadly, though, Lisa passed away last summer from an aggressive cancer.
New headteacher Gemma Grierson has picked up the torch and led the charge with the parents’ association to raise the funds for a memorial library in Lisa’s name.
The challenge of establishing a new school meant the library was not completed for its opening, with tight funding and financial pressures in schools nationwide meaning classroom and curriculum books are given priority over building an environment to foster a lifelong love of reading, and the opportunities this can bring.
Gemma says receiving the books was a real joy for the school. “We’ve really been hit by tragedy in recent years. The impact of Lisa’s death has been felt in the school, and the Grenfell Tower incident has affected us too. Some of our pupils knew people involved, and our senior school took in a class from a school nearby.
“So initiatives like this are so important to schools like us to help us find our feet, and we hope that soon we can open our library for all of our children to enjoy. This goes a long way in helping us do that and I’m sure, for years to come, the children will remember Michael’s visit with joy.”
We’re delighted to start our giveaway in such a great place.
After Rosen got the ball rolling for our Big Book Giveaway we began sending out the stacks of books from our office to some of the groups in need with more and more being sent out every single day this week until each organisation that got in touch has received their books.
Piles and piles of books getting ready to head to their new homes (complete with #WhyBooksMatter bookmarks!) as part of our Big Issue Big Book Giveaway.
We’re sad that schemes like this are needed but happy that we can, in some small way, help.
Our Big Book Giveaway is part of The Big Issue’s broader philosophy of putting prevention first. We believe the key to eradicating poverty – as Big Issue founder John Bird has made his mission since he entered the House of Lords – is prevention.
That means preventing people falling in to poverty and ending up on the margins, jobless and homeless, in the first place – so that billions are no longer spent picking up the pieces at the other end. Better health and education are two of the pillars of poverty prevention – and we know that literacy can literally change lives.
So that’s why The Big Issue’s #whybooksmatter campaign has been backing the fight to save libraries, fund them better, create more librarian jobs in schools, public libraries, prison libraries. And ensure that books are anywhere that they are needed.
Get in touch to tell us your ideas about #whybooksmatter.