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The children's author campaigning to get books to key workers' children

Esther Marshall wants to spread the positivity to kids whose parents work for the NHS and children who might struggle to access books otherwise

Esther Marshall

Children’s author and charity founder Esther Marshall has launched a crowdfunder to get thousands of copies of her book Sophie Says I Can, I Will to kids through schools and charities during the Covid-19 crisis.

With nearly £8,500 raised so far, she’s on track to hit her £10,000 target through her online fundraiser in a bid to boost kids’ mental health amid the ongoing pandemic.

The cash will help get books to the more than 2,000 people, schools and hospitals that have requested them. Cash is also going to charity sTandTall, founded by Marshall, which supports survivors of abuse.

It’s hoped the book, which “aims to help children believe in themselves regardless of gender, race, religion or class”, will prove a valuable boost to kids at what is sure to be a difficult and confusing time.

Last month the author met with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex as part of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, when she gifted them a copy of the book for baby Archie – now she wants to get its positive message to children whose parents are risking themselves on the frontline and to kids from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Marshall said: “In this uncertain time, I couldn’t help but desperately want to help. But with no medical expertise I was at a loss of what to do and it got me thinking. Here at Sophie Says HQ we have had so many messages from parents saying that the book has inspired them and their children. Parents have said because of the book and its content that it has opened up wonderful conversations with their children.

“That got me thinking. I have been reading so much about vulnerable children and how lockdown is affecting their mental health. And I realised, that through my writing and specifically Sophie Says, I could help vulnerable children’s mental health.

“I have been inundated with requests from schools and charities for copies of Sophie Says to be handed out to vulnerable children and children of key workers during this pandemic. What if we could give a those children a Sophie Says book for them to own? For them to know that it’s theirs, no one is going to take it from them and for them to learn that anything is possible — a powerful and positive message in this pandemic.”

In Sophie Says, the protagonist follows her imagination round all the possibilities of what she could be, from athlete to lawyer to scientist. It was written in the small hours when Marshall was awake to feed her newborn son.

Speaking to Harry and Meghan, the writer said: “All the books are about white male characters or animals who go to the park. I wondered why on earth are there none for children of that age with a more empowering message. How has children’s publishing not caught up with the fact that 45 per cent of children come from mixed backgrounds? It’s such a great opportunity to change harmful stereotypes.

“There was nothing I wanted to read to my son so I used that time in the night to write the book I wish I had as a little girl. I wanted to give him all the lessons I wish I had known about equality and good mental health.”

Marshall continues to be inundated with requests for the book every day and says copies will be delivered to schools and charities in a safe way that adheres to all social distancing rules.

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