'A book is like medicine, they make me feel better.' - Read for My School winner Alex Hewett
Published on: 18 June 2014 Author: Alex Hewett
Alex Hewett was recently crowned the national winner of the Read for My School competition in the Year 7 and 8 'Write' category. He spoke to us about why he loves reading and how it's helped him while his dad is away with the army serving overseas.
Alex won the prize for the letter he wrote to accompany a book donation to Book Aid International's 'School Library in a Box' programme.
The Read for My School participants were asked to write a letter to the children in Tanzania who are amongst those who benefit from the programme.
The 12 year-old attended the award ceremony in London to collect his prize along with the other winners, although, for Alex, Read for My School wasn't just about the prize.
In this exclusive blog, Alex writes about what it was like to win the competition, how much he loves books and how they help him when his father is away with the army.
My name is Alex and I am a bookworm. I have loved books for the whole of my life. I have many many books, I belong to the library and I love to get books as presents. I read all the time, even the label on the ketchup! I don't really like sad books or books that are really scary, but I love all other fiction and non fiction, especially history and science books. I decided to enter the Read for My School competition because it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
The chance to win prizes for doing something I already love? Count me in.
I didn't think for a single minute that I actually would win a prize, so when I was told I was a school winner for the letter that I had written, I was really pleased and surprised. I got some chocolate and the author Rob Lloyd Jones presented me with a signed book at an assembly.
A few weeks later I was told by Mrs Day our LRC manager that I had won the regional award. I was totally shocked that my letter had caught the judges' eye. I felt very proud of myself. I totally forgot about the national award that could be won - I was busy with school, my godmother's wedding - where I was Master of Ceremonies (here's me with my little sister, godmother and her husband) - and getting outside to play.
When I was told I had won the national award I first thought Mrs Day was joking, but she is a very nice lady so I knew that she was telling me the truth. I was so excited that I ran about in circles.
I never win anything and here I was a national competition winner for something that I had actually written.
Mrs Day emailed every teacher in my school to tell them that I had won, so everywhere that I went teachers I didn't even know kept coming and telling me how well I had done. I go to a big school, but there was no hiding from the praise!
My dad (on the left) has been a soldier for 19 years and is frequently away from home, sometimes for months and months and months. There isn't a month that goes by when my dad isn't away for either the whole of it or for part of it. That sucks. Being an Army kid can be brilliant and does have some great perks, but it can also be very sad, very frightening and very very lonely. I find that reading is a great way to deal with the bad days.
Those days when I am scared my dad won't ever come home again, those days where I miss him so much there doesn't seem any point in getting out of bed, those days when I accidently let myself hear the news and it's not nice, those days when we have just moved house and I don't have a single friend, those are the days I treasure my books even more.
I pick up a book and I am instantly somewhere else, somewhere where I don't think about sad things.
I can pick up a book and I forget that I am the new kid, the kid who says he has a dad but nobody ever sees so they all think I'm making him up, and I can forget that I haven't seen my dad on my birthday for a few years. A book is like medicine, they make me feel better.
I wanted my letter to tell people how powerful such a small bunch of paper bound together can be. How can a book be 'just' a book? It is so much more than that. You can learn from a book, you can escape with a book. So never see a book and think, 'It's just a book'. I hope that my letter said that.
I was very excited on ceremony day, especially as four of my friends and three of my teachers were coming along too. I was very nervous and very shy (I'm not normally very quiet at all but I was that day!) Everyone kept telling me how good my letter was and how proud they were of me and I felt proud of myself. Christopher William Hill was awesome. I could have listened to him all day. I really thought one little girl was going to show us all the lunch she ate a few hours previously when she smelt the box of child vomit!!! He really helped me with my story writing. I like how his mind works - it's a bit like mine because we both like gross stuff.
After the ceremony I got to spend the rest of the day in London with my mum, dad and little sister as a treat.
I begged my dad to take me to a book shop so that I could spend my book vouchers, but I couldn't buy any books as they were too heavy to carry around all the sights! That's a shame as there's a huge Waterstones by Trafalgar Square!
I am very thankful and very grateful for my wonderful prizes, loads of new books to add to my library (yep, we need to extend the house to make room for all my books), my art work, which will go on my wall, and I'm off to see a musical in the summer holidays. I'm also really pleased that my school has got some new books too. My friends will get to read them and so will I!
My dream now is to see a 'school library in a box' in action. I think it's so very sad that so many schools in the world do not have lots of books, and love that my letter will accompany all those books going to Tanzania. I'm sure those children will love books as much as I do. I would love every child in the world to own at least one book.
Alex's winning letter:
'What do you see when you look at a book? A front cover, a back cover and pages covered in the printed word?
Shall I tell you what I see? A book is so much more than just words.
When you open that cover you open your soul to magic, travel worlds you never thought possible, soar through the skies, meet new people who feel like your friends and grow your world around you.
Pick up a book and allow your soul to soar, let your imagination run free or fill your head with knowledge that helps you grow as a person.
Knowledge is power. Imagination is thrilling.
So curl up with a book and allow yourself to be filled with joy because there's nothing quite like a good book.'