BookTrust CEO Diana Gerald: 'It’s not just education and life chances at stake: it’s also the well-being of families and children.’
Published on: 08 April 2015 Author: Diana Gerald
It is a great privilege to be writing this blog; a great privilege, indeed, to be the CEO of BookTrust, a position that I have held now for nearly a month (is it really only a month?!), and which brings with it each day a sense of excitement, of purpose, and of opportunity.
Excitement, because the more I meet parents, children and professional partners, the more I realise that we really are transforming lives with our work. Two weeks ago I was at an Early Years event where I heard first-hand how library, Early Years and health professionals are using our book gifting programmes to reach vulnerable mothers: to help them bond with their children, to help them turn their lives around. A week later, I received a letter from a child in care who reported that the books he receives from our targeted Letterbox Club programme make wherever he's staying 'into a home'. These stories are both energising and devastating: so powerful to hear that what we are doing is making a real difference; so humbling to realise just what a mountain we have ahead of us to climb.
Which leads me to purpose. Purpose is the reason I joined BookTrust; purpose is why everyone at Book Trust works tirelessly to inspire a love of reading in children wherever they are. Because we know that reading can, and does, close the poverty gap. In fact reading enjoyment is more important for a child's educational success than their family's socio-economic status. But it's not just education and life chances at stake here; it's also the well-being of families and children. We want families to read for pleasure because we know that it makes children happier, more confident, more able to cope with the knocks and inevitable anxieties that life brings. A book before bedtime can be as soothing to a highly strung teenager as it is to a cross 8-month-old (or a cross, highly strung top executive, for that matter); a shared story can bring families together and create bonds that last a lifetime.
And this is where the opportunity lies. Because there is so much we can do in encouraging and enabling families to read together; so many stories we can tell; so many exciting programmes we plan to deliver to ensure that every single child has the books, support and resources they need to learn to read, and to love to read.
That's quite a 'to do' list, but we have to think big, and I know we'll get there. And I also know that we have plenty of support - from the Read On. Get On campaign, whose policy report launches this week, from libraries, from schools, from Early Years practitioners and from NHS staff, all of whom play such an important part in reaching families and children, delivering our resources, and inspiring them to use our books to start a life-long journey of reading.
As we like to put it: it's not a book, it's a doorway. And we plan to open a very large number of doors.