Diana Gerald: How Bookstart Bear helped a father read to his son

Published on: 06 September 2015 Author: Diana Gerald

We are all very lucky at BookTrust in that we get regular reminders of why our work is so important, whether it's letters from children who've received our book packs, emails from teachers who have used our resources, or messages from health visitors who have managed to reach an otherwise hard to reach parent through one of our book gifts.

Diana Gerald

We know, and our partners know, that reading with children changes their lives - it boosts their attainment, it increases their confidence, it makes them happier, healthier and so much more.

But reading with children can also transform the parent's life, too. Which is why I had such a lump in my throat when we got an email from a library we work with:

'A homeless man just came up to me at the enquiries desk and picked up the Bookstart Bear puppet. "That little bear was a godsend to me," he told me."I just made up my own story. I thought, this little tiny puppet is going to make my boy read! I felt like a right fool, but I knew it's benefitting him. This little bear really has helped a lot. Sadly I am no longer living with my son but it is a good memory for me."'

The truth is that reading with our children, with our grandchildren, or with children at our local school, is an incredible experience that builds wonderful relationships and creates memories that can last a lifetime. And it makes me very proud that we are helping more families to create those memories.

But of course, for young children, books are about more than just stories; they are also visual feasts full of larger than life characters and stunning backdrops that bring the stories to life. This is why I am so excited that we are partnering with Virgin Trains in their search for a Christmas Train design. Primary school-age children across the country are being challenged to send in their most Christmassy drawings and win the chance to see their design transform an entire train this December, much like last year's winner below.

Virgin Traindeer with Santa and winners

I'll be joining the judging panel, which will be headed up by much-loved illustrator and author, Jill Murphy, author of The Worst Witch, whose most famous book, Five Minutes Peace, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The Christmas Train, which will be wrapped in the winning design, will be seen across the whole country, so do encourage every primary-aged child you know to get designing (and colouring).

And on the subject of fantastic illustrations, we are incredibly excited about the imminent publication of Chris Riddell's Family Doodling Book. Those of you who are following his Children's Laureate Blog will know that he wants families to draw together every day, and this book is a wonderful introduction to the joys of doing just that... we are also hugely grateful to Chris and Macmillan, his publishers, for donating 20p to Book Trust for every book sold.

All of which means there has never been a better time to get reading, get illustrating, and get doodling. Let's all help transform some lives, and create memories that we can treasure for a lifetime.

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