Diana Gerald: 'No two days are ever the same in this job'
Published on: 09 June 2015 Author: Diana Gerald
I have learned many things already since joining BookTrust. I have learned that a book can be used to reach a vulnerable mother or an anxious child; that reading for pleasure is more of an indicator of life success than parents' socio-economic status; and that too many children are still growing up with no books around them.
And I have also learned that no two days are ever the same in this job. When I say 'not the same', what I mean is that they can be wildly different - exhilaratingly so. One day I can be listening to research about brain development in babies (even before they reach 6 months, they respond to rhymes); the next I can be at a dinner celebrating the wonderful Yiyun Li winning the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award; and the day after that I might be reviewing plans for our regional roadshow which will see us visiting schools up and down the country to help strengthen access to literature and cultural education across all regions.
These appear to be quite diverse activities, but actually, they are all part of an overall aim of encouraging and enabling children and young people to read for pleasure. Firstly, we focus on research, to ensure that we understand how reading for pleasure impacts on life chances, on wellbeing, on educational attainment. Secondly, we champion books and authors that engage and excite, and help parents navigate their children's reading journey. And lastly, and most importantly, we get out there, to families, to professionals: listening, delivering our programmes, providing books and resources, reaching those who need us most.
Sometimes, all these activities come together at once, such as National Bookstart Week, which runs this week from 8-14 June. During National Bookstart Week we are giving out 450,000 special editions of Rumble in the Jungle to parents of pre-schoolers right across the UK. We will also be hosting events around the country to bring families together with librarians and children's centres and engaging high-profile authors and MPs to help us shout about the importance of reading for pleasure. Finally we'll be publishing research that demonstrates just why reading to and with children (and babies) is so important.
I'm also delighted to announce that writer and illustrator Chris Riddell is the new Children's Laureate. Chris takes over from Malorie Blackman, who has held the post for two years and has had such a huge impact, inspiring a whole new generation of readers (and potential writers). Here is Chris Riddell's five-point Laureate plan - I can't wait to see his how it unfolds.
It is one of our ambitions that 'read every day' becomes as well understood an aspiration as 'eat your five a day'; that it trips off the tongue; that every parent, carer and professional is committed to reading every day. Because reading makes us happier, healthier; because children who read for pleasure have better life outcomes than those who don't; because reading is a huge pleasure in itself.
Which brings me to the last thing I've learned during my time here: that there are many opportunities out there to transform children's lives through reading, and that BookTrust is in a great position to make the most of them.