'It really is like a Christmas present': What our festive book gifts mean for foster children in East Yorkshire

Published on: 21 November 2022

We spoke to Amy Mercer, Senior Letterbox Coordinator at Hull and East Yorkshire Children’s University (HEYCU), about how BookTrust’s festive parcels help children who have lived in foster care get lost in a beautiful book.

Christmas 2022 Girl on bed opening parcel

Pic: Kate Hindley

HEYCU gives children in disadvantaged areas of Hull and East Yorkshire opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have. The charity incorporates BookTrust’s Letterbox Club packs into its own school-based programme of one-to-one reading interventions and excursions for children in Years 3 to 7 with experience of living in foster care.

'Christmas can be a really hard time'

Amy says: 'Christmas is a time when family is thrown at you. There’s a family in every advert, you see families everywhere. It’s a really hard time for the children we work with. A lot of them have either left their home without many possessions, or they've never actually had anything that's been their own.

'With BookTrust’s Letterbox Festive packs, we’re able to give the children a festive parcel. They might not have had Christmas presents before or they might not have had positive experiences of Christmas.

'The parcels always look super-special, and the books have got fancy pages or are embossed, they’re beautiful. The children love getting them.

'You’ll get some children who open the parcels and peel the top off really carefully - and some children just tear at them, so the wrapping is shredded by the end of it! It’s just such a lovely thing for them to have, it really is like a Christmas present.'

Getting lost in a book

'It’s important to engage looked-after children in reading for so many reasons', says Amy. 'We have children who have never had anybody read with them. They don't have those fond memories of an adult reading to them before bed or creating that love of reading. Most of the children we work with through the Letterbox Club programme have had a very disruptive education.

'It’s that age-old thing of getting lost in a book. When the children are reading with us and they're enjoying a story and they're asking questions about it and putting on silly voices, I think it's those moments when they lose themselves in a story that everything else sort of disappears for them.

'There are always the beginning Letterbox Club sessions where children say: “Can I just read two pages?” Then you get to a point with them where you realise they're not asking that anymore. They're just reading and they're going and going and going, and then they'll say: “Can we just read the next chapter?” That's the best feeling ever.'

Find out how a book gift from you this festive season can light up Christmas for 16,000 children who need it most here.

Topics: Features