'The books really had that wow factor': How our Christmas parcels make a difference in Liverpool

Published on: 07 November 2022

We spoke to Julie Brown, Co-Director at Our House community centre in Liverpool, about how BookTrust's festive book gifts brought joy to families at their annual Christmas grotto.

An illustration of a child sitting on a wooden chair reading a book to an adult who is sitting on the floor looking up at them, joined by a dog wearing a BookTrust heart collar

Pic: Kate Hindley

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Our House Liverpool is a volunteer-run community support hub in Walton, North Liverpool that supports local people on low incomes, including families and pensioners. As well as its HOPE pantry service, Our House supports people's mental, physical and social wellbeing.

Julie says: 'The cost-of-living crisis means we've had a massive increase in new members needing our food pantry. We've got a lot of families where both adults in the household work and they are still literally on the breadline.

'With the price of gas, lecky (electricity) and the phone, they're struggling to make ends meet. We've had people come in and use our showers because their water has been turned off.

'By Christmas, there will be even less money for gifts. There's no way our families will be buying books. They will be trying to put food on the table first.'

Making festive fun affordable

'In 2021, through its Festive Appeal programme, BookTrust provided Our House with children's books. Our House gave the books out as gifts to local families as part of our annual Christmas grotto, which is free for families to attend. Last year, 153 children came in just one day.

'We're in a very deprived area, and it can be so expensive to take your child to Santa's grotto. With our Christmas grotto, parents don't have to worry about finding the money for it.

'This is where BookTrust comes in - kids get a present from Santa, a chocolate selection box and they get an amazing book from BookTrust. And it doesn't cost them anything.'

How the kids reacted to the BookTrust gifts

'The BookTrust books really had that wow factor. I remember the excitement on kids' faces when they opened them! They were just such good quality books.

'You could see when the children opened the books, they were thinking: 'This is something really good.' You could tell by their body language that it was something they weren't used to getting. I would imagine for a lot of those children, it was probably the only book that they got for Christmas.

'Some of the families we support haven't got decent books at home. There's nowt better than getting a new book that hasn't been scribbled in or hasn't got a page missing out of it.'

Why the books matter

'What's specifically lovely about the BookTrust books is the quality. It shows the children we support that they're worth it, that they're no different to anybody else, even if their family doesn't have a lot of money. Getting this BookTrust book teaches them they are just as deserving as anybody else.

'I remember one little boy. He was three years old. He opened his book from BookTrust inside our Christmas grotto. And when he came back out again, he was holding the book to his belly, basically saying: 'This is my book'.  He wouldn't let go of it.'

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