BookTrust Letterbox Club: 'When they make progress with reading, you also see them start to talk more positively about themselves. It feeds into every area of their life'
Published on: 08 May 2023
Foster carer, Elaine, shares how BookTrust's Letterbox Club parcels have helped her 9-year-old foster son build his confidence through a daily reading routine, and brought them closer together.
'Dylan had such low self-esteem when he came to us. He felt like he could do nothing right. He pre-empted everything he said. It was awful, seeing a child so sad and fragile.
'I constantly try to build Dylan up. I talk about how clever he is and what an amazing brain he's got. We put things on his bedroom wall. We've got lovely affirmations on there, saying things like, "I can have a bad day, I'm not a bad person."
'When he first came to us, he was about two years behind on his reading. He wasn't confident and he didn't like to read. He thought it was boring and a chore. Before bed, I would read five pages to him and he would read one. It can be a bit painful when they're struggling.'
Taking each day – and each page – at a time
'Every day, life gets better and better, and things get easier. We have more fun activities, more opportunities, good relationships and things to share about on Dylan's wall – and we build that into our nightly routine.
'I think Dylan now sees reading as relaxation, because it always happens just before his bedtime. He'll have a bath as part of his winding down time, then, when he's in bed, he chooses a book to read.
'To see Dylan improve at reading has been awesome. He began to read two pages at a time and I would just read one. We did that for another couple of months. Now, he reads independently, but he likes to tell me about the story.
'We also record all the books Dylan has read since he's got here on a reading chart, a piece of paper on his wall. We give each book a mark out five stars. The reading chart is very visual, it looks impressive. Dylan is like, "I can't believe I've read all that!"
How Dylan rates BookTrust's Letterbox Club books
'Dylan was surprised and delighted when his first Letterbox Club parcel came through the post. When he came home from school, I said, "You've got a surprise!" and gave the parcel to him. He was so excited, he was like, "What is it?" He tore it open. He asked, "Where did it come from?" I said, "I'm not really sure, but it says BookTrust!"
'Now, each time, I'll say, "Dylan, you've got another red parcel!" and he just lights up.'
BookTrust's Letterbox Club sends colourful parcels with books, games and stationery to children in care each month for six months, to help inspire a love of reading.
'Dylan has received some lovely factual books from BookTrust's Letterbox Club that are small and easy to read. He devoured them in one night. He takes one for when we're in the car, so that he can share facts with me on the journey. Even if it's just a 15-minute drive, he's reading, and we add it to his reading record on his bedroom wall.'
'The Letterbox Club books BookTrust have sent have all received five out of five stars from Dylan.'
Why reading is vital for Dylan's future
'When a child is behind in their reading, I think it has a knock-on effect on their self esteem. When you see them making progress with their reading, you also see them start to talk more positively about themselves. That feeds into every area of a child's life.
'I want Dylan to have a lovely future and to have as many opportunities as he can. Reading is for enjoyment and relaxation, but reading is really required throughout your life.'
Bonding over books before bedtime
'Since Dylan first came to us, our relationship has changed 100%. Before, he kept me at arms' length. Mums weren't trustworthy people to Dylan - mums were 'over there'.
'Now, with our lovely night time ritual, including reading stories, he now allows me to give him a little kiss on the head every night.
'He's started saying to me, "Love you, 'Laine", and I'll say, "Love you, Dylan." It's beautiful.'
- Find out more about how BookTrust's Letterbox Club programme supports children in care to enjoy books and build their confidence in reading
- Help BookTrust support more children to experience the life-changing benefits of reading by becoming a BookTrust Friend.
Some names have been changed