Mum and holiday club organiser Maureen reveals what a difference BookTrust's care packages made to children during the coronavirus pandemic.
Illustration © Hannah Shaw
'Nothing compares to having books.'
With two daughters of her own, a job as a teaching assistant, and her spare time spent running holiday clubs, Maureen is constantly surrounded by children.
She believes in the value of reading and the importance of books to a child's life. 'When you see a child who has been exposed to books the difference is clear. How they handle books is different. You will see that hunger to read more, how they try to interpret their own story. They become critical thinkers.'
The impact of coronavirus - and receiving books from BookTrust
The holiday clubs Maureen runs in south-east London for children who receive free schools meals in term time exist to feed a very different hunger. 'So many children depend on school dinners. There is a lot of holiday hunger. So that's where the holiday club comes in. It takes care of that hunger.'
When coronavirus and lockdown hit, the holiday clubs provided lunch and activities for children who were at home. As part of our outreach work, BookTrust sent packages of books to the holiday club, to help keep the children entertained during the long weeks away from school and friends.
Maureen was delighted: 'It's been wonderful. Nothing compares to having books. It exposes children to languages and broadens their understanding.
'We got really nice feedback from children regarding the books so it's awesome.'
With lockdown closing schools and libraries, the value of the books to the children was clear.
'We got a range of different books - it's really good because it caters for the ages we have in the holiday club, so there is something for everyone. Even for the little ones that can't really read, they can have fun with the nursery rhymes and pictures. It's really, really important to get children exposed to books at a very early stage.
'Children were stuck with whatever they had. Some of them, they've read the same book over and over again and they're bored with it. The BookTrust books have given them the opportunity to have a new edition and something to look forward to. Having a book at home, given to them by the holiday club is really wonderful. They can go to their shelf or wherever they store their books and just pick something and read. So it's really, really nice.
'It's a way of helping parents as well, taking off the stress of having to spare extra money to buy books for their children.'
Maureen thinks about what owning a book means to every child.
'You know sometimes when you take the children to the library and they borrow a book they love. they want to keep it but they can't, because it doesn't belong to them. So having something that they really love to read and they know the book isn't going anywhere and they can say, "This is mine" - there is nothing like that.'
Maureen's tips to get children interested in reading
Maureen has a lot of top tips to get children interested in reading.
'Make it like a routine, once a day. If it's at bedtime, before bedtime, anytime at all, at least once a day. Before you know it, they're exposed to hundreds and hundreds of words.'
For parents who aren't confident readers themselves or who struggle with English as a second or third language, Maureen has plenty of encouragement.
'It doesn't have to be perfect, just get them into the routine of reading. It doesn't really have to be exact, word for word. Sometimes, depending on the picture, the children can make up their own stories and interpret it in their own way.
'Let them love to read books. Little by little, they're picking up words. And before you know it, they're just going ahead and reading.
'If they read a book they enjoy, they want to read more. Once they have a love for reading, they see books as treasures.'