The Letterbox Club Festive Appeal

BookTrust have a scheme, The Letterbox Club who send out books to children in care throughout the year. The Letterbox Club Festive Appeal has just launched. Please read on and if you can, please donate.

The Letterbox Club Festive Appeal is happening now. For £10 a child in care will receive a book and gift this Christmas. Here’s an example of the kind of package they receive through the year.

Book Trust Letterbox example
We visited the BookTrust offices a while ago, and while there learnt about The Letterbox Club – a service they provide which sends children in care books to keep. Children are sometimes taken from their parents with very few possessions, and until they’re placed with adoptive parents, often have just a handful of toys and very little that truly belongs to them.

The Letterbox Club sends them a book package throughout the year and is put together specially for them. Often it can be the first item of post the child has ever received.

Then I heard about The Letterbox Club Festive Appeal via a friend on Facebook. By donating £10 you can give a child a book, somewhere they can escape and enjoy, hopefully making their days a little bit easier. BookTrust have selected six hardback books which will be sent to children aged 3-13 years. The Books are picked according to the age of the child and each child will receive a specially- created festive poster and postcard by illustrator Adam Stower.

The Letterbox Club Festive Appeal

BookTrust CEO Diana Gerald said:
Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for children in care. Books have the magical ability to transform children to different worlds and to make them feel a part of something special. Why not donate today and help make a child in care’s Christmas that bit brighter.”

H and I have donated, and I hope you will take time out to as well if you can. There are 9,700 children in care in the UK.

Case study 1: Emma Norry, aspiring author, Bournemouth.
When you’re a child in care, you have very little control over what happens to you and the choices you make are often limited. To be able to choose which fictional worlds to explore, enter and escape to is invaluable.

“Books are a way out of and into what you may be experiencing. They are a chance to make new friends, access new worlds and to realise that you might not be alone after all. Books took me places I needed to go. No matter who came and went, books were always there showing me how similar we all were inside.

“For me, I knew that between the pages of a book was a place I was always welcome. Books didn’t mind who I was or wasn’t, where I had come from or where I might end up. Books remained the same even though all around me
was constantly changing. I clung to my books like a life raft. Books were my constant home and I carried words inside me, as armour and protection and comfort.”

Case study 2: Darren McCartney: “I spent some time growing up in care it was sometimes difficult. It wasn’t a particularly unhappy time but sometimes I
would struggle. I felt like I needed an escape and I found that in books. Reading gave me a method of forgetting about what was happening. You don’t realise at the time that’s what you’re doing, but looking back if it hadn’t been for a good book I realise now my time in care would’ve been a lot more difficult.

The Letterbox Club Festive Appeal is something which is so easy to donate and give back to. If you head here £10 will send one book to one child, £50 to five children, £100 to 10 children.

Bath Book Bed With Jo Frost

We’re BookTrust bloggers, and have some exciting news to share! Jo Frost of Supernanny fame has been revealed as their new celebrity ambassador and a new campaign Bath Book Bed has been launched.

Bath Book Bed BookTrust campaign logo

Bath Book Bed is a new campaign from the BookTrust which is designed to help us parents settle our children into routines at night time by keeping it simple – child has a bath, you read a book together, put child to bed and hopefully they’re settled and will drift off to sleep!

Jo Frost, who has starred in a variety of television shows including Supernanny, Family Matters, and her newest show, Jo Frost: Nanny on Tour, agreed to become an ambassador for BookTrust after following their work for many years and strongly believing in the charity’s mission to inspire every child to read confidently.

Bath Book Bed sleep deprived BookTrust

Jo said: “I have found during my 20 years in childcare that when children are read to it can have a wonderful calming effect on them. Reading doesn’t just give children a head-start in learning; the ritual of sharing a story and providing special time for parents and carers to build a strong and loving relationship with their child is vital.

Bath Book Bed info BookTrust

“I believe every childhood should be enriched by books – that’s why I’m looking forward to working with BookTrust to ensure all children get to experience the joy of a story.”

Diana Gerald, BookTrust Chief Executive said: “Reading changes lives. Books bring knowledge and reading develops empathy. It can help children who are going through difficulties – whether it’s by reading about people in similar circumstances, or simply escaping into another world. We want families everywhere to prioritise books and reading, even if they’re not confident readers themselves. It’s such an easy way to make huge difference to your child’s future. By working with Jo Frost we know we will be able to spread this message to even more families and support them to read with their children.”

Jo Frost is the most recognisable and trusted parental expert and family advocate worldwide. With over 20 years in childcare, beginning her career as a professional sole-charge nanny, she has honed her successful methods of child-rearing with hands-on, real-life experience.

For more information about Bath Book Bed, head over to the BookTrust site where there’s loads of information and you can sign up to take part!

Bath Book Bed BookTrust campaign

BookTrust – Learning about What they Do.

Book Trust Logo

We recently visited the BookTrust offices to learn about them, and what they do.

So who are the BookTrust? Chances are you’ll have come across them at some point. For me, my first time was getting H’s first bag from our Health Visitor, which had an Elmer book in it. It was read constantly – we’d seen Elmer but didn’t have any of the books, and this led to more purchases. The idea of getting a bag with free books and activities was amazing to me. Up until then, the only thing I’d come across which was free were the bags you get when you’re about to give birth.

Finding out that you could get more free books as my child grew up was INCREDIBLE. We knew she loved reading and being read to, and discovering new authors or ones we hadn’t yet read opened up a world of adventures, stories, great things. Needless to say, when anyone who had a child of a similar age said they had a new BookTrust bag, we all made a point of getting them. Once H was at school she got her Booktime pack in reception.

Book Trust BookBuzz

And that, I thought, was that. But no – you see, BookTrust have loads of different schemes, and on the 1st April we headed to their offices and met with them to learn about what they do.

The Letterbox Club is a fantastic service for children aged 5-13 that provides books to children who are in care. Often it can be the first thing they receive which is theirs. The packs are tailored and have books, maths games, stationery and more.

They’re designed to encourage reading and learning at home. There are five levels – Letterbox Orange (5-7 year olds), Letterbox Yellow (7-9 year olds), Letterbox Blue (7-9 year olds), Letterbox Red (9-11 year olds) and Letterbox Green (11-13 year olds).

The books are carefully selected, each child gets a new book every six months. This will build up to their own collection of things that is truly theirs to use and keep. I think it’s a fantastic scheme.

For more information head here.

Book Trust Letterbox example

At BookTrust they believe in a society where nobody misses out on the life-changing benefits that reading can bring. They want to get children and families reading. I know we’re extremely lucky with H and how much she loves and enjoys it.

The Letterbox Club isn’t the only service for older children. BookTrust also have a service for schools to sign up, as well as a new service launching later this year, Story Hunters – and while it says which children these packages are targeted towards, it’s open to everyone.

Book Trust Story Hunters Book Trust Story Hunters

There’s a lot on the BookTrust website too. You can search for books based on ability and age; something which has always confused me with H as she’s such an advanced reader; what exactly would make a book suitable for an 8 year old, when she’s only 4? I’m going to be using this section a lot!

I love the Bookbuzz scheme too – a fantastic choice of books, and for students in years 7 & 8 at school!

At the networking event on April 1st, a lot of bloggers were also authors – and it was great to chat to them. We met the author Sita Brahmachari and received a copy of two of her books. See, this is the other fantastic thing about the BookTrust; they’re working with authors all the time, reviewing books and encouraging children to read. It’s wonderful – and, in case you didn’t realise, they’re a charity.

I knew this, but didn’t realise we could raise money for them – so we’re now thinking of a way to do something. Maybe have H see how many Harry Potter books she can read without sleeping or something! You can also buy Christmas Cards at Waterstones which help raise money, something we’ll be doing this year.

I came away from our meeting knowing that working with the BookTrust was a really positive thing. They’re really making a difference for many children. I have so much more I could write about, but I’ll save that for a follow-up post – and instead direct you over here, where you’ll find so many things.

We are delighted to be BookTrust bloggers!

BookTrust Digital Advent Calendar!

BookTrust, Britain’s largest reading charity has launched the BookTrust Digital Advent Calendar featuring the very best children’s books that families might want to share this Christmas.

BookTrust Digital Advent Calendar

The BookTrust Digital Advent Calendar is launching very soon, and visitors will also get the chance to win all 24 books featured, and have them delivered in time for Christmas!

The BookTrust team chose the books that they feel children would most love to find under their Christmas tree or in their stocking. The selection, which is aimed at children up to the age of 12, features both classics and new stories and picture books from the very best authors and illustrators.

Each day leading up to Christmas Day, a picture of a specially selected book will appear behind a calendar window, along with the reasons it was chosen.

BookTrust Chief Executive, Diana Gerald, said: “This is good festive fun with a serious edge to it, we know that developing a love of reading brings enormous benefits and is linked to children doing very well at school and living balanced lives.

“Exposing children to fantastic authors and illustrators at a young age will encourage them to enjoy reading so we want to help parents by pointing them in the direction of books their kids will love.”

Included is Matt Haig’s fantastic new story, A Boy Called Christmas, [Canongate] illustrated by Chris Mould. Matt brings his signature wit and warmth to this seasonal chapter-book, which is sure to delight young readers.

A Boy Called Christmas

Another title, this time for younger readers, is Judith Kerr’s picture book, Mog’s Christmas [HarperCollins]. This classic picture book celebrates the joys of preparing for Christmas, although it all seems rather strange from a cat’s point of view!

Also hiding behind one of the windows is a beautiful non-fiction title, Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill [Flying Eye Books]. This marks the 100th anniversary of Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition, with informative text and a wealth of beautifully detailed coloured pencil drawings.

The calendar also features the nation’s favourite storyteller, Michael Morpurgo, with his new book, An Eagle in the Snow [HarperCollins]. Michael, who is also the BookTrust President, teams up with illustrator Michael Foreman for this short but immersive novel. Based on a true story of a highly decorated World War I soldier, children will love this thought-provoking tale. Another inclusion is the The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton [Walker Books] about Princess Pinecone who wants a warrior horse for her birthday but gets a short, fat, farting pony instead. This is a hilarious book with a feminist message that shows girls can be strong and creative.

The calendar goes live on December 1st, and will be found here: or on Twitter #BookTrustAdvent

Blue Peter Book Awards 2015 Winners!

Today is a very exciting day for Blue Peter fans – the Blue Peter Book Awards 2015 winners have just been announced in a special Newsround early morning bulletin!

Blue Peter Book Awards

The Blue Peter Book Awards 2015 Winners are presented with their badges tonight on CBBC at 5.20pm – and H is extremely excited! She got ‘The Spy Who Loved School Dinners’ for Christmas after it grabbing her attention by being nominated late last year. In fact, she didn’t stop asking for it – the storyline appealed to her sense of humour.

Think of the Blue Peter Book Awards as being like the Richard and Judy Book Club – but for under tens with the much-sought after Blue Peter badge as a prize. A whole new world of reading opened up to H when she heard about the books, and the last few weeks on Blue Peter have led up to the big day- the results! So who has won?

Well we’re super excited, here’s the official press release with the winners announcement.

Two teachers, who have written funny and silly books, are top of their class as they win Best Book with Facts and Best Story in the Blue Peter Book Awards 2015, voted for by hundreds of schoolchildren.

The Spy Who Loved School Dinners collage

Pamela Butchart, who teaches philosophy at secondary school, won Best Story with her latest title The Spy Who Loved School Dinners, which was illustrated by Thomas Flintham. (hurrah!!!)

Andy Seed, a former primary teacher and deputy head for 17 years, won Best Book with Facts with The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff, illustrated by Scott Garrett.

Both were delighted to be crowned this year’s winners and viewers will be able to see them
receive their awards on Blue Peter tonight from Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2013-2015 Malorie Blackman, as the show celebrates its 15th anniversary of the prize.

Pamela, who did a book-signing for The Spy Who Loved School Dinners on her wedding day, exclaimed: ‘WOW! Is this real-life?! I’m shocked and utterly over-the-moon about winning this fantastic award! It means the world to me that children voted for my book! Thank you.’

Silly Book Collage

Andy, who grew up watching Blue Peter, said: ‘To win a Blue Peter Book Award is a proper thrill not just because it revives all those happy childhood memories but because the show
today does a truly significant job in raising the profile of books and reading at a time when
this is needed more than ever. To win any award is a delight but to win the Blue Peter Book
Award sets my spine tingling like nothing else.’

The illustrators of the books also expressed their excitement about winning the prize. Thomas Flintham said: ‘Hooray! What fantastic news! It was exciting enough just to be nominated but to have won has forced me to do a little dance!’

Scott Garrett said: ‘I was so excited to hear that we’d won the Blue Peter Book Award! Blue
Peter was a big part of my early years. We’ve all grown up with it and to be part of it AND get an award is something very special to me – I can’t wait to get my badge! Illustrators don’t get inundated with awards, so I’m over the moon to have been awarded this one. Here’s to books!’

A panel of judges including Tom Gates author Liz Pichon, Rastamouse creator Michael de
Souza, The Bookseller journalist Anna James, and non-voting chair of judges, Blue Peter
editor Ewan Vinnicombe, selected the shortlist from publishers’ submissions.

These were then read and voted on by more than 200 children from ten schools across the UK to decide the winners in each category. The winners were announced on a special World Book Day morning bulletin of Newsround.

Pupils at Perry Wood Nursery and Primary School in Worcester said it was an ‘honour’ and
‘exciting as only ten schools in the whole of England can choose the winners of the Blue Peter Book Awards.’

The enormously popular Blue Peter Book Awards are managed by reading charity Booktrust, which works with schools to get more children reading for pleasure. The Awards celebrate the best authors, most creative illustrators and the greatest reads for children.

Ewan Vinnicombe, Editor, Blue Peter said: ‘It’s fantastic that in our 15th year of the Blue Peter Book Awards we have given 200 children across the UK the chance to vote for their favourite books. Pamela and Thomas, Andy and Scott should be really proud and Blue Peter will continue to promote children’s books and our viewers’ love of reading.’

So I had a little chat with H – and you can watch it too!