Happy 20th Birthday, Booktrust! - Nosy Crow Skip to content
Posted by Kate, October 5, 2012

Happy 20th Birthday, Booktrust!

Exciting times for Booktrust!

Not only were they shortlisted for the Big Impact award last week; not only did Booktime, their collaboration with Pearson, mean that Pearson won a Lord Mayor’s Dragon Award on Wednesday; but last night they celebrated 20 years of Booktrust at Lancaster House (pictured blurrily above) with a party hosted by patron Miriam Gonzalez Durantez.

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez spoke about falling in love with Britain while growing up in rural Spain because she read Enid Blyton, though she admitted that the reality of contemporary Britain bore little relationship to Blyton, “except for the posh boarding schools”, which, she said, were still the same.

She spoke of her farming grandparents’ household, bookless until the graduation of her mother, the first in her family to go to university, when her grandfather brought novels by six Pulitzer prize-winning novels, which remained on a bookshelf in pride of place until her mother inherited them. Miriam Gonzalez Durantez said that she hoped she’d one day inherit the books and that she would pass them on to her own children.

She spoke of the importance of Booktrust’s various book giving schemes in encouraging children to read for pleasure, though, as a mother of three boys, she acknowledged the pull of screen-based entertainment. She ended by quoting an Oompa Loompa song:

“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.”

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez speaking about the impact of books on her own family

Viv Bird, Chief Executive of Booktrust, took up the emphasis on Booktrust’s various book giving schemes – they’ve given 30 million books in 20 years – but also stressed Booktrust’s other activities, including their involvement in the Roald Dahl funny prize (for with our own The Baby That Roared has been shortlisted), and trailed a forthcoming initiative, the Children’s Reading Fund. She emphasises the importance of private partnerships with third sector organisations in an era of radically reduced government funding, which has already threatened their flagship programme, Bookstart.

Jacqueline Wilson, spoke next, and Booktrust’s new chairman, Alistair Burtenshaw, introduced her by saying that she’s sold over 35 million books and was the most borrowed author from UK libraries in the last decade. Jacqueline Wilson is particularly involved with Booktrust’s Letterbox Club, which provides free books for children in care. (Viv Bird mentioned, in reference to this programme, that children in care are more likely to end up in prison than university.)

Jacqueline Wilson said that while no-one celebrating Booktrust needed convincing about the importance of reading, “most people think books are boring,” and adults read, perhaps, one blockbuster a year while they’re on holiday. She spoke of a challenging climate for books, drawing attention to the loss of bookshop chains like Ottakars, Books Etc, Borders and Hammicks as well as to library closures. She said that it is hard to turn adults into keen readers. Instead, “you have to start with babies. Babies love to be held close. They love to hear a parent’s voice. They love to see familiar images on the page.” By reading to babies, they associate books with “happy feelings” so that by the time they reach reception class in school, they will be familiar with the notion of “little black words making magic on the page”.

Jacqueline Wilson signing an autograph

Remembering her own childhood, she said that she remembered that toddlers used to get free orange juice and cod liver oil to nourish their bodies. Now Bookstart is nourishing toddlers’ imaginations.

She ended by encouraging us all (as I encourage you) to sign up to Bookstart’s pledge.

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, Shirley Hughes and Alistair Burtenshaw

(Posted with the usual apologies for the execrable nature of the photographs.)

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