When I think back to my childhood, some of my happiest memories are found on the pages of books.

Whether it was refusing to get out of bed on a Saturday morning because I was so engrossed in Matilda, packing a bag of books to go and sit in the tree in the garden, or cuddled up having bedtime stories with my Dad, reading was my escapism from the harsh realities of my world.

Through education, I knew my future success was reliant on the knowledge locked within my textbooks and lying on the shelves of the libraries.

And today, it’s a passion that drives my business, urging me to become the best writer I can be to the benefit of my clients.

I believe that reading is the key to unlocking who you are, who you want to be and everything you want to achieve. And the research from The Reading Agency agrees:

  • Children who read books often at age 10 gain higher results in maths, vocabulary and spelling tests at age 16 than those who read less regularly.
  • 16-year-olds who choose to read books for pleasure outside of school are more likely to secure managerial or professional jobs in later life.
  • 19% of readers say that reading stops them from feeling lonely.
  • And reading Harry Potter (a firm favourite in our household!) has been shown to improve children’s attitudes toward stigmatised groups, such as immigrants, refugees, and members of the LGBT community.

Not every child is lucky enough to hear a story

Perhaps I take it for granted that everyone can read. Everyday as part of my work I must read hundreds of articles, reports, white papers and case studies. I also read for pleasure. And my favourite part of the day is cuddling up with my boys to read them bedtime stories.

But when my son started school, I discovered this wasn’t ‘normal’ for everyone.

Speaking to the head of English, she told me that the school has taught many students over the years who don’t have the pleasure of a bedtime story every night.

And it’s a shockingly common problem…

Nielsen Book Research’s annual survey on British children’s reading habits, discovered that only a third of children under 13 are read to daily by an adult.

It’s why our school has a rule that everything shuts down at 3pm. The teachers can’t visit the children at home to read them that important bedtime story, but it’s within their control to send them home with one, so they gather the children together and let them get lost in a beautiful adventure before they leave each day.

Not every child is lucky enough to read a story

Reading has the power to change our lives for the better, which is why getting into the habit of daily reading is a good thing. At our school, they advocate reading for at least 5 minutes a day, because surely every child can spare 5 minutes out of their busy playing schedules?

Apparently not.

Research from the National Literacy Trust shows that only 52% of 8 to 18-year-olds read for pleasure, with only a quarter of those reading daily.

At our school, they publish a weekly leader board ranking the classes according to the percentage of children that read at least 5x during the week. It’s a wonderful incentive to see their class on the leader board and encourages some light-hearted competition.

But the teachers noticed another problem at the school…gossiping mums.

Rather than head home straight away at the end of the day, they’d hang around to talk.

Well they can do that inside while the kids read,” said the head of English.

And The Reading Café was born.

Set up in a classroom, there’s teas and coffees for the parents, and juices and biscuits for the kids. Then all the children settle down for a story from the teacher, before having the opportunity to explore a plethora of books and magazines for themselves…

And the current lockdown hasn’t changed a thing, because every Thursday at 4pm everyone can now enjoy The Virtual Reading Café!

It’s such a cute idea, and all the kids love it. When my eldest was in hospital, the only thing he was worried about was whether he would make it out in time to go to The Reading Café. And every week, both my boys (because they welcome the whole family and members of the local community) can’t wait to go.

It really left me with only one option…

I had to sponsor it.

What I hope my sponsorship will do

On the face of it, The Reading Café doesn’t need much to sustain itself – just a few pounds to cover the cost of the all-important biscuits. But I wondered…

What if it had some funding to buy new books, comics and magazines?

What if we extended the café to include more games and role play?

What if we held competitions or invited speakers in to get the children interested in reading new things?

What if we could try anything and everything to inspire these young readers, get them excited about reading and set them up for future success?

So I approached the school and asked if together we could take The Reading Café to the next level and turn it into something truly magical for the children.

I’m really excited about what this sponsorship means for the school’s future, and with their help and guidance on what would benefit the kids most, I think we can create something really special that will make a big difference in people’s lives.


Photo credit: Annie Spratt on Unsplash