Sometimes I have to pinch myself to check that this really is me, in this place, doing this thing. On Tuesday I went to work here:
I had arranged for a group of bloggers who had supported Save the Children’s Born to Read launch back in October to join me, Save the Children, Beanstalk, children’s authors and illustrators, volunteers, local children, MPs and Peers of the Realm at the House of Lords to hear more about the campaign. We were there to talk to our MPs and drum up their support to help us to Change the Story for the UK’s poorest children.
The campaign has already drawn cross party support and Michael Gove gave a surprisingly sensible speech about the important role reading plays in all our lives both as a life enabler and as a life enricher.
Justin Forsyth (CEO of Save the Children) and Sue Porto (CEO of Beanstalk) both gave impassioned speeches outlining the knock on effects felt throughout the lives of children who have not had access to books and stories in their earliest years, and the importance of recruiting more Change Makers like the fabulous volunteers already in the room.
Save the Children and Beanstalk are aiming to recruit 20 000 of these volunteer Change Makers who will offer thousands of children the keys to doors which are firmly closed in the faces of those who struggle to read; who will help to unlock their potential and show them the pure joy of story.
Children’s author Lauren Child wove her magic as she told us how story reaches out to the poorest, the most disadvantaged, those with least hope and poorest prospects and offers them escape, hope and a better future. It is possible to change the story for children who have had limited or no access to books and stories before they start school, to offer them the opportunity to stride forward with their peers, to give them a level playing field and a fair start but we have to grab that opportunity as early as we can. This is not about levels and attainment targets at an early age it is about offering children the gift of reading.
The feeling of goodwill in that room was palpable as I talked to volunteers, to children, to MPs and to Peers of the Realm. Bloggers met up with their MPs to explain how they could help to Change the Story with their support over the next few months.
We chatted to children’s authors and illustrators, all there to offer their support. Here’s lovely Merry from Patch of Puddles with Francesca Simon (Horrid Henry etc) and in the background you can see John Burningham, Helen Oxenbury and Lauren Child!
I stood and listened to Lauren talk about street children in Mexico and to Sue tell us about the child whose reading breakthrough came when he was encouraged to bring in a washing machine instruction manual to share with his volunteer helper. I talked to volunteers and listened to their stories, I explained what on earth this was all about to a couple of slightly bemused MPs and then I looked right, out into the corridor outside this grand room in the House of Lords and saw this
Two bloggers’ children escaping the boring world of the grown ups and getting lost in a book. This is what it’s all about, giving all children that chance, regardless of their background and circumstances. A chance to read for pleasure and purpose and to have the opportunity to fulfil their potential whatever that might be.
I walked away from the House of Lords with a spring in my step and friends at my side. From these small ideas big changes happen, they really do. Free school meals started in just this way with a proposal by Save the Children all those years ago meaning that our poorest children get at least one meal a day in their tummies – you can’t learn with an empty tummy and you can’t reach your potential if you can’t read.
Please sign up to be a Change Maker and make a real difference to children’s lives. Help us spread the word by talking about the campaign in your local community, to your family and friends and encouraging more people to sign up. If you blog please write a post in support, you can read more about the campaign here.
You can also read more on these fabulous blogs (let me know if you write one, I’ll keep updating as they appear!)