This morning I’ve been given the lovely task/honour of saying a few words to launch this year’s Christmas Book Tree at Blackwell’s in Edinburgh. When the events manager, Ann, asked me to do this, I was just about to accept when I realised I’d almost forgotten to perform a risk assessment. And I quickly realised that there was a great risk of being asked to dress up as an elf. (I remember the photo from a previous year…) Luckily, Ann assured me that although she thought I’d look good in green tights (hmmm) she was not asking me to dress as an elf, so that was excellent.
The reason I was so keen to accept, apart from the elf risk – and no, I will not be going for the “elf and safety” gag… – is that I’m a massive supporter of the Children’s Book Tree and have been from the start.
Thing is, there is absolutely nothing not to like. Unlike many other book schemes – such as swaps, or secondhand sales, or World Book Night, where there is some disadvantage to someone, even though the intentions are for the best – with the Book Tree, everyone benefits: bookshops, authors, publishers, agents, and readers – in this case young people with really difficult lives.
In the last four years, over 800 children have received a book from this branch of Blackwell’s alone – that’s 800 books bought which wouldn’t have been bought otherwise; that’s genuine creation of book-buying and reading; that’s 800 children receiving a book they actually want.
I think that’s pure dead brilliant.
800 children with very difficult lives asking for and being given a book, bought new from a fantastic bookshop by a kind person.
In Edinburgh, Blackwells is working with Edinburgh Young Carers Project and Edinburgh Women’s Aid. Blackwells in Oxford and Cambridge also have a Book Tree. Oh, and look here for some fab lump-in-throat stories from Blackwells, Oxford. People, how can you resist??????
But, even if you don’t live in those cities, it takes only a phonecall to do the good deed: phone 0131 622 8225 (for Edinburgh) and ask for the children’s department; tell them you’d like to buy a book for the Book Tree and they will tell you some of the requests from children so far; you then choose, either specifying what book you want to buy or asking the staff to choose one for you; they take your payment details and do the rest. And at Christmas, a child receives your gift.
You could also help in these simple ways:
This Christmas I am supporting The Children’s Book Tree at Blackwell’s Bookshop, South Bridge, Edinburgh. Blackwell’s are working with Edinburgh Women’s Aid, Edinburgh Young Carers and other local organisations to help make Christmas a little better for disadvantaged local children. The scheme means that children who will be living in difficult circumstances at Christmas, who have caring responsibilities beyond their years or those who won’t be at home over the festive period, will each receive a book to treasure. For more information join the The Children’s Book Tree Edinburgh Facebook group, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Now, what are you waiting for? I’m going to buy a book then eat a mince pie. Or two. (Books and mince pies.)
Oh, look: the launch has already been reported on! What Peggy of City of Literature didn’t mention was my strange Clarissa Dickson Wright experience, which entirely put me off any speech preparation this morning…
CURRENTLY WRITING: The Guide to Teenage Stress - publishing summer 2014