Posted in Reading

All Booked Up for World Book Day

Debbie Young celebrates World Book Day, sharing the love of children’s books

Laura reading inside a play tunnel
Poster girl for Read for Good – Laura and friend at a Readathon photoshoot

Having spent the last four years gainfully employed at the British children’s reading charity Read for Good, it felt odd this year to be counting down the days to March (as I always do) without having to consider my World Book Day workload.

How to Make Reading Cool for Kids

World Book Day logo 2014For those not familiar with World Book Day, it’s a UNESCO-led global celebration of reading which children take part in all over the, er, world.

Perversely, the UK celebrates it on a different day to the rest of the world, as the official day, April 23rd, usually clashes with British school holidays.

Most primary schools and many secondary schools celebrate World Book Day by staging all kinds of book-related events to make reading seem cool. (Incidentally I’m reliably informed by my 10-year-old daughter that it’s not cool for me to use the word “cool”.) This is because research shows that children who learn to love reading for pleasure grow up happier and more fulfilled in every respect. (Visit the Read for Good site for more information on that score.)

Read for Good LogoReadathon Gets Kids Reading for Good

Read for Good helps schools run a Readathon Sponsored Read by providing a colourful box of tricks free of charge. This enables teachers to get an easy tick on their World Book Day action list while actively enthusing their pupils to enjoy reading. The children choose what they want to be sponsored to read – much more motivating than reading what’s on their curriculum – and friends and family sponsor them. Most of the sponsorship money goes to help seriously ill children, partly through Read for Good’s fabulous ReadWell programme. The school also earns a book voucher to buy new school library books to the value of  20% of the total raised. What’s not to love about Readathon?

But unlike World Book Day, Readathon isn’t a once-a-year opportunity. Schools can run a Readathon any time of year that suits them – and they do. Some even set it as a school holiday challenge.

Helping Poorly Children Escape into a Book

Little boy taking book off ReadWell hospital bookshelf
ReadWell gives free books to children in hospital

Around 3,000 school Readathons take place every year, benefiting seriously ill children. These children are helped  partly through the charity’s ReadWell programme. ReadWell sends free books and storytellers to children in hospital all over the UK, making life better not only for the children but also their parents, carers and siblings. Getting lost in a good book is a great way to while away time in hospital and escape from pain, fear and anxiety surrounding hospital procedures.

Spreading the Word(s)

Page from Teddy Robinson book that has been coloured in by a young Debbie
An early indication of my love of books: enthusiastic colouring

Even though I left Readathon last autumn to concentrate full-time on my writing, I’m still flying the flag for recreational reading, for both children and adults.

Tomorrow I’ll be going into the village school that my daughter attends to get involved with their World Book Day celebrations. Hawkesbury Primary School has invited members of the community to come in to tell the children about their favourite books from their own childhood.

Mine was Teddy Robinson’s Omnibus by Joan G Robinson, whose central characters were a little girl called Deborah and a teddy bear that looks remarkably like my own. (Hmm, I wondered why I liked that book best?) I still have both the bear and the book, which displays evidence of my early hands-on approach to reading – some enthusiastic colouring of the line drawings in wax crayon. 

After the school book-sharing session, I’ll be setting up a second-hand book stall in the school hall enabling the children to buy books at pocket-money prices to foster their own love of reading. It’s wonderful to think that tomorrow some of them may also find treasures they’ll still remember when they’re grown ups.

My Love of Children’s Books

Cover of Today's Child March/April 2014I must admit I still adore children’s books, which is one reason that I write a regular review feature in Today’s Child Magazine. For this issue, I’ve also written an article called “Make Reading Fun”, as featured on the cover. To read it, click on this link and flick to pages 12-13. (My book reviews are on pages 20-21).

World Book Night logo 2014But I’m also glad that there’s an equivalent for adults coming up soon: World Book Night, which even in the UK will be celebrated on the official day of April 23rd. World Book Night is a completely different event from World Book Day (yes, it is confusing!) More about that event nearer the time – or you can check out its website,

ReadWell logoWondering how to celebrate World Book Day? Just share a good book with a child that you know. And to help other children throughout the UK, please consider making a donation to help ReadWell continue its good work, sharing the joy of books with children in hospital every day of the year. Donations may be made direct on ReadWell’s donations page here. No donation is too small.

But now, I’m off to find a comfy spot in which to read a good book…

Title page of Teddy Robinson's Omnibus
All aboard for some recreational reading
Posted in Type 1 diabetes

New Diabetes E-Book Takes To The Airwaves

Cover of my new book, "Coming To Terms with Type 1 Diabetes"Last Thursday I officially launched my new e-book in style. I took to the airwaves of our local BBC radio station for an interview on its popular morning show to tell the world (or at least the county of Gloucestershire) all about Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes: One Family’s Story of Life After Diagnosis.

Still buzzing with the adrenalin triggered by a busy few weeks preparing the e-book, I drove to the station’s Gloucestershire study in glorious late autumn sunshine.

Welcomed with a cup of tea by a helpful, smiling receptionist (what a great job to have, listening to the radio and meeting people all day!), I was soon shown in to the studio where Chris Baxter’s three-hour long programme was already in full swing. (I’d been listening to it in the car on my journey to tune myself in.)

I’d never been interviewed inside a studio before – previously it’s been down the line or as part of an outside broadcast, most recently at the Cheltenham Literature Festival last month. (More about that here.)

In The Hot Seat

After the bright sunshine outside on the noisy London Road, the thickly padded studio was dark and peaceful, womb-like and comforting. A big smile across the desk from presenter Chris Baxter put me immediately at my ease, and we were soon chatting at length about my book.

Chris Baxter is a kind, sympathetic and caring type whose programme is a real community service, reporting on achievements and concerns of local folk and bringing them together for common causes. I was delighted when a listener phoned to join to our discussion.

“I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 68 years ago, and I still do all my own gardening,” she said proudly. “I’m coeliac too, but that’s just another diet to get on with.”

Just what the anxious patient wants to hear, or the anxious parent of a newly-diagnosed child, or indeed the medical professionals whose lives revolve around keeping the chronically ill healthy.

That’s exactly who my e-book is aimed at, so you can imagine my delight when one of the earliest reviewers turned out to be Dr Carol Cooper, the medical journalist, broadcaster, and lecturer to doctors in communication and consultation skills. She summarised the book as follows:

“It’s a lovely uplifting little book, full of insight, wit, and practical know-how. I think it will appeal to anyone with Type 1 Diabetes and their family. Health professionals would also find it useful. The book is beautifully written. A little treasure as well as a ray of hope.”

Over And Out

Debbie Young at BBC Radio Glos studio
Photo credit: BBC Radio Glos receptionist!

After the interview was over, the receptionist kindly took a souvenir photo of me looking a bit pleased with myself. Then I stepped out, blinking, into the bright sunshine, only to realise halfway back to my car that I’d left my black beret on the floor of the studio. I  retrace my steps to retrieve it. (I think I was stretching the limits of the receptionist’s job description that day.)

Later, the show’s producer kindly emailed me some .mp3 files of the interview, spread across two files because I’d talked too much to fit into one easily emailable package. I have BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s kind permission to share them here with you, for the benefit of my friends who can’t catch the show on BBC iPlayer because they live outside of the UK. I hope you enjoy the interview. I certainly did!

Click here to hear the first part: 

Click here to hear the second part: 

To my delight and surprise, by the time I got home, my e-book was already in the Amazon bestseller charts in its category, #4 in the “Health and Fitness > Disorders and Diseases” chart! Admittedly, I’ve never had a burning ambition to top that particular chart before, but if it helps raise funds to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes, that’s fine by me!

To order your copy of my e-book in the UK from Amazon, click this link . In any other country, just enter my name and “Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes”, and it should magically appear. UK price is £1.99, US $2.99, and all profits go to the Type 1 diabetes research charity, JDRF. Thank you for your support.

Posted in Reading, Writing

Plus Ça Change…

Read for Good charity logo
I finally let go of the balloon

Last month, I announced a major change. I planned to abandon my day job at Read for Good, the Nailsworth-based national charity, to devote my time to writing.

“I can’t believe you’re leaving Read for Good!” said some of my friends, knowing what great work it does, encouraging children to read for pleasure (Readathon) and making life better for children in hospital by providing them with free books and storytellers (ReadWell).

“I can’t believe you’re giving up a part-time, term- time job – every working mother’s dream!” said others.

It hadn’t been an easy decision. We’d always planned I’d give up the day job once my husband started getting his Civil Service pension, which happened in March. We’d reckoned without the objections of my 10-year-old daughter: “But it’s COOL having a mummy who works for Read for Good!”

…Plus C’est La Même Chose

Sir Tony Robinson with a ReadWell bookcaes
Read for Good’s better known ambassador, its new patron Sir Tony Robinson (Photo: Clint Randall)

No-one was surprised when, in the run-up to my last day at the office, I hedged my bets by cheekily appointing myself a Read for Good ambassador.

That’s how it came about that during my first full week of supposedly writing full-time, I enjoyed not one but two excursions on behalf of the charity.

On Wednesday 9th October, I was invited to join two other local writers, Katie Fforde and Simon Sheridan, on BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s excellent Chris Baxter Show. The DJ engaged us in wide-ranging discussion of children’s literacy and publishing trends, giving me the chance to explain the work of both Readathon and ReadWell to a county-wide audience.

The live broadcast took place not at the BBC’s studio, but in a temporary setting to which they’d decamped for the Cheltenham Literature Festival. It was hard to stop myself phoning someone on my mobile to announce with fake nonchalance “Hello, I’m in The Writers’ Room at Cheltenham Literature Festival…”

To stop myself getting ideas above my station, I lunched afterwards at McDonald’s in Stroud. It seemed a good way to bring myself back down to earth.

Debbie Young in conversation with Sarah McIntyre, Philip Reeve and Nick Sharratt
Demonstrating my ambassadorial powers while  wishing I too had worn a hat (Photo: Clint Randall)

Two days later, on Friday 11th, I was back at the Festival, this time in the Queen’s Hotel for Read for Good’s fundraising reception. My role was to chat up the guests, which included award-winning children’s authors and illustrators such as Nick Sharratt, Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. Read for Good’s new patron, the actor and author Sir Tony Robinson, inspired us all with a passionate speech about the power of books for young people. He cited his own experience of bunking off school as a teenager, in order to spend more time in the library!

I did still manage to get some writing done last month, but I’m enjoying this ambassador malarkey. And that’s before I’ve even started on the Ferrero Rocher…

Platter of Ferrero Rocher chocolates
Clearly I need more ambassadorial experience before I’m able to pile Ferrero Rocher into a pyramid, as in the ads

By the way, I’ve discovered it is IMPOSSIBLE to stack Ferrero Rocher into a pyramid as they do in the television advert (strapline: “Ah, Ambassador, with these Ferrero Rocher you are truly spoiling us). I think they must use blu-tak.

(This post was originally written for my Tetbury Advertiser column, November 2013.)

  • To find out more about the BBC Radio Gloucestershire broadcast and to hear a recording of it, click here for my previous post about it.
  • To get involved in the great work that Read for Good does encouraging children to read, visit
  • For further research into Ferrero Rocher, go to your nearest sweetshop. Go on, you know you want to. 
Posted in Reading, Writing

Walking on Air at the Cheltenham Literature Festival

BBC Radio Gloucestershire panel guests with DJ
Me, DJ Chris Baxter, Katie Fforde & Simon Sheridan (Photo by Jo Durrant)

By popular request, I’m posting up a link here so that my friends around the world can hear me taking part in a live BBC radio broadcast at Cheltenham Literature Festival on Wednesday 9th October.

(Reproduced here by kind permission of BBC Radio Gloucestershire)

How did my radio appearance come about? I hear you ask. Well, my friend Tanith Harding, founder of Build A Book, put me forward as a panel member for an hour-long current affairs discussion feature on BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Chris Baxter Show. I’d met Tanith through my work at Read for Good, and we share a passion for encouraging children to love reading.

The  show was to be broadcast live from the Cheltenham Literature Festival – the world’s biggest event of its kind. BBC Radio Gloucestershire had arranged to broadcast from the Writers’ Room in the Town Hall, sanctuary for the many special guests who appear as part of the Festival. Two other local writers were taking part – the highly successful romantic novelist Katie Fforde, currently President of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and popular culture writer Simon Sheridan.

Having assembled in one of the conference rooms, the three of us were ushered by a member of the programme’s production team into a corner of the Writer’s Room. We were tucked behind the bar, out of sight of the authors as they strode in, rattlingcoffee cups and booming out greetings to each other, until they spotted our headphone-wearing, microphone-toting host, DJ Chris Baxter, in full flow.

5, 4, 3, 2…

Another treat at Cheltenham: meeting Sir Tony Robinson, patron of Read for Good (Photo by Clint Randall)
Another Cheltenham treat: meeting Sir Tony Robinson, patron of Read for Good (Photo by Clint Randall)

The hour went quickly as Chris skilfully directed us through a host of literary topics, from child literacy to e-books to self-publishing trends. The debate was lively but always courteous and certainly stimulating.

The hour also included the odd musical interlude and news report, plus a surreal “badger break”, reporting on the county-wide badger cull under way that day in a dubious attempt to contain the spread of bovine TB. These items are not included in the WAV file above.

Talking very fast, I was able to fly the flag for many causes dear to my heart, including the charity Read for Good, home to Readathon and ReadWell; the JDRF, which funds research into a cure for Type 1 Diabetes, and the professional reputation of the self-published author, with reference to the Alliance of Independent Authors. I even managed to get a couple of name-checks for my book promotion handbook, Sell Your Books!

At the end, Chris Baxter invited me to come back another time, to discuss diabetes, and I’m hopeful that he’ll be interested in continuing the discussion about self-publishing and Read for Good too.

And We’re Clear…

Debbie Young in conversation with Sarah McIntyre, Philip Reeve and Nick Sharratt
Still talking non-stop the following Friday night at the Read for Good party, with authors Sarah McIntyre, Philip Reeve and Nick Sharratt (Photo by Clint Randall)

Still deep in conversation with the lovely Katie Fforde even after the show was over, I left the Writers’ Room walking on air (ho ho). I was also rather proud of myself for resisting the urge to call home on my mobile in “hello, I’m on the train” mode, to announce casually “Hello, I’m in the Writers’ Room at the Cheltenham Literature Festival”.

To bring myself back to earth, I stopped for lunch on the way home at the Stroud branch of McDonald’s. Not my usual choice of dining venue, but at least it stopped me getting ideas above my (radio) station.

Posted in Family, Travel

Fishwife Power: A Tribute to the Fishwives Choir

The Fishwives' Choir
Meet The Fishwives

Every Friday I attend my daughter’s school’s weekly Celebration Service. It’s an uplifting end to the week, focused on highlighting the children’s achievements. It’s a completely different experience to the whole-school assemblies that kick-started every school day in my own childhood. Each one followed the same formula: two hymns, one prayer, and bashed out on an upright piano a roaring tune to which we marched in and out.

The numbered hymns, chosen from a small blue hardback Songs of Praise book, ranged considerably in popularity. My favourite was 202. To this day, I still cannot see the number 202 anywhere without wanting to burst into boisterous song: “For all the saints who from their labours rest…”

Almost as popular, because its words were dramatic and it had no high notes, was “Eternal Father, strong to save”. One of my friends liked that one so much he planned to have it at his wedding.

For Those In Peril On The Sea

In my innocence, I thought of this hymn as a history lesson, as if losing fishermen at sea had gone out with the Ark. After all, I didn’t know any fisherman who had drowned. Living a long way from any seaside, I was about as likely to meet a fisherman as I was to meet a saint.

Even on a recent trip to the Scottish National Fisheries Museum (you can read about that visit in my post New Respect for Old Fishwives), I still did not appreciate what a dangerous a trade it is. I’m embarrassed now that my earlier post about fishwives was so flippant – but it was that post that caused a modern-day group of fishwives to find me. Yes, there are still fishwives – and the group pictured above make up The Fishwives Choir. They conveyed some very important messages, such as these:

  • Seafishing is the most dangerous peacetime occupation in the country. Even the most modern ship does not render fishermen inviolable, and plenty of fishermen ply their trade in less sophisticated vessels.
  • When fishermen lose their lives, their bodies may never be found. This creates serious financial problems for their surviving dependents, while insurance companies dither, unwilling to declare them legally dead in the absence of certain proof.

Who knew? I now feel even more disgusted than before with “Canoe Man” John Darwin, the notorious fraudster who faked his own death at sea in order to start a new life with his wife in Panama with his life insurance money. How dare he?

The logo of the Fishwives ChoirThe Fishwives Choir

The Fishwives Choir is a dignified and determined group of women who have lost husbands or sons to the sea. They came together earlier this year to make a beautiful and poignant recording, intercutting “Eternal Father, strong to save” with the northern fishermen’s nursery rhyme “Dance to Your Daddy”. In the final chorus, the expected last line “when the boat comes in” is omitted, subtly reminding the listener that for some fishermen’s children, Daddy’s boat never does come in. All profits from the CD will go to The Fishermen’s Mission, which offers support to lost fishermen’s dependents.

So next time you tuck into a takeway or break out a Birdseye box from the cuddly polar bear’s clutches in your freezer, spare a thought for the men who have indirectly served you your Friday fish supper. And I’m not talking about Captain Birdseye. Listen to The Fishwives’Choir and while you’re at it, please consider downloading the song from iTunes. You’ll find it’s as cheap as chips.

For more information and to order your copy, visit The Fishwives’ website

To find out more about The Fisherman’s Mission, click here.