As anyone with a school-age child cannot fail to be aware, Thursday 2nd March will be World Book Day. This annual event was founded by UNESCO to promote reading. While almost all schools do something special to celebrate books that day, they work hard to foster a love of reading all year round, and quite right too.
Tag: Read for Good
The Little Shop of Murders
I’m pleased to announce that a new Sophie Sayers short story, Nowhere to Hide, will be published in a new charity anthology called The Little Shop of Murders on 1st April 2023. By chance, that date marks the sixth anniversary of the publication of my debut novel, Best Murder in Show, Sophie’s first adventure. so I’ll have two reasons to celebrate!
The ebook is now available to preorder, and the paperback will be available on the launch date. Read on to find out more about the project, to which 15 bestselling crime writers have contributed stories. All profits will be donated to support three excellent charities for children, including Read for Good, for which I worked for three very happy years.
Read on to find out more about the anthology, the authors, the stories, and the charities, and how to order your copies.
Thoughts on Reading, Writing & Community for World Book Day
On World Book Day yesterday I was pleased to be invited to take part in a special online eventrun by CoProduce Care, a not-for-profit organisation connecting people, communities and organisations to influence the decisions affecting the care community.
I’ve been involved for many years with World Book Day both as a parent and when I worked for the children’s reading charity Read for Good. Knowing how a love of books and reading can transform the lives of people of all ages, I was really pleased that CoProduce Care wanted to extend the celebration to adults also, and in particular to the providers and clients of social care services.
CoProduce Care’s event, expertly hosted by Sophie Chester-Glyn, was livestreamed on World Book Day and is now available to watch at your leisure. Click the image below to watch on Youtube:
I’m introduced six minutes into the show, but it’s worth watching the whole thing to enjoy the talks and readings by historical novelist and historian Lucienne Boyce and YA author Luke Palmer, and the Q&A session with Sophie.
About My Talk
I was asked to speak for ten minutes – five minutes talking about books and my writing life, and five minutes reading from one of my stories, choosing a passage relevant to CoProduce Care’s activities.
I don’t usually use a script for talks, but as time was so tight and I wanted to make best use of it, I wrote my talk down beforehand, and today I’m sharing it below in case anyone would like to read it.
Thank you very much. I’m very pleased to be part of this event celebrating the joy of books and reading and writing.
I’ve always been an avid reader, and I enjoy escaping into a good book. When times are tough, books can be especially comforting and even healing. When I had pneumonia a few years ago, the gift of a box set of P G Wodehouse novels seemed a better tonic than any medication. During the pandemic, starting each day by quietly enjoying a chapter or two of a good book has been grounding and calming.
If you’re not sure reading is for you, maybe you just haven’t found the right book yet. To help you find books you’ll love, visit your local library and have a chat with a librarian – they love being asked for recommendations, and they’ll be very pleased to help you find books that you would enjoy.
Like reading, writing has been very therapeutic for me in times of trouble or distress. For many years I kept diaries, and for the last twelve years I’ve been a blogger. I also enjoy writing fiction and non-fiction for other people to read.
Like reading, writing can be an enjoyable hobby that costs you next to nothing. If you’ve never tried writing, give it a go. Writing for your eyes only is fine – no need to share it unless you want to. All you need is a notebook and pen. Just write whatever comes into your head for ten minutes or so first thing in the morning or last thing at night. If you keep at it for a few weeks, you’ll find yourself writing what matters to you, and understanding and working through your own feelings. You may uncover thoughts and feelings you didn’t even know you had, and you’ll feel better for it. You might even find yourself writing stories you’d like to share, as Lucienne, Luke and I are sharing ours today.
I’ve written nine novels and lots of shorter stories. I write what is known in the trade as cosy mystery. This means that despite a crime being the jumping-off point for the plot, the stories are never dark or graphic or bloodthirsty. Instead they provide gentle, upbeat entertainment that leaves you smiling – and they often make you laugh out loud along the way. My stories are all set in the Cotswolds. They have a strong sense of place and a cast of quirky characters, most of whom are lovable, and the villains are the kind you love to hate.
My inspiration comes from my home village in the Cotswolds. When I moved here 30 years ago, I was immediately impressed by how people here look out for each other and support each other in good times and bad times, and I write to celebrate that sense of community. My stories show that when people take time to get to know and understand each other, the world can be a more tolerant and generous place. The conflict in my stories – and also some of the comedy – often comes from initial misunderstandings that are eventually resolved. I hope they might inspire readers to be equally caring about their own neighbours.
About My Reading
For my reading, I chose an extract from The Natter of Knitters, my quick-read novelette, about a yarnbombing event that goes haywire, thanks to the intervention of Ariel, an odd newcomer to the village, who stages a one-woman protest under the slogan:
“Say No to Knitting: Let Sheep Safely Graze”
To hear my reading from The Natter of Knitters, click here and scroll to 12 minutes into the video.
If you’d like to read the whole story, you can download the ebook or buy a tiny pocket-size paperback online here.
While Making Other Plans
So, how are your New Year’s Resolutions doing?
There’s a reason the flurry of self-improvement articles published at the turn of the year fizzle out by February. Whatever resolutions you pledge on New Year’s Eve, by the end of January, life is likely to have got in the way, shattering your illusions of autonomy.
THIS YEAR’S EXCUSES
Diversions from my good intentions began even before Big Ben chimed in 2022. On the morning of 31 December, noticing inflammation in my jaw, I booked a GP appointment, not wanting to wait until the practice reopened on Tuesday 4 January.
Despite returning with antibiotics to treat a glandular infection, the left side of my face and left were soon reminiscent of Rudolph’s nose. For the first week of 2022, antibiotic-induced brain fog scuppered my New Year’s Resolutions, and I planned a fresh start in the second week of January.
UNINTENDED CONSQUENCES OF A TRIP TO IKEA
Then came a head injury from a close encounter with the sharp corner of my car boot, an unforeseen hazard of a trip to IKEA. Fortunately the damage proved superficial, but for the following week, pain and exhaustion put paid to vigorous movements and loud noises. No bellringing practice for me!
When metaphorically dining out on my mishaps in a private Facebook group of close friends, I was looking for laughs rather than sympathy, so I was taken aback when several chums remarked on my bad luck. A Pollyanna by nature, I’ve always thought I lead a charmed life and am grateful for every blessing.
I also think everything happens for a reason. Cancelling my social life while I recovered gave me more thinking and reading time than my hectic lifestyle normally allows. The regenerative power of lying fallow applies just as much to people as to fields.
The net result is that I abandoned my New Year’s Resolutions, instead adopting principles learned in two very different books I read during my recovery: time management guru Ryder Carroll’s The Bullet Journal Method and Vita Sackville-West’s novel All Passion Spent. (A testament to the healing power of books – more about that phenomenon In Other News below.)
- Carroll suggests a great way to assess your life and your goals: write two versions of your own obituary, the first as if you lived the life according to others’ expectations and in the line of least resistance, and the second as if you took the road less travelled.
- Sackville-West’s heroine only learns in her old age to be true to herself.
My new plan for 2022 is therefore to live the life I’d like to see in my obituary (although not just yet).
In the meantime, my sense of gratitude is intact. I am grateful for the NHS and for antibiotics, especially having discovered while awaiting an ambulance that before the age of antibiotics, bacterial infection was the chief cause of death in the developed world. I’m also thankful that IKEA’s cinnamon buns taste just as good even after a blow to the head.
This column first appeared in the February 2022 edition of the Tetbury Advertiser.
IN OTHER NEWS…
BBC Radio 4 Appeal for Read for Good
I was thrilled to hear that this week’s BBC Radio 4 Appeal is in aid of the fabulous children’s reading charity Read for Good (known as Readathon while I worked there from 2010 until 2013).
Read for Good harnesses the tremendous power of books and reading to make children in hospital feel better – and their parents and carers too – by providing free books and professional storytellers to every children’s hospital in the UK. Hear what a difference their work makes to families all over the country by listening to this account by the mother of teenager William during his treatment for cancer:
Justine Daniels, Read for Good’s chief executive, explains further: “We all know the power of a good story, but in hospital, for children like William, this becomes magnified. Transporting children in hospital to imaginary worlds can help them process trauma and relieve anxiety, supporting their mental health and wellbeing at the most difficult time. This BBC appeal, and the support of National Book Tokens and the Booksellers Association will help us to continue to provide comfort and escape at a time and in a place where a little distraction goes such a long way.”
If you’d like to donate to help Read for Good provide more books and storytellers to children in hospital, you can do so now here: https://readforgood.org/radio-4-appeal/. Every donation, no matter how small, will help a poorly child escape into a story and bring joy and relief to their parents and carers.
New Charity Audiobook
You may remember that last autumn I contributed a short story, “Christmas Ginger“, to a new charity anthology called Everyday Kindness, edited by the bestselling thriller writer and philanthropist L J Ross, and published in hardback and ebook on World Kindness Day in November. Each of the 54 stories, all by different authors, were (no surprises here!) on the theme of kindness.
LJ Ross and her Dark Skies publishing company has now teamed up with audiobook specialist W F Howes to turn the anthology into an audiobook, which was launched yesterday. I was thrilled to learn that the narrator for my story is the wonderful British actress Celia Imrie.
The audiobook is now available to download and is currently topping the Audible chart of literary anthologies. Here’s the buying link: https://geni.us/EverydayKindness
Why I’m Supporting Read With Me – A Charity Helping Children to Read
In this week’s post, I’m sharing news of a great cause that I’ve recently discovered called Read With Me.
Whether or not you have children of your own, I’m sure you’ll agree that anything that helps children to become competent and enthusiastic readers can only be a good thing. That’s why I really enjoyed my three years spent working for national children’s reading charity Read for Good.
While Read for Good does a great job at a national level by running sponsored Readathons in schools, Read With Me currently operates solely within Gloucestershire and sends adult volunteers into schools to hear children read one-to-one. This individual attention and social interaction makes a vast difference to children’s progress, especially to those who get little or no support at home.
More About Read With Me
Read With Me was founded by Linda Cohen of Wotton-under-Edge, just a few miles from where I live. As Linda explains on Read With Me’s website, children need to be able to communicate and to read. Without those basic skills their life opportunities are reduced and they face a bleak future. The inability to read will impact on not only their outcomes but those of their children.
Teachers and head teachers agree that the ability to read is the key to all learning.
Children who are unable to read properly by the age of 7 never catch up. In the UK, 1 in 5 children leave primary school unable to read. These children do less well at school, have dramatically reduced employment choices and earning opportunities, and a greater chance of going to prison. The UK has the worst literacy rates in the developed world.
In addition to attending school every day, ideally each child should have 15 minutes of one-to-one time when they can be heard to read by an adult and have verbal and social interaction. But with large class sizes and busy timetables, it’s nigh impossible for teachers to provide this.
Read With Me has therefore developed a unique programme where local employers give employees half an hour twice a week to hear two children read in their schools.
“It’s amazing how something so simple can be utterly transforming,” says Linda.
Linda started by rolling out Read With Me’s service in Gloucester, because it’s an area with a huge need. She will be extending the service across Gloucestershire, but Read With Me will also support anyone outside the area who wanted to set up something similar, even if it was only for their local school.
“We want to create a blueprint which everyone can use,” says Linda.
Outside of term time, Linda also organises The Not So Secret Book Club, offering some fabulous free opportunities for children to meet to read in Gloucester parks, providing free books so necessary when many children don’t have any books of their own at home. They offer a huge selection, from simple board books to teen fiction. They also have craft materials available and inspiration for simple creative projects, and story sessions too.
Why Read With Me is Fundraising Now
Although volunteers donate their time to Read With Me for free, the organisation needs to cover essential running costs. One of the ways Linda planned to raise funds this autumn was by selling Christmas cards, and three local shops had kindly agreed to stock them: Fish Out of Water, The Cotswold Book Room, and The Subscription Rooms in Stroud. Unfortunately, lockdown has temporarily put a stop to that.
In the meantime, young volunteers have set up an online shop to sell the cards, so below I’m sharing more details in case you’d like to support this great cause by placing an order.
About Read With Me’s Christmas Cards
Designer and illustrator Molly Bult created three designs in mixed media of gouache paint and digital collage using scanned materials, which have been printed on quality board with a choice of brown kraft or festive red envelopes. They are sold in packs of 9 for £3.99 each, or £10 for 3.
The Christmas cards are one of two festive initiatives to raise funds for Read With Me. There is also an online shop of stocking-filler toys, generously donated by the new proprietors of The Cotswold Book Room.
- Order packs of Read With Me Christmas cards online here.
- Visit the Read With Me online toyshop here.
Other Ways to Support Read With Me
- Buy toys online The Cotswold Book Room generously donated their stock of pocket-money toys to Read With Me, and these are now available to order on its website here: https://readwithme.org.uk/product-category/toy-sale/
- Volunteer to read with children in school If you’re in Gloucestershire, you can become a Read With Me volunteer, donating just two hours a week to go into a school to hear children read.
- Donate books Donations of books for children of all ages, from board books to young adult novels are always welcome.
- Donate craft materials Craft materials and activity books are really useful at Read With Me’s Not So Secret Book Clubs.
- Help out at the Not So Secret Book Clubs Subject to restrictions, these will next be running on 22nd and 23rd December – announcements will be made on Read With Me’s website, Facebook page and on all the community websites.
- Help sort books Volunteers are needed to help sort donated books to be sent to schools either to bolster their libraries or to provide children who have no reading material at home a selection of their own books.
- Share fundraising ideas Linda would love to hear from anyone with creative fundraising ideas to boost Read With Me’s funds.
- Support on social media “Like” Read With Me’s Facebook page and share their posts with your friends.
- Make a donation There’s a donate box on the home page (scroll down till you see the yellow banner “Support Us” and its right underneath that.)
If you can help in any of these ways, please contact Linda via the Read With Me website.
Read on if you’d like to find out more about Read With Me via my informal interview with Linda and about the Christmas card designer Molly Bult, who has sent me her bio for anyone interested in her other design work.
Interview with Linda Cohen
It’s great to be able to sell Christmas cards and stocking filler toys online, but how do fundraise at other times of year?
We are a start-up, so fundraising is in the early stages. We’ve been established as a social enterprise, so the aim is to be relatively self-sufficient, but we’ve received some wonderful help from Gloucestershire Community Foundation. We’ve held a number of virtual events, including the Wotton 10k in which our supporters took part across the world, some even in Hong Kong – a combination of elite runners and some more sedate walkers who punctuated the walk with tea and cake stops.
What will the proceeds from the sales of Christmas cards and toys be used for?
The proceeds from the cards, like all the other money we raise, goes towards the shoestring running costs of delivering our service.
It only costs £50 a year to deliver twice-weekly sessions to each child, but we need to be able to support 500 more places immediately after Christmas.
You mentioned the three shops kindly stocking your cards, and the amazing contribution of stock by The Cotswold Book Room. Are there any particular local businesses that you’d like to mention as key supporters of the scheme?
Gloucester Services have been amazing. All their profits go back in to the community, so make that a destination stop for petrol! I’ve also set up reading schemes with partner schools for some of my PR clients.
What would Read with Me like from Santa this year?
I think Santa must have been operating throughout the year as we’ve already been the recipients of astonishing generosity from a number of the organisations and individuals, from teenagers to the retired.
The greatest gift would be the ability for our fantastic volunteers to all feel able to go back in to school safely and get on with their work.
However there is nothing to match the gift of a child’s face lighting up when they make a breakthrough or one of our littlest readers rushing to tell you that they’ve started reading at home.
Meet Molly Bult
Read With Me’s Christmas card designer Molly Bult shares her bio.
“Hi! I’m Molly, Manchester based illustrator and print designer behind Molly Emilia Rose. Coming from a printed textiles background, my designs are led by my passion for colour, texture and pattern. I love to create mixed media artwork, marrying both digital and analog techniques.
“Growing up in the South Wales countryside, my love of art and nature has grown hand in hand. My work is inspired by the biophilic connection we share with nature, a celebration of the abundance and variety of life and colour in the natural world.
“More recently, I have become fascinated with people, human interaction and relationships which you can see has fed into my portfolio of work – often with elements of humour thrown in!”
Follow Molly on Instagram at @
Thank you for reading this post – I hope it inspires you to help this excellent cause if you can, or to emulate its success in your neighbourhood. Please don’t hesitate to contact Linda for more information.