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 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.