If you can remember a few weeks ago I wrote about the Get Dads Reading campaign by the charity Booktrust (logo provided by Rosi below). Because I wasn’t very familiar with the charity (awful I know) I asked their new press officer Rosi Crawley if I could interview her about her new job (Rosi previously worked in publishing at HarperCollins and was very lovely and gave me some ARCs of books – to further my love of reading even more).
Hi Rosi – hope you’ve settled in. Can you tell me what a ‘typical’ work day is like for you?
This question is actually much easier to answer now than when I was in publishing! I have much more of a routine now – I arrive at Book House where we all work in Wandsworth and take a look at my emails, checking all the news bulletins I receive first thing and scanning the online news sites for any relevant books or education news stories. We’re a reactive PR team so we do try and provide comment when news comes up that relates to education, literacy, libraries etc. We either use our lovely CEO Viv Bird to provide comment or often the children’s laureate will have opinions on the matter.
There’s a very kind man called Ron who is in his 80s and comes in every morning to read through all the papers. He marks up anything relevant and once he’s done that, either myself or my manager will read through and then we’ll regale each other with the most interesting news of that day.
The rest of the day is spent working on press releases, contacting authors and celebrities to work as spokespeople, and pitching PR around the awards we administer (which includes the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, Sunday Times Short Story Award, Roald Dahl Funny Prize and Blue Peter Book Award). Soon I’ll also be spending a lot more time working on the announcement of the new Laureate in June, which will start to take up a lot of my time, and I’m very excited!
And how does what you do fit in with Booktrust’s aims?
More than ever Booktrust really needs PR support – with Government funding looking less stable, we have to ensure we keep the charity funded from as many sources as possible. Among many other things, we give away books to every baby in England each year through the Bookstart scheme, as well as every 4-5 year old in reception through Booktime. The whole aim is to keep that completely free to ensure every child in the country owns a book and that can only be done if we keep fundraising. Knowing that there are children in this country who don’t own a single book is unacceptable to me – it’s a level of deprivation we simply shouldn’t allow. By promoting Booktrust to the world as much as possible, hopefully we’re raising awareness of the organization with the public, but also with the government and those in command of the purse strings!
Other than the Get Dads Reading Campaign are there any other campaigns that we should know about?
This year we launched the Children’s Reading Fund – this is a public facing fundraising campaign, where the money raised will go specifically towards helping deprived and disadvantaged children and those in care. Before I started, I read a really shocking statistic that children in care are more likely to go to prison than to university. Through schemes like the Letterbox Club, where Booktrust sends book parcels to children in care, we hope we can encourage reading through that ever-exciting moment of receiving post addressed to you. The idea is to “Change the Story” and turn around children’s lives through reading. I really strongly believe that grasping a love of reading can change your whole life and hopefully we can do this with the CRF.
What if people want to get involved in supporting Booktrust’s work – what can they do?
There’s a page on the Booktrust site about how to support us – just £4 a month could mean seven disable children receiving specially tailored book packs to help them get ahead in their literacy. Or if you’re running a marathon, holding a bake sale, any fundraising of any kind is vital and hugely appreciated!
I couldn’t let Rosi go without finding out a little more about her.
Who is your go to author – someone whose books you’ll always read?
When I was younger I read absolutely everything by Jacqueline Wilson and could probably settle down with her books quite easily still today! But the one person I will always stump up for a shiny hardback for these days is Patrick Ness – I was blown away by the Chaos Walking books and am thrilled he has two new books coming this year – I’m reading The Crane Wife at the moment and it’s gorgeous!
Top recommended book?
Probably A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – a bit predictable as it DID win both the Carnegie and Greenaway medals in the same year and is pretty universally adored by all children’s book people, but it is THAT good. The other favourite in recent years for me was Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough. Absolutely terrifying and fantastically written by the nicest lady you could ever meet!
When you are not working or reading you like…
I have a real obsession with watching movie trailers. Seeing the trailers always was one of my favourite things about going to the cinema and when I discovered you could watch them all online I found my dream activity!! I love film watching in general, the more explodey/action packed, the better. If I’m not watching trailers/movies/reading/writing then I’m probably eating some kind of cake.
If you want to ask me anything about Booktrust then just drop me an email at email@example.com
I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Rosi for taking time to answer my questions. I think that the work of Booktrust is very important and I love the idea of Ron’s daily task. I’ve now also got more books to add to the to read list having never read Rosi’s recommended reads. I’m excited to find out who the new Children’s Laureate is too – I wonder if I offered Rosi cake…
What do you think of Booktrust’s aims?
What strategies can we all employ to inspire a love of books?
‘Only one in eight dads take the lead with reading to their children’
I have to admit to being both shocked and not shocked to hear this statistic.
Research interviews suggested that fathers see ‘reading as a female domain’ and tend not to use the resources or follow the practices that mothers do. It is also suggested that when they do read they read more to their daughters than their sons – therefore perpetuating the cycle.
Booktrust report this as ‘a major concern as a father’s involvement in their child’s early reading is proven to boost academic success, leading to improved social and emotional wellbeing’.
Now I agree with some of the comments on the campaign page which suggest that leading reading should be a shared responsibility but I think the concern is about men modelling reading as desirable, particularly to boys. The Booktrust campaign ‘Get Dads Reading’ is therefore challenging dads to match mums in reading. Why not even read and spend quality time all together.
HRH, The Duchess of Cornwall and author James Patterson launched the campaign. Here is James talking about it.
I learnt that James started writing for children to encourage his son to read. He also has his own website ReadKiddoRead that acts as a resource to help parents find books their children might like, and provides lesson plans and activities for educators.
Working late got much of the blame for the lack of reading to children, and research is suggesting ‘that at formal literacy events for children, only 10% of the parents attending are dads.’ This makes me wonder how much support our culture and therefore employers give dads to attend school events such as these.
Writer Matt Haig shares his views here. He suggests the ratio of women to men reading in general is 70:30 and also highlights this is a wider cultural issue with book marketing being directed more to women because they buy more. That capitalism effect again!!
My memory is rubbish so I have no actual recollection of either of my parents reading to me (I barely know what happened to me a month ago so I’m 100% sure they did – ‘I remember’ practicing writing the letters of the alphabet before school and I remember reading lots as a child). What I do recall is both my parents with their nose in a book, laid in bed together or side by side in armchairs reading, Dad bringing one with him in the car when he was taking me for an appointment somewhere. My parents love of reading has clearly rubbed off on me (I used to get told off for spending too much time on the loo with a book!!).
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that I think reading is important for development and wellbeing – I’m almost suspicious of those who say they don’t like reading often wanting to find and suggest books that will “change their minds”.
If you are/or know a dad who takes up the challenge tweet using the hashtag #dadsreading. Believe me your children will thank you for it – eventually.
(Much of the information above comes from a Booktrust press release and I’ve tried to indicate where I used their words).
One thing I wondered when it was mentioned that boys’ literacy is falling was about the impact of this on dads’ reading. Another campaign I’ve heard Kara Tointon talking about recently is Quick Reads. This is where major authors have been commissioned to write shorter stories targeted at the 1 in 6 people who find reading challenging (Kara has dyslexia and on a recent radio show she reported feeling jealous of her sister reading when younger and really enjoying reading when she finally got into it).
You can find out more about Quick Reads and how to purchase the books here.
I’m hoping to interview Rosi Crawley from Booktrust soon, to find out more about the organisation and their work. I’m giving her a couple of weeks to settle into her new job though (Rosi was previously the giver of lovely ARCs at HarperCollins and sent me the press release for this campaign).
Please share with me your #dadsreading stories below?