THE AUTHOR Heinrich Mann once said “A house without books is like a room without windows.”
And an innovative project is ensuring children are never short of reading material.
Own Books was started by Julie de Bastion in 2014 – it’s a book recycling project that helps young children without books by giving them stories to take home to keep for a while – or forever.
It all began when Julie – an artist by profession – became a volunteer reader at a primary school in Henley and discovered several children did not have any books at home.
“I thought that was incredibly sad,” she said. “And then I had a brainwave. What if I could go to charity shops and ask for books for the children at school that they could take home?”
Shortly afterwards, Own Books was born.
The books Julie collected were labelled and placed on a shelf at the school with children being invited to take them home and either return or keep them, and then take another.
The scheme now operates across Coventry, Warwickshire and Worcestershire too – in children’s centres, nurseries, primary and secondary schools.
“It’s simple really, but it has been so successful,” Julie said. “What’s wonderful is how much the children like Own Books; the difference it really makes to them, the enjoyment it brings.”
The project removes any obligation for parents to buy or return books – but it’s about encouraging families to read together too. According to Julie, a lack of books at home isn’t always about money.
“Sometimes it is, but it’s often actually about mindset,” she said. “Parents who just don’t think it’s important. That is incredibly sad because reading is so important – it gives you imagination, an escape and with so many demands on children these days, they need that.
“We want to encourage parents and carers to read to and with their children – that is such precious time and it won’t be there forever.”
Stratford Town Trust has awarded a fast-track grant to Own Books to support its operation in Stratford, with ambitions for it to expand into even more nurseries and schools.
Being child-centred, it’s a project young readers can enjoy particularly at school with book bags are awarded as prizes for book monitoring work, or to children who review their books, draw illustrations inspired by a story, or even pen their own tales.
Own Books recycles all kinds of books suitable for children from pre-school age up to 12.
Anyone who wants to donate books can email [email protected] or call 01564 795071.
Alternatively, books can be donated at participating schools or dropped at the Own Books storeroom at the Warwick District Council offices.
Visit www.ownbooks.co.uk for further information.