A COMMUNITY project geared at giving youngsters access to free books has received royal recognition.
Henley-based Own Books has been awarded The King’s Award for Voluntary Service – the highest award a voluntary organisation can receive in the UK and equivalent to an MBE.
Own Books is a child-centred book recycling project to help youngsters have their own books at home regardless of their background.
It aims to encourage young children to develop an early love of books and reading through choosing and keeping their own books at home but without the financial stress for parents of needing to buy books. It also aims to foster a love of sharing these books with siblings and family.
Julie de Bastion founded Own Books in 2014 while assisting with voluntary reading in her local primary school and discovering that some of the young children did not possess books at home.
She asked local charity shops for any children’s books they could give her, and securing a regular supply of books, and with the school’s enthusiastic response, this new idea of giving away books for free for children to take home and keep was born.
Two older children in each participating school are appointed book monitors so children can claim ownership of the scheme – sorting books, labelling them with the Own Books stickers and organising and displaying the books as they like.
Julie told The Observer: “We are delighted and very honoured to receive this prestigious award for Own Books and the wonderful, amazing volunteers who help run it. I could not do it without them, of course.
“We began ten years ago, and now with amazing volunteers and charitable status, we have evolved to supplying over 100 schools up and down the country.
“Own Books seems to run on pixie dust as nothing had been planned. There was no business plan of any kind. things just evolved in a very organic way, and whenever we needed something in some amazing miraculous form, it just appeared whether it was a volunteer or more books or a storage space. It was just somehow available to us.
“Now we have been recognised with with the kings award for voluntary services.”
Lord-Lieutenant of Warwickshire Tim Cox will present the award to the charity.
And members of the charity will also attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace next summer, along with other recipients of this year’s award.
The charity is among 262 UK charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the award this year.
It recognises outstanding work by local volunteer groups to benefit their communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee and, following his accession, His Majesty The King emphasised his desire to continue the award.
Six organisations in Warwickshire were among 262 UK charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups honoured.
Leamington-based Helping Hands, which helps vulnerable people, and Warwick-based Graham Fulford Charitable Trust, which promotes awareness of prostate cancer and encourages early diagnosis, were also recognised.
As was Warwickshire Search and Rescue, which has been involved in over 375 searches for high risk, vulnerable missing people in the past decade, and military charity Veterans Contact Point, which supports ex-service men and women.
Mr Cox said: “Through their selfless dedication, these groups in Warwickshire have shown us the true definition of community service.
“Their exemplary voluntary work has not only improved the lives of people in our local communities but contributed towards a thriving voluntary and charitable sector across our county.
“Let’s continue to celebrate and support these unsung heroes, and I hope that their efforts inspire even more groups to be nominated for The King’s Award for Voluntary Service next year.”