No more pulp

No more pulp

With sustainability and green practices now top of the agenda for many companies, here at the Children’s Book Project (CBP) we are asking you as publishers to take a long, hard look at your policy on returns and think again before you take what seems like the the easy option and pulp them or consign them to landfill.

Why not instead use them to inspire a new generation of readers who otherwise are not lucky enough even to own their own book? With your support the CBP can gift books to the most disadvantaged communities across the UK where book poverty means that children don’t enjoy what you as publishers would see as a basic right – owning a book, losing themselves in a story, benefitting emotionally from being read to.

The eureka moment that inspired this charity came when Liberty Venn, our founder, was doing a book drive at her children’s own primary school.  She saw the emotional relationship that families have with the books they own and read together - and the pleasure that both parents and children gain from knowing that they are passing on their own much-loved favourites to children who have never been able to enjoy that emotional relationship.

So how does it work? The charity takes donated books from a variety of sources – school book drives, book hub drop-off points, publisher donations (part of Penguin Random House and Quarto are on board along with some smaller, independent publishing houses) – as well as collections at book festivals, independent bookshops and 3rd party partners such as Abel & Cole. Donated books are generally current, in excellent condition and are books that the children in our communities aspire to own. At our hub in Lots Road, London we sort books to ensure their quality, relevance and appeal. The curation of each delivery ensures that recipient schools receive an array of exciting, contemporary books suited to all reading stages and interests, from baby board books to teen fiction as well as non-fiction titles. Books are gifted along with creative resources for a school/community group to put on a compelling gifting event, whether a pop-up bookshop, pop-up book hut (which we provide) or another fun occasion that helps schools to create a real book buzz.

Our mission is to ensure the lifecycle of a book extends to those otherwise unable to purchase their own. This is not about helping a school to restock its library. It’s about giving a child the power to choose and own their own book. Our vision is to help children feel a real part of a wider reading community and to create lifelong readers amonst those who otherwise would simply not have the chance to discover that pleasure.

Our biggest challenge? Demand outstrips supply. Word has got out on the teacher grapevine, and schools that support children living in the most challenging circumstances are signing up at unprecedented levels. We hate to turn them away, particularly in this Covid era when books can crucially support the significant work that teachers are having to do to re-establish children’s emotional well-being.

Teachers tell us of the joy on the children’s faces when they realise that they can choose and keep a book and even take it home. We see it for ourselves when local primary schools visit us at Lots Road where we have created a bookshop as well as a great space for book reading or activity sessions. Each child has the opportunity to browse and choose their own book to take away – something that is often a first for them.

I was an avid reader from an early age – so much so, I set my heart on working in publishing as soon as I left school. I succeeded through stints at OUP, Pan Books and Heinemann where I worked in children’s books. Whilst I got side-tracked into the travel industry for much of my working life, I am delighted to have come full circle and be back at CBP where my specific role is to increase dramatically the number of donated books we receive from the publishing sector.

The Bookseller’s sustainability special of 15 October brought the issue to life. The current system isn’t working. Diverting returns to CBP, rather than consigning them to landfull or pulping them, is a no-brainer in that it tackles the returns dilemma positively AND goes a long way towards creating readers of the future.

So: To pulp or not to pulp, that is the question – and one to which we would like you to answer with a resounding NO.  Engage with CBP to make lifelong readers out of fledgling novices. Improve your sustainability profile and bring the joy of books to a new generation.

This year alone CBP expects to gift over 250k books across the UK to those children at no cost to the children, schools or families we work with. With your help, we can smash that target. 

Lizzie Norton started her working life in publishing and then worked in the travel industry for 30 years before selling her business 10 years ago. She has been a business mentor for the Princes Trust and joined the Children’s Book Project in 2020. You can reach her at lizzie@childrensbookproject.co.uk.