A bookseller in Wetherby, West Yorkshire, has launched a crowdfund to donate books to children who receive free school meals.
Keira Andrews recently opened her bookshop Reading Roots in the town centre, but came up with the idea after she was forced to close only three weeks after opening due to the new UK Covid-19 restrictions.
"I’d been overwhelmed by the community support for the bookshop in our first three weeks and wanted to find a way to give back to the community," she told The Bookseller. "The school meal packages were in the news at the time, and I thought that I could use my contacts in getting books to provide a form of escapism—as well as giving children something to keep—for the remainder of the lockdown."
Andrews previously worked as a secondary school teacher, and is now working with three primary schools in Wetherby to distribute titles. She buys the books at cost from her supplier, which has waived part of its fee, and has raised £425 of her £500 target through Gofundme. She plans to extend the scheme past Wetherby if she receives enough donations.
The titles include books for three- to 16-year-olds, chosen based on the books that have proved popular in-store, and recent releases. Some authors have pledged their support to the campaign. Lesley Parr, author of Valley of Lost Secrets (Bloomsbury Children's Books) sent signed bookplates to the shop, and schools are getting involved to match the donations with the children's interests. After selecting the titles, Andrews delivers them to the schools.
"It’s my aim to cross off every school in the town. We’re hoping to achieve that this week, depending on fundraising, and then move further afield to send support to as many schools as we can," she said.
Andrews plans to run a "pay-it-forward" scheme when the shop can reopen, to tackle pricing obstacles. Customers will be able to donate the cost of a book for a child while they shop.
"Books are getting more expensive, and although it’s understandable why, I’ve had many customers come to buy a book, see the price of the new books, and ask when the paperback will be released so they can afford it then," she said.
"I’ve also had some children come in with their £5 from grandparents, and they have struggled to find a book when most picture books are now £6.99. The experience of going book-shopping is becoming more of a luxury than a regular event, and this is a great shame."