In our work at Borderline Books we come across many people who have no access to books of their own for a variety of reasons. They may have had to leave home in a hurry because of domestic abuse, they may have had to leave their country in a hurry because of war or persecution. They might be without a place to live or just be on a very low income and using a food-bank. They could be in prison or have loved ones in prison.
None of these situations is a reason for people of any age not having books of their own. Libraries are essential and wonderful, but ownership of books is something unique and character-building. Many children in our area have no books of their own at home, and some of their parents may have difficulty with reading. We aim to bring books into homes in the hope of improving reading levels, education in general, and prospects for future employment - as well as the pure joy of reading and being transported to other worlds in the mind.
In a survey carried out by the National Literacy Trust it was found that the difference in life-expectancy for people in areas where literacy was considered important and where it was overlooked, could be up to 26 years! Literacy is also linked with improved health.
We notice that if young people come to us with the Young Offenders Team to do their community service, most of them say they have no interest in books. If you ask a little more, it's very likely that they may admit to have difficulty in reading. We receive many letters from people in prison telling us that they only learned to read once they were inside, so we hope that by doing our best to encourage reading amongst all ages, we may prevent people from ending up in prison.
The Literacy Arc
We begin with working in local primary schools in Gateshead where we are encouraging teachers to introduce Free Book Fridays. We will provide books so that pupils are able to choose a book or two to take home and keep - entirely free of charge, of course. As time goes on, we hope that the older children will bring in the books they no longer read to give away to the younger ones, creating a culture of sharing.... Each school will do this in their own way, but wouldn't if be wonderful if the children can speak about the books they loved the most and encourage others to read more!
Shortcuts to Trouble
We are seeking more ways to reach young people and instill in them the idea of the importance of being able to read - how else can they fill in forms to find work, or housing, or read the information on their medication to avoid accidently taking the wrong dose? Too many young people may end up taking short-cuts and ending up in trouble because they are not able to understand the written word at the level needed.
Free Books - Free minds
We will continue sending books into prisons all around the UK, helping to break down isolation, ease mental health issues and provide a legitimate avenue of escape through reading. We get requests for every kind of book you can imagine - from dictionaries and GCSE maths books to history, cooking, gardening, art and music - and every genre of fiction you can think of. Many people in prison are studying one trade or another or are following Open University courses, so there is a constant need for books that are not in prison libraries. Some of these we can supply from our stock of donated books, but sometimes we need to buy books in - particularly when a person has been asking us for books before and needs extra information in order to do well in exams.
We also send a new year card to everyone who wrote to us during the year - something we love to do and which is very much appreciated, but which is getting increasingly costly...
"I’d just like to thank you for your fantastic service and say how it warms my heart, in these days of ‘profit before people’, to know that there are organisations such as your own trying to spread enlightenment and enjoyment among less fortunate people.
The books are fantastic and have made a big difference to my days. So keep on ‘freeing minds’!"
If there are no books in the home, children and young people are far less likely to read, so we also like to offer books for parents and grandparents. We have found now and then, that a dad will say to the little ones, 'Grandpa is going to read to you tonight' - only to discover that Grandpa can't read.... so here again, we try to do what we can to support people of ALL ages not to be shy about admitting that they can't read well. - that's nothing to be ashamed of, it's a huge opportunity to open up a new world and find new ways of interacting with children and grandchildren.
Please help us to provide books and support to people of all ages and in all circumstances so that they can do more for themselves and others and find new worlds to explore.
We have just two part-time staff members on this project and otherwise work with volunteers. We are funded solely through grants and donations. We appreciate whatever contributions you can make.