Eliza and her mum on Radio 4’s The Listening Project

As part of Children in Need week in November 2019, Jenny and her daughter Eliza, now aged 9, featured on Radio 4’s Listening Project reflecting on the impact that Read for Good’s books and stories had on them during Eliza’s frequent emergency hospital admissions to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, due to a severe condition called Brittle Asthma.

Eliza, Read for Good Young Ambassador, talks passionately about how Read for Good’s gifts of books and stories helped to ease the stress and bring positivity to an otherwise unhappy experience.

Eliza’s regular visits to hospital were transformed by Read for Good’s fabulous bookcase full of brand new books, and visits from regular professional storyteller, Michael O’Leary.

Eliza was often rushed to hospital in the middle of the night, and with only time to pack the essentials, Eliza and her mum Jenny found themselves without their treasured books to distract and calm them. The availability of brand new books on the Read for Good bookcase provided essential comfort, solace and distraction at a time when it was needed the most.

Eliza’s mum Jenny remembers:

“You just wonder how on earth you’re going to get through a whole day with a five-year-old who has to stay tethered to a bed, hooked up to a nebuliser. It’s so noisy and uncomfortable and there is very little to do besides watching a screen. Boredom, on top of feeling ill, just becomes unbearable.”

Then Mike, the Read for Good storyteller, arrived. He wheeled in the colourful mobile bookcase, with outward facing books, and opened the curtains around each bed. Jenny remembers how all the iPads and TVs were turned off around the ward and the whole atmosphere changed:

“What an amazing variety of books there were to choose from! I was so pleased and relieved that there was something to break the monotony and boredom. To be offered a brand new book to take home is so special – such a joyful surprise in the midst of a miserable experience.”

Eliza adds:

Every child got to choose a book to keep from the trolley and after that every time I went into hospital I would ask for the book trolley.

Sometimes I felt shut out from the world like something’s happening and everyone else is joining in but I can’t do it, but I can pull out a book and go on an adventure with friends who include me and keep me close.”

And Mike O’Leary, with his laugh-out-loud stories and traditional tales took Eliza’s mind off her situation and even helped her cope with difficult procedures. Eliza’s mum Jenny says:

“We were suddenly all in this big room together, sharing this magical experience. Mike told an amazing story about a spider called Anansii. Eliza was so enthralled by the story she painted pictures of all the characters after Mike left and talked about the story for days afterwards. When we left the hospital, her memories of our time there were all about this incredible story. The medical procedures seemed to have been forgotten.

Thanks to Read for Good we now all have positive memories of Eliza’s stays in hospital.”

Most recently, in 2018, to express both her passion for books and reading and her thanks to Read for Good, Eliza decided to run her own Readathon. With support from her mum Jenny, and her local library, she raised a whopping £314 to help provide more books and storyteller visits for children in hospital. She also earnt Scholastic book vouchers worth £62 for her school, Cusgarne Community Primary School.

Get involved to help more children like Eliza

Your school can run a Readathon, or you can create your own individual Readathon fundraiser and help us to continue to help children like Eliza enjoy the magic of books and stories. Or click on the link below to find out about other ways you can help.

Hear Eliza’s story on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Listening Project’.