Storyteller Steve Lally with patient

Kate Powling Director of the Siobhan Dowd Trust, shares why the Trust has chosen to support Read for Good’s hospital programme for the last six years.

The Trust was set up by the childrens’ and young adults’ author Siobhan Dowd, who in the last days of her life established a trust to use the income from her writing to fund reading projects for disadvantaged young people. Or – as the Trust mission statement goes – to provide books for the children that need them most.

“The fit between the Siobhan Dowd Trust with the aims of Read for Good was apparent immediately. Our Trustees tend to interpret ‘disadvantage’ as creatively as possible, and the idea of providing children in hospital with books and stories was instantly appealing. We often like to link the projects we fund with some aspect of Siobhan’s life or writing, and this was a simple idea with the organisational capacity to really help. Siobhan’s own illness made us fully aware of the need of some form of escapism if that’s possible.

It sounds easy – to provide books to kids in hospital – but the special requirements involved with making sure the books are clean and infection-free are surprisingly logistically complex, as well as making sure the books themselves are of interest to the kids who are often on the wards for some considerable time. Read for Good has consistently selected and distributed the books safely and efficiently, and given the delivery is often accompanied by a professional storyteller (or in a few cases, the author themselves making a special visit), the arrival of new books on a ward is FUN.

The first year we helped with a general grant as Read for Good was still in its infancy piloting in a handful of hospitals yet to establish the national spread we see now. In later years, we chose to fund particular hospitals in need of a bit of support to either get the project established, or help keep it going. For a few years we funded the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children – one of Siobhan’s best known books Bog Child is set in Northern Ireland. As Read for Good’s funding grew more secure, we continued our support but moved hospitals, providing grants to start a new service in Norwich and to double the provision at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, one of the UK’s biggest children’s hospitals.

Our Trustees have enjoyed visiting the hospitals we’ve helped fund. They have talked to children, staff and storytellers and always come away moved and more committed to continuing the support. A general rule of the Trust is not to agree funding year-on-year but when it comes to Read for Good an exception invariably gets made! Occasionally we receive an out-of-the-blue thank you card from a young recipient to tell us about the book they have read or the story one of the professional storytellers has just regaled, and this always reminds us why we’re pleased to keep up the support.

Kate Powling
Director of the Siobhan Dowd Trust