Stories matter

Read for Good works in schools, hospitals and communities across the UK, delivering the magic of books and stories to improve the lives of young people.

Ezekiel’s story – by his mum, Amy

Being in hospital as a planned or emergency admission can be a tricky time for any child. The unexpected procedures, emergency theatre trips and being attached to IV fluids, feeding pumps and medical equipment for hours on end can often cause anxiety and upset while being an inpatient. Staff come and go throughout the day and night and the days can seem really long once you’ve watched all the films a million times over! 

Fortunately many children in our local children’s hospital get to experience a very special visitor who doesn’t come into the ward with a trolley full of medical equipment but a trolley that is filled with a vast array of books … big books, small books, easy to read books, fun books, colourful books, popular books, animal books, books for babies, books for children and books for teens … the list goes on and on. It’s when that visitor, Gerry the storyteller, comes into the room that weve experienced some of the biggest and happiest moments in the hospital with our little boy. 

Over the past eight years Ezekiel has been a regular inpatient; he has had multiple admissions and over twenty operations. Ezekiel is like any other eight-year-old who loves life, having fun and playing with his friends. When you are in hospital though this can often mean missing out on day-to-day activities which can feel pretty tough if you’re little. Thanks to Read for Good, Ezekiel has had multiple visits and enjoyed lots of books during his numerous stays. When the orange trolley arrives Ezekiel can’t help but find his huge smile regardless of how he is feeling. He absolutely loves the books on that trolley, the hard part is choosing which one he likes the best!

The friendly staff don’t rush him when choosing and he even gets to flick though his favourites before making his final choice. This book then becomes a connection to him, between his admission, his achievement of getting through another operation, taking the book home to share with his brothers and into school to share with his  class on his return. 

To remind Ezekiel how amazing he is we always write which surgery he has completed in the front of the book to remind him how brave he has been… operation 21 was a book all about glow in the dark underpants! After discharge home the books are safely kept on his bookshelf at home and read regularly time and time again. 

As parents it’s so lovely to have any visitor to come and see your child when they are in hospital. The days are long and the nights are longer for children and parents but Read for Good bring a little bit of sunshine (and company) for a few moments of a hospital stay. The impact lasts a lifetime for these children I’m sure! 

Read for Good, thank you for all you do. It’s the small things that make the biggest impact to children like Ezekiel, during endless hospital stays.

William’s story

William loves getting out on his bike, especially along the Cornish coast where he lives. He also loves science, brain teasers, model railway kits and reading. He especially enjoys psychological thriller adventures by the likes of James Maxwell, Laura Weymouth or Chen Jiaong. Most of all, he loves spending time with his family and friends and social occasions like Christmas and birthdays.

A shocking diagnosis just before Christmas

Towards the end of the school autumn term, when William was 13, he had a tickly cough that wouldn’t go away. His parents and even the GP thought it was just an end-of-term bug, a normal time to be run-down. Still, it seemed sensible to pursue more tests in hospital. William’s mum Hannah says:

“To be told that evening that my child had cancer was beyond anything I could possibly have imagined. My heart dropped and I crumpled. William said ‘Am I going to die?’. I knew then that whatever happened, I had to help him to process this overwhelming information, and somehow, cope with it. As NHS staff rushed to blue-light him to a specialist hospital, I knew we were in the best hands medically, but my mind was racing – how would I get him through this emotionally, minimise the trauma and help him to not freak out with worry, when I felt so scared myself? Christmas, and life as we had known it, was cancelled.”

A light in a dark tunnel

As William and Hannah waited for further tests, struggling to understand the alien medical terms, a Read for Good storyteller called Mike appeared, pushing a bright orange bookcase on wheels. Hannah says:

“It was like a light in a very dark tunnel! It gave William something that he was actually able to focus on and I will never forget watching the tension literally drop from his body just for a short while, while he looked over the books, picked them up and flicked between the pages to breathe in the smell, holding on to something that made him feel safe at that point. Mike, the storyteller, was such a calming presence, asking questions that William was able to answer about authors and styles of writing.”

A refuge from the storm

Mike invited William to also choose a book for his sister Lowenna, who was about to discover that her brother had cancer and that Christmas would be spent in a hospital far from home. Choosing a book he knew Lowenna wanted, William felt it would give her a place to take refuge from the storm that was about to hit and that by gifting her a book, he could show Lowenna that despite the cancer diagnosis, he was no different to the brother she had seen the morning before.

Some weeks later, WIlliam was unexpectedly told that his second round of chemotherapy would begin on his 14th birthday at a hospital hundreds of miles away. The party at home would be cancelled. 

“Again Read for Good was there. Mike the storyteller told WIlliam an intriguing mystery about legendary Cornish warriors, William sat back and processed the overwhelming news in a calm and comforting atmosphere.”

Read for Good’s books and stories help bind the family together in difficult times

Through a rollercoaster two years, Read for Good’s books and stories have given WIlliam a place to hide away. Hannah continues:

“They have helped us as a family get through a nightmare. During treatment in hospital away from home, William and Lowenna have been able to share books together via video call.

As William prepares for GCSEs during ongoing treatment, I am so relieved to know that with help from the Read for Good storyteller and books, he will not only reap the many benefits of reading for his education, but most importantly his mental health.”

Maisy’s story

Maisy has been in and out of hospital since she was diagnosed with a childhood renal cancer known as Wilms Tumour a year ago. The treatment has been tough for Maisy and her family, but Read for Good’s books and stories have helped them get through this very difficult time.

Lisa remembers the first time Maisy met one of our storytellers: “When Read for Good storyteller, Wilf visited the hospital he immediately put Maisy at ease with his huge smile and friendly nature. He helped Maisy with some suggestions. He took his time and he clearly loved delivering joy with all the amazing books!  His knowledge of the books certainly helped. He was full of fun and made Maisy laugh; she said he made her happy and she loved choosing a book to keep.”           

Wilf Merttens is one of our team of 11 storytellers who work in 30 hospitals across the UK helping to distract and delight thousands of children like Maisy every year. Wilf says “When I arrived on the Oncology Ward, I was struck by the pure joy and imagination of Maisy. Kids like Maisy are having a very tough time and it continually astonishes me that somehow they don’t lose the ability to play, to be joyful or to share that joy with others. 

That’s why Read for Good’s work is so important – helping to facilitate play, imagination and stories at a time when these things are more important than ever. We can all learn a lot from kids like Maisy.”