Festive book parcels bring Christmas joy to disadvantaged children across the UK

The BookTrust charity aims to provide 16,000 ‘surprise' festive parcels to children .

“Beautiful” festive book parcels from a charity have helped children with experience living in foster care feel as though “Christmas has come early”.

BookTrust has set the aim of providing 16,000 “surprise” festive parcels to the most disadvantaged children in England, Wales and Northern Ireland this year, working alongside community-run food banks, local authorities and partner organisations.

The parcels are aimed at children aged between three and 13 and include a hardback book, a bookmark, a letter from writer Julia Donaldson and a poster designed by illustrator Lydia Monks.

Hull and East Yorkshire Children’s University (HEYCU) has used BookTrust’s festive packages to help children who have experience living in foster care.

“With BookTrust’s Letterbox Festive packs, we’re able to give the children a festive parcel. The parcels always look super special, and the books have got fancy pages or are embossed – they’re beautiful,” said Amy Mercer at HEYCU.

Person reading a book
The festive book parcels are aimed at children aged three to 13 (Illustration by Kate Hindley/PA)

“The children love getting it because it’s like Christmas has come early. They’re always really beautiful books.

“You’ll get some children who open the parcels and peel the top off really carefully – and some children just tear at them so the wrapping is shredded by the end of it!

“The festive ones feel really special for a lot of our children. They might not have had Christmas presents before or they might not have had positive experiences of Christmas.”

Ms Mercer added that feedback from carers has been “brilliant”, with some children actively reading at home because of the books and even reading to their siblings.

HEYCU also uses the charity’s “letterbox club packs” in its school-based one-to-one reading interventions and trips for children in years three to seven with experience living in foster care.

“A lot of the children we work with have either left their home without many possessions, so they’re building up their possessions again, or they’ve never actually had anything that’s been their own,” added Ms Mercer.

“Lots of the parcels that we give to them are sometimes the first things that they’ve received at their new placement.”

Diana Gerald, chief executive of BookTrust, said the cost-of-living crisis has put “additional stresses on family life and budgets”, which has made the initiative more imperative.

Cartoon girl looking at a cartoon boy who has a light shining out of a book
Carers say some children have started reading at home thanks to the initiative (Illustration by Kate Hindley/PA)

“Christmas is usually such an exciting time for children who celebrate it, but for those whose families are now having to make difficult financial decisions and are feeling the pressure of buying gifts, this year may be quite different,” she added.

“Through this appeal, we aim to reach as many of these children as we can and give them the gift of laughter, new worlds and adventures that books can provide.

“Just one book can really help brighten a child’s Christmas and that’s why we’re asking for your support.”

More information about the appeal can be found here: https://www.booktrust.org.uk/xmas