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13 February 2014 ·

Roses, chocolates and books – International Book Giving Day vs Valentines Day

I’ve got nothing against roses, chocolates or champagne, but for a Valentine’s Day gift that makes a difference, how about a book?
International BookGiving Day is new but spreading quickly.  The Guardian has a great article on it, too, and one of my favourite kid-reading pictures ever! 

It’s all fun, but the serious side is that children need books. Not just to teach them to read so they can do well at school and grow up to earn a good living. Children need stories to nourish them, to help them sort out who they are and what their dreams can be. They need fictitious characters to identify with, to empathise with, to cry over, to love and to hate. 

But sometimes, these stories save lives. I was a lucky child, who grew up with bedtime stories, who watched my parents read for their own pleasure; who gloated over her stack of Christmas or birthday books. I had parents who loved and cared for me; I believed that cruelty and callousness were fictions that belonged purely to the pages of David Copperfield or The Water Babies.

Not everyone’s so lucky. I have friends who’ve suffered unbelievable trauma in their childhood, and who say that books were what saved them. I’ve had letters from teens who told me that Peeling the Onion helped prevent them from committing suicide. Another girl told me that Nim’s Island had got her through a terrible time in her life – so books don’t have to be deep and earnest to help. They can be fun, because sometimes escaping into another world for a few hours can get us through the real one.

So tomorrow at 11:30, I’ll be at Our Lady of Fatima Primary School in Rosebud to present the Year 3 classes with a copy of Nim at Sea, and a bookmark for each child, so they can safely lose themselves in books, and find their own way out. 

And if you want to read more from someone who credits books with saving her life, and who writes books that may save other kids’ lives, visit Cheryl Rainfield’s site

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Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio