Friday, 2 March 2018

Snowy World Book Days

I love it when negatives turn to positives. By the time I reached Queen's College yesterday, for a World Book Day visit there was enough snow on London's pavements to reach the leather of my boots. With more snow coming, the school had just been officially closed.  So instead of giving a talk to an audience of two hundred, I had the pleasure of sitting around a table in the library with a small intrepid group who remained. It was a treat to listen to their voices and views in a wide ranging discussion on literature and whether books can alter our ways of seeing, especially in matters of Othering when it comes to 'race', gender and class.

One student asked whether I'd read Chimamanda Adichie's Purple Hibiscus. An avid reader, she had made some links to the same period in Nigeria in The Other Side of TruthAs we shared suggestions of authors to read, it was lovely to find at least four of Mildred D Taylor's novels (including one of my all time favourites Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry) on a nearby shelf. World literature should be the inheritance of all our children and not just for World Book Day.

With problems on the trains, I thank the Polish cab driver who drove me 16 miles the next day to Pinner High School. It wasn't snowing early in the morning when he collected me but he said he was used to driving through snow. He also offered to wait until I'd checked that the school was really open. It was. Many students had braved the weather and we had time for a talk, writing workshop and book signing before I set off home. My journey had its adventures but thankfully I returned safely home before a subsequent train that was stuck all night - because of ice on the tracks - just a few miles from my home station. I gather some of those poor souls took to dancing in the aisles to Madonna, trying to keep warm.

Today, I have been snugly at home thanks to a postponed WBD visit.  I have also been reading of the latest unprecedented cuts to Local Authority library services, this time in Northamptonshire. Figures from the House of Commons Library show the total book stock in libraries, nationally, has been reduced by almost a fifth since 2010. How shocking is this?  The number of libraries along with professional librarians being 'lost' across the country is a devastating own goal for us as a society, especially our future generations. Unless there is a massive national wake-up, I fear it will be impossible to turn this huge negative into a positive.


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