Culture Literature

Blackwell’s Children’s Giving Tree continues to grow

On the frosty autumnal morning of 10 November, Blackwell’s once again launched the Children’s Giving Tree project. Accompanied by local children’s author, Gill Arbuthnott, Kirsty Smith and her book Tree Elves welcomed those in attendance, and provided thoughtful insight into the project’s main initiative and its background.

The Children’s Giving Tree was started with the aim to gift children in difficult or unfortunate circumstances with a book. Now in its ninth year, the project is continually growing in success, with the likes of Olympian cyclist Callum Skinner taking part. It has been estimated that 2,000 wishes have been fulfilled since the project began, with a staggering 420 books given out last year alone.

The way the initiative works is simple. Children are contacted by the cooperating charities and asked to make a request: this can be a specific book, such as one seven-year-old boy’s wish to receive What the Ladybird Heard, or a work from a particular author or genre. Some children even leave it up to the person buying the book to decide! The requests made are written on gift tags, before being placed on the Christmas tree on display in the bookshop. Then it is up to the customers to make these dreams come true, by choosing a gift tag from the tree and buying the corresponding book (those interested can also contact the bookshop via telephone or email to get involved). While the children are left anonymous, the tags maintain a personal touch by including the child’s age and gender, hoping to persuade those with children of their own.

In their appeal to those attending the launch, just how much one book can profoundly affect a child’s future really stood out. The notion that one book can change a child’s life comes from the idea that, while not every child loves to read (or does not have the opportunity to do so at home), there is the chance that just one book could be the gateway into a lifelong passion of reading.

This idea had a profound effect on Gill Arbuthnott. Speaking after the event, she mentioned the work she had done with disadvantaged children in Dundee who had little or no access to books. It was the difference that helping even one child could make that led to her involvement with Blackwell’s inspiring initiative. As well as emphasising the impact of a child receiving such a gift, she also discussed the act of giving. Following her career as a biology teacher, she combines her love for science and literature by writing scientific non-fiction for children, such as A Beginner’s Guide to the Periodic Table and What Makes Your Body Work? Her old profession has not stopped her from venturing into the fictional realm of literature, writing books such as Winterbringers, which is aimed at teenagers.

As already mentioned, this is not a sole effort by the bookshop: the project collaborates with numerous charities across Edinburgh. Five key foundations involved in the initiative are: Edinburgh Young Carers Project; Edinburgh Women’s Aid; Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS); the Edinburgh Sick Kids Friends Foundation (working alongside the Royal Hospital for Sick Children); and Citadel Youth Centre. Not only does their involvement  help the project to reach more children, but it also allows those who are sick and bed-bound to be included.

Certain charities also use the project as an opportunity to request books that can aid young individuals with mental health issues, using literature in a therapeutic manner.

It is important to raise awareness for this unique, innovative and heart-warming project that aims to spread the joy of reading and the joy of Christmas to the children of Edinburgh. This is a lovely way to give something back this Christmas, so pop into Blackwell’s or contact them when you have the chance.


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By Georgie Lane


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