Books for families in Christchurch, New Zealand

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*Thank you to all who have been involved with this program. We are still looking for families to donate books but this has now closed to new families from Christchurch. Our thoughts are with all Cantabrians at this time, Kia Kaha!*

Last Wednesday morning I woke, probably like you, to the news of the huge earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. I felt so very sad and wished there was something I could do to help. Something more personal than donating to the Red Cross, something more than emailing and tweeting friends to check they were ok and to let them know I was thinking of them.

I was soon in touch with Bronwyn, a resident in Christchurch and long time follower and supporter of Playing by the book. Fortunately she and her family are unhurt. Although their house is damaged they live in a district that has not been as badly affected as other parts of the city. I wanted to send her something as a small token of solidarity, care and hope, but as we tweeted a bigger idea emerged.

Many families in Christchurch have had their homes destroyed and badly damaged. They’ve lost everything, including books. I know I’m preaching to the converted when I talk about the comfort and solace books can provide, especially in times of stress and despair, but now I want to ask you if you would like to take part in something that will help provide exactly this: An opportunity for you to personally help families affected by the earthquake.

Bronwyn and I are gathering a list of families who are in need of books. Many of these families are homeschoolers, though certainly not all. What we are asking is for you to reach out to these families and send them a book or two. A new children’s book, a book you and your family love, a book that the family you’re paired with might enjoy, might make them laugh, might make them feel that people, you, are thinking of them and supporting them.

So, if you would like to reach out to a Christchurch family please get in touch and Bronwyn and I will team you up with a partner family. Send me an email (zoe  dot  toft  at  kuvik  dot net) saying you’d like to help and we’ll take it from there.

Some practical nuts and bolts:

  • Normal postal services are not yet working in Christchurch, though some courier services are. Many families have now moved out of Christchurch and so the address you will be sent may not be a Christchurch address. Indeed, we do not wish to stretch further the services that are up and running. If you are teamed up with a family still living in Christchuch, please use a courier to send your book and let me know which courier service you use so I can inform the family you’ve been teamed up with (they may need to go to the courier depot at the airport to collect your parcel). UPDATE Normal mail is now working to most of Christchurch so you will be able to use regular (air) mail.

  • Please only send NEW children’s and YA books. We will let you know the ages of the children in the family you are paired up with in order to help you select books that they will enjoy.

  • Please do not expect the family you are paired up with to reply to you. They may well write back, but this is not to be expected. This scheme is not about setting up penpals, but rather helping families at a time of need.

  • ***********************

    I’m also helping Bronwyn gather books to distribute to welfare centres for displaced resident across Christchurch. We’re both thrilled that Julia Marshall, publisher at Gecko Press has very generously offered to send a parcel of books for Bronwyn to distribute. Gecko Press produces wonderful books and I know they will be hugely appreciated by their recipients.

    Whilst investigating in what way Brownyn and I could best help families in Christchurch, Stephanie Borgman, Children’s Specialist at Harris County Public Library, Texas wrote to me of the huge importance of books to children and families in welfare centres in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

    “Books in reasonable quantities may be very much appreciated by displaced individuals living in shelters. They need something to engage their minds and give them some relief from their concerns about the present disaster and its impact on their future.

    Obviously food, water, medical supplies, and basic shelter are the priorities, but books are also a real blessing – especially for the children. Some of my best memories of that time include walking through the Astrodome shelter and seeing children on their cots absorbed in a book, oblivious to the turmoil around them. It was possible to set up a “library” in the last shelter opened at the Convention Center and it was very popular, serving as a community center providing many of the standard library services plus giving families “some place to go.”

    Please don’t send worn and yellowing materials. The children will feel so valued to be given lovely new books. It may be the first item other than clothing, likely used, that they receive as they begin the journey to rebuild their lives.”

    If you are a publisher with a distribution base in New Zealand and could send a box of books for Bronwyn to distribute, please get in touch (zoe dot toft at kuvik dot net).

    Publishers in New Zealand are already involved with a large project in the aftermath of the earthquake to ensure every child in Christchurch receives at least one book as a start to replacing their lost reading material but the scale of this project means it will likely be several weeks before kids are receiving those books. What Brownwyn and I are working on is much smaller scale, yes, but it will be able to help kids and families out in a matter of days.

    Also, a fund for the relief of Booksellers in earthquake devastated Christchurch has been established by Booksellers NZ. Click here for more information.

    For photos of the effects of last week’s earthquake in Christchurch click here.

    To read children’s responses to experiencing the earthquake click here.

    For regular updates from Bronwyn about her amazing efforts on the ground helping families and distributing books, read her blog here.

    14 Responses

    1. liveotherwise

      Would love to share this on my blog – I’m a UK home educator, and also I have been fortunate enough to be sent lots of books to review for a fundraising challenge I was doing. Would it be OK to send review copies on? They’ve been read once!

      • Zoe

        Hi Liveotherwise, Please do share this on your blog – we’re looking for more families to pair up with families in Christchurch. As to review copies, the key thing for me is that the books that are sent are sent as gifts, the sort of thing you’d be pleased to receive, which normally wouldn’t be other people’s remainders. However, if the review copies are in tip-top, as-new condition then that would be fine. But the idea is very much to send lovely books, both in terms of content and condition, to show people having a tough time that we’re thinking of them and trying to do something small to bring them a little joy, comfort or just relief from day to day life.

    2. Bonnie

      This sounds like such a wonderful idea.
      I give you so many kudos for being there for them. Sign me up!

      • Zoe

        Thank you Bonnie, Roberta and Three Turtles – it’s great to have your support.

    3. sheonad

      zoe, this is such a briliant idea
      books can bring so much joy and restore faith to young and old.
      we often forget just how important they are…
      i would love to help and send some books to families affected by the christchurch earthquake – please let me know what i should do next.
      sometimes, when hope is lost, we have to believe in people… what happens as a result can take our breath away, inspiring us to hope again.
      this project shows that we are right to but our belief in those around us, locally and globally.

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