Teacher, CHRISTINE ELRICK, is the founder of Look for a Book North East, a social media project that hides books for children to find. When she visited our Families & Parenting Service, we asked for her top tips on getting young people into reading
Why did you decide to set up Look for a Book North East?
I saw a similar group that had been started in the South and asked if they would mind me trying it out in my local park as I had loads of loved books that my children no longer read. The rest is history!
What was the reaction when you launched it?
It was amazing! I started it very small as a group specifically near to me in East Boldon. A few friends messaged to ask if we could make it a South Tyneside group which I did, of course. Within hours I had requests to make it regional and by the end of the second day I had 10,000 members in my group! It was phenomenal!
How many followers do you have now and have you met any?
I currently have 55,000 members in my group but I reached about 62,000 at the height of the project in the summer. I’ve met lots of members out and about, through work and through word of mouth with everyone of them being amazingly enthusiastic about books and the joy they bring. Many of them grateful for a project in our region that inspired and excited their children about reading.
Can you share any inspiring stories of people sharing books?
There have been so many amazing stories of community spirit and books bringing people together. There have been instances of books being hidden in hospitals. There was one found by a child in the RVI having chemotherapy. They explained on the page how much joy this had brought and how it had distracted them for a time from the treatment they were having. Amazing! The community we have built is fantastic too. People simply care and books have made this possible. After a child who lost everything in a house fire found a book, their grandparent posted that this had made her happy after losing her books in the fire. Within minutes they were inundated with donations of toys, books and clothes for the whole family. Again, thanks to the amazing community in our region.
You are literacy lead at Westoe Crown Primary School in South Shields. Why do you think reading with children is so important? And can you remember being read to in childhood?
It’s hugely important! It’s the key to everything we do in life and it’s a skill that we will always need. We read to relax, be entertained and to learn. I often tell children if they don’t enjoy reading they simply haven’t found the right thing. Reading doesn’t mean wading through a novel. It could be reading magazines, instructions or comics. Anything that interests you. Some of my fondest memories were being read to as a child. I don’t remember a life without books, comics and stories! I also remember my teachers reading to me at school. My favourite time of day!
How do you persuade children to put down their electronic devices and read a book?
Again, it’s finding the right thing to read. Giving children the opportunity to try out new books and authors is crucial which is where libraries are crucial. Bake a cake and read instructions! Read the sporting fixtures in the local paper! There are so many ways to inspire a new generation of readers.
What were some of your favourite books/authors growing up?
This is tricky! I loved, and still love, Roald Dahl. His books are timeless. The vocabulary and made up words in the BFG are amazing. Who doesn’t love words like Snozzcumbers, Scrumdiddlyumptious and Frogspottle? What a creative mind this man had. I also loved getting the Beano comic delivered when I was a child! Dennis the Menace was my hero!
What do you like to read now?
Not enough! I struggle to find time to hide away with a good book as working and being a parent takes up most of my waking hours! I love a good thriller though! I enjoy books that make you think and wonder. Books that take you away from reality and far into another world of imagination.
Any tips for getting boys to pick up a book?
My son, Daniel, who’s 12 (pictured above with his sister, Ruby) has helped me throughout the years with this one. Again it’s finding the right thing. Tom Gates have been a big hit with boys as they include a lot of toilet humour! Tom Palmer, who has visited our school, writes some excellent books about football and adventures relating to war. He kindly donated some signed copies of his Foul Play series which are out in circulation at the minute!
Can a book change your life?
Without a doubt. Simply seeing the smiles on the faces of children finding them posted on my Facebook page shows this. Books take you on a journey whether it be an adventure, therapy or just reading the comedy of someone else’s journey it can certainly be life changing. Books allow your imagination to have no limits… the more you read the more you will realise they are endless.