Last night I did something I don’t normally do: I wrapped books for two hours at Waterstones in Oxford.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate wrapping presents. I am outstandingly awful at it. I cut too much paper or not enough. I get sticky tape stuck onto everything except the present (or in the wrong place on the present). I end up nearly in tears and with scraps of paper all around me before I hand everything over to my husband, who manages to wrap anything with mathematical precision.
So why on earth did I submit myself (and poor, unwitting customers) to this?
Last month, the Children’s Reading Fund asked for volunteers to wrap presents in Waterstones branches to raise money for the charity. As someone who is passionate about books, reading and raising achievement and opportunities for children, it was something I could not resist.
Image courtesy of www.waterstones.com
This relatively new charity works hard to improve the life chances of disadvantaged children in the UK, particularly those aged 4-11. They use books, e-books, CDs, games and performances to try to inspire children to become interested in reading and writing and, therefore, improve their future prospects. I found statements such as: ‘Children in care are more likely to go to prison than to university’ and ‘Almost half of disadvantaged children gain nothing above a D grade at GCSE’ very saddening. It’s awful to think that children’s lives can be mapped out so disadvantageously from such an early age. Every child deserves better than this. Please do click through from the link above to read more about what they do and how you could help.
So was it a wrap?
I covered the late-night Thursday shopping session last night and found it a fun and fascinating experience. People paid £1 per package (or what they could or wanted to give) and all money raised went to the Children’s Reading Fund. It wasn’t terribly busy but I had a nice stream of people turn up and, after a couple of shaky starts, I started wrapping much better after the first half hour! Everyone was lovely about my skills (ahem) and a very kind Japanese man pitched in, cutting pieces of Sellotape for me and holding down edges. I told him I should have paid him! Another lady wanted the patterned side on the inside so she could decorate her present herself with a Sharpie pen, which was fun to watch.
All the conversations I had were interesting. I chatted about the choices people had made and found that there is every story behind a story. One man had bought an origami page-a-day calendar for a Secret Santa so the lucky recipient could fold something new each day. Another man had bought the book A London Year for his girlfriend who lives in London and who he has been dating for a year (what a lovely, thoughtful present – I was quite nervous about wrapping it in case it wasn’t special enough!). There were cookery books, guide books. A real mixture of everything but, interestingly, not fiction apart from a couple of books for children.
The conversations were interesting too. A couple of teenage girls were chatting about how they wanted to have their own bookshops – taking after my own heart. We were discussing about how we sort books – alphabetically? By our favourites? In series? I didn’t realize there were so many different ways!
Even though it was only a couple of hours, I totally enjoyed myself and hopefully raised a little money for the Children’s Reading Fund. So, if you’re shopping in Waterstones in the next week or so do check out if anyone is wrapping presents on behalf of the charity and share a fun, book-inspired conversation!