Doorstep library

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This article comes from the 2008 National Year of Reading's Help with Reading Volunteering Guide published by the 2008 National Year of Reading in October 2008.

The Doorstep Library, developed by ATD Fourth World, is an innovative project that brings books to disadvantaged children. The project is based in an estate that houses a community many organisations have found hard to reach.

The Doorstep Library aims to engage the most excluded and isolated children. Beatriz Monje-Baron from ATD Fourth World tells us more about this exciting initiative.

The Doorstep Library team is made up of seven volunteers led by an experienced project coordinator. Once a week, the team visits every family on the estate to offer children books to borrow or a reading session, either on the doorstep or in the home.

The volunteers – in pairs – carry a weekly selection of around 25 children’s books and a small stool on which to sit. With their passion for books they encourage children to get involved.

It may take a long time to gain the trust of the most disadvantaged children and parents so to help them take part we do not ask them to sign up to anything, register or to make any kind of commitment. We let the relationship develop at the children’s, and the parents’, pace. By continuing to knock on their door the Doorstep Library allows vulnerable families to welcome the project when they are ready.

A year and half into the project, the Doorstep Library team has been able to develop a relationship with more than 50 families and a total of more than 80 children living on the estate.

The project has proved a positive way to engage and support disadvantaged children and parents to access the world of reading and literature, as well as overcoming isolation.

Through the doorstep library:

  • About 80 children have discovered the joy of literature free from the fear of failing or the

pressures of the school environment.

“I love when the Doorstep Library visits me. I didn’t use to like books, but now I know ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ by heart and I can tell it to my little brother”

Seven-year-old girl

  • About 50 parents have found out about their child’s capacities and potential to learn, and how they can make a positive contribution to their child’s success at school.

“My life is so busy that I never stop … Your visit makes me think, ‘Yes, I am going to sit down with my children and read some books.’ But then I feel bad about not doing the laundry. But then you visit again and I think again ‘Yes, I am going to sit down with my children and read some books.’ ”

Mother of three

Families experiencing poverty and social exclusion have started to overcome their fear and suspicion of professionals, service providers and society as a whole, increasing trust and finding courage to take advantage of the services available to them.

“I find it very difficult to be a mum on my own. In my country you are never on your own, you have your mum around, your aunties, your friends. It is very tiring to be always on your own, and boring. You don’t have anyone to discuss with, it is always you thinking about everything. You are the only people, apart from my husband, I talk to.”

Mother of a two-year-old

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