What’s The T?: What Inclusive Book Donations Mean to Schools
By Ellen Tyldesley and Isabel Hassan
As publishing hopefuls, we all know that Twitter is an invaluable resource when it comes to connecting about all things books and publishing. Huge acts of kindness can also be found there if you know where to look.
Sophie Anderson is a Carnegie-shortlisted author of The House with Chicken Legs, The Girl Who Speaks Bear and The Castle of Tangled Magic. Back in February, she launched a giveaway on Twitter offering to buy three secondary school libraries a copy of What’s The T? by Juno Dawson (a guide for teens about being transgender and/or non-binary). Little did Anderson know, she would have not just entrants but also lots of wholesome replies offering to donate more copies of the book to the giveaway and therefore to school libraries.
The giveaway launched on 28 February and ran for a total of four days with 85 replies, 132 retweets, and 221 likes. We reached out to Anderson, who explained that, to her knowledge, the average secondary school has roughly 1,000 children, so for every copy that was donated, up to 1,000 young people would have access to the book. As of today, nearly 400 copies have been donated, which means roughly 400,000 young people have access to this vital book. Anderson said that “especially with a book like this, it’s so important to give young people access to the information in a safe space” such as school libraries.
One of the most notable replies to Anderson’s post came from King Edward VI School Library (the former school of William Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon), who said, “We’d love a copy for those who are [transgender and/or non-binary], those who think they might be, those who love and support them and those who need to know this information because they don’t understand yet,” which perfectly sums up the feeling at the heart of this giveaway for both entrants and donators.
Here at The Publishing Post, we wanted to highlight this amazing act of kindness, especially in the context of school libraries. Libraries are one of the few, if not the only, place that children can pick a book for free and read it without judgement. As adults, it’s easy to forget how privileged we are to earn our own money and spend that money on whatever books we like, but children do not necessarily have the same freedoms. Giveaways like Anderson’s therefore allow libraries to acquire diverse, important books like Dawson’s so that children can see themselves in books as they grow up – something we know that members and readers of The Publishing Post did not necessarily have but want to provide for current and future generations.
Queer Lit UK, Manchester’s independent gay bookshop, donated ten copies to the giveaway. The Bookshops Team reached out and spoke to Matthew to find out a bit more about Queer Lit’s involvement and passion when it comes to donating to and supporting schools.
Why Do You Feel that Working with Schools is So Important?
“It’s a core value of our business – inspire and support those in our community who may not yet have a voice. Reading LGBTQ+ literature helps to normalise and process the thoughts and emotions a young person might be experiencing. If we can put these books into the hands of young people to help them better understand their own thoughts and feelings or even those of their friends who might be struggling, that’s a job well done for us.”
What Is The Most Enjoyable Part For You About Donating?
“I love hearing back from schools about how popular a book has been or how it has helped an individual child. These books aren’t here only for LGBTQ+ children. I hope many young people read them in a hope to better understand what others might be going through or just to help normalise seeing LGBTQ+ people around them in everyday life.”
How Do You Decide Which Causes To Donate To? What Drew You To Donate To Sophie’s Giveaway?
“It’s a gut feeling. I look at it and think, ‘Do I see this having a positive effect on our community?’ I’ve previously had some lovely conversations with Sophie and the moment I saw more people offering to donate, I thought, ‘How can we stretch this even further?’ We offered to sell each copy at cost price with reduced postage. The amount of people who donated a copy, and when they heard the reduced price, offered to donate another copy, was incredible. It made every penny work harder to get an extra copy into another school. It also shows that a single act of kindness like Sophie’s can inspire others to step forward and support those in our community who might be struggling or afraid to ask for help.”
Follow on Twitter:
Sophie Anderson: @sophieinspace
King Edward VI School Library: @kes_schoollib
Queer Lit: @QueerLitUK