For Children’s Mental Health Week this year’s theme is ‘Let’s Connect’. The theme is all about making meaningful connections – from family and friends to the wider community at large. Feeling connected to others and feeling supported is vital in ensuring we have a better quality of life and positively impacts our mental health.
Reading with Doorstep Library brings people and communities together. Although our work is rooted in reading for pleasure and literacy, we know that our influence goes well beyond the page. The regularity of our reading sessions and the long-term, supportive nature of the relationships our families have with their volunteers mean that they are often focal points for the whole family. These sessions contribute to enhanced family life by offering support for parents who might be experiencing difficulties.
Having reached out and established a trusted link with the family, Doorstep Library is able to help families form bonds with the wider community through our signposting of local services. In 2022 alone, we signposted 250 organisations to our families, below are just a few of the organisations whose services we have passed onto our families.
Organisations signposted to families
Mousetrap Family First Nights: Mousetrap’s ‘Family First Nights’ enables disadvantaged families to enjoy top London theatre shows for just £8 a ticket. Over 12,000 families have participated in Family First Nights since the programme began in 1998, and it continues to play a vital part in making London’s Theatre and Arts scene accessible to families living below the poverty line or facing challenging circumstances.
Family First Nights runs throughout the summer holidays and features a wide and diverse selection of shows each year: from celebrated West End musicals like Wicked, to stage adaptations of much-loved children’s books like The Gruffalo and The Tiger Who Came To Tea, with several offering free complimentary workshops and souvenirs to extend the experience.
Several of our families attended shows over the summer holidays, including those attending the theatre for the first time. We received lovely comments from families who enjoyed the experience, including a parent who said:
“We did go, went to see Wicked. Phenomenal, the whole experience, from start to finish it was just wonderful. At the time, my dad had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and I was contemplating not going to the event. I’m so thankful that I did, it was just a lovely, happy and positive day which to be honest I think was just what we needed. Can’t praise Mousetrap enough – their staff were super friendly. And they even gave us a free ticket for ice-cream, which was just a nice little touch. My daughter had a great time.”
Parents Active: Parents active was established in 2001 to support families of disabled children in Hammersmith and Fulham. It provides a support network; regular training sessions and they work with the local authority to help shape services for disabled children and young people to ensure that their needs are met. They do this by getting the views of local families and working in partnership with education professionals, health providers and other relevant bodies.
As this organisation is very tailored in its needs, we have only signposted it to a small number of families – including two families in particular who have recently found out that their child has a disability. We hope through this service they will be able to feel more supported as they navigate through this new experience.
Camley Street Natural Park: Camley Street Natural Park (part of the Wildlife Trust) is a unique urban nature reserve, surrounded by significant new development in a bustling part of central London – between King’s Cross and St Pancras. The woodland, grassland and wetland habitats including ponds, reedbed and marshy areas, provide a rich habitat for birds, butterflies, amphibians and plant life, while the new Visitor Centre will cater for the thousands who visit annually.
The London Wildlife Trust aims to connect Londoners with nature and protect green spaces in the city. Around half of London is made up of green spaces, rivers and tranquil wetlands. It’s home to an astonishing abundance of wildlife – from mammals to molluscs, from sparrows to skylarks, from towering trees to the tiniest of bugs and beetles. And London Wildlife Trust is the only charity dedicated solely to protecting this wildlife and its vital habitat across the capital.
So many of our children’s books are about animals or farmyards. But these can feel quite far away from the children we visit in inner London. Camley Street Natural Park is minutes away from our Somers Town and Euston projects and offers a chance for children to play in and learn about nature. This past October, we signposted some of their free autumn events for families including:
- Free & fun drop-in family learning sessions where they’ll discover some of the animals living on the nature reserve. Use nets to look in the pond, look under logs to hunt for minibeasts and explore the nature reserve.
- Free, interactive, outdoor storytime, with nature-themed stories and craft activities in the woods.
- Free workshop exploring Conservation, Poetry and Fabulous Fungi.
Sharing the magic of books and reading forms the basis of our contract of trust between ourselves and our families. It enables us to fill in social gaps and forge community bonds that might otherwise get lost. We maintain strong relationships with our organisational partners and as we continue to offer tailored support to our families we hope that through our signposting service our families become more integrated into their communities.
To find out more about how we support reading and beyond, visit our family reading resources.