If you can’t get children to come and see the books and meet the authors, take the books – and the authors – to the children.
That’s the philosophy behind a new project launched this week by St Boswells bookshop The Mainstreet Trading Company, with the blessing and cooperation of Scottish Borders Council.
And enthusiastically lending his support to the initiative was acclaimed storyteller and bestselling author Michael Morpurgo.
The creator of many children’s books, notably the blockbusting War Horse, was the first guest passenger on Tuesday’s inaugural journey of the Bookshop Van to Hawick High School.
Either side of his inspiring talk to more than 300 pupils from the Teviot and Liddesdale learning community, a steady stream of youngsters paid a visit to the mobile facility – a lovingly restored vintage fire engine – in which the author was happy to chat about his life and work.
“We’ve always found it difficult in the past to attract schools to come to our shop for our special children’s events due to transport costs,” explained Mainstreet’s Rosamund De La Hey.
“That’s why we’ve created the Bookshop Van to bring the best children’s authors into our local schools.
“The interior has been customised so that children can meet the visiting author and experience a pop-up bookshop.
“The project’s big ambition is for every child in the Borders to meet an author during their school life.”
Mainstreet restored and adapted the vehicle with the help of a grant from bestselling American author James Patterson, who has committed £500,000 to support the independent bookshop sector in the UK and Ireland.
And Rosumand has been working with SBC so that schools can maximise the benefit from the venture.
To that end, a special teachers book group has been set up in each of the region’s learning communities.
“Reading is a fundamental skill and entitlement for all our pupils and it is a real bonus to be able to offer access to books and authors in such a live and motivating way,” said Councillor Sandy Aitchison, executive member for education.
“We’re delighted to be working with Mainstreet to offer our pupils this exciting opportunity.”