What We Do


We also organise a lecture as part of the Edinburgh Book Festival each year to highlight the importance of books and why we need them. This year’s was given by the Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell who gave a witty and informal talk about the importance of stories (and the many ways of telling them). We already have exciting plans for 2017’s lecture.

In 2015 the lecture was given by Matt Haig, where he talked about how books literally saved his life. The speech (just under 50 minutes) in full can be found here, or in an edited (7 1/2 minute) version here.

Projects funded by the Trust in 2016:

Throughout the year we have been running a competition for schools and groups to apply for funds to be spent in their local independent bookshop. This is designed to not only get books (chosen by the pupils) into schools, but to develop the art of browsing in a good bookshop. We’re also trying to support small independent booksellers with this project. So far (we’re 2/3 through with 4 regions still to give awards to) 25 schools have won awards totalling £10,000 spent at 16 different bookshops. The full list of winners is here.

We continued to fund the work of Readathon (the new name for Readwell) with a £10,000 grant to help set up new services in Manchester and Norwich. Readthon  take new books and storytellers into childrens’ wards. This is now the 4th year of our support.

£3000 to Dorset Reading Partners to expand their school-based support into the North of the county. Part of the grant was reserved for fresh book stock for their volunteers to work in schools to be supplied by local booksellers, Winstone Books and Gullivers.

£663 to the Craigmillar Literacy Trust to continue support of the ‘My Own Book’ scheme (part of the Craigmillar Book Festival) which gifts a book to 130 young people from 4 local schools (3 Primary, 1 secondary).

We’ve agreed in principle an exciting project for 2017 to be based in the North West using Kate Greenaway shortlisted books with children in care.

100 copies of the (illustrated) A Monster Calls for Grief Encounter to use with bereaved teenagers.

£6,500 for Listening Books to develop their audio book provision into children’s hospitals. This is a pilot scheme, working with Readathon, which we’ve funded for 4 years.

An increased amount of £6000 for the Prisons Reading Group to expand their family days to more prisons in London and the South East. Part of the money is for establishing in 2017 a small amount of children’s books to be left in the family rooms of prisons. We will be working with Alligators Mouth in Richmond to supply these and the books to be given to the children of prisoners.

£203.10 (the school were very precise in their budget!) to CLPE to fund a West Sussex Primary School to travel and take part in the CLiPPA poetry award ceremony at the National Theatre this summer.

£3000 for a ‘library engagement’ interactive storytelling tour of 8 East London public libraries reaching 2700 reception age kids developed by Discover, the Childrens Story Centre. (Library engagement means – in this case anyway – lots of music, lights and exploding books!)

2015 projects:

A £1000 grant to ABC to read to fund the training of volunteers to work with Berkshire schoolchildren.

A £1000 grant for children from Roundhill Primary School, Bath to choose books at their local Independent bookshop (Oldfield Park Bookshop) for their new school library.

£2500 for books for the library at Windale School, Blackbird Leys and family tickets to the Story Museum, Oxford – this is part of an ambitious literacy project the museum are running with the school.

Books for the children at The Wetlands Travellers Site, Co. Wicklow (some of them are the models for the illustrations of The Pavee & The Buffer – a short story by Siobhan, which will be out next year).

Continued funding of the Readwell, part of Readathon which organises for new books (and on special occasions, storytellers and authors) to be regularly sent to seriously ill children in hospitals. Our funding (now in its third year) helps pay for the service at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

A repeat of the travel and grants funding opportunity for out-of-London groups to attend YALC (the Young Adult Literature Convention organised by Booktrust and help as part of London’s Comic Con). In 2015, we funded 60 Children and Young Adults in Care to attend and meet authors like Malorie Blackman, Chris Riddell, Patrick Ness and Judy Blume. This years YALC and some of our young guests feature in our short film 3 projects. 

A grant to the Prisons Reading Group, which supports informal as well as informal book groups for prisoners – our funding is for running family days, and uses books to bring together parents while they’re in prison with their children.

A second year’s funding for books chosen by Young People taking part in the Craigmillar Book Festival – books will be chosen from a local Independent bookseller.

Another repeat funding: this one the second year of supporting the Clearvision project to fund My Home Library which sends specially adapted braille versions of popular children’s books to newly registered blind children so all the family can read, whether braille users or not.

A pilot project run in Leeds by Reading Matters for teen parents – the group will read both picture books for the babies and YA for their Mums/Dads.

Books for vulnerable families working with The Reader Organisation in Liverpool.

One hundred copies of A Monster Calls donated which will be part of the packs given to teenagers facing bereavement via the charity Grief Encounter.

The Trust will make and distribute BookSwapBoxes to encourage book swapping in disadvantaged communities and home book ownership. Community groups, schools, anyone working with children who lack books at home can apply for books and an attractive box to house them in

2014 projects:

A donation of specially selected books for use of the volunteers at ArchOxfordshire, who provide reading support in Oxfordshire’s schools.

£5000 funding for 75 secondary school pupils and teachers to travel from Manchester, Liverpool, Bradford, Bristol, Oxfordshire and several London schools to attend YALC, the first Young Adult Literature Convention which was part of Comic Con.

£10,000 for the work of Readwell, which provides books and storytellers for children in hospitals – we fund their work in Belfast (this features in our 3projects short film).

A £6000 grant for the transformation of the library at Fleming Fulton Special School, Co. Antrim – you can see the beautiful finished result in our short film about 3 of our projects here.

A grant for every child taking part in the Craigmillar Book Festival to take a book home – this is working with the local bookseller.

£2000 worth of books for Child in Time counsellors working in Tower Hamlets and Haringey schools.

£1250 to supply book swap boxes for the school playground and local community near Bearwood Primary School in the West Midlands – this has been blogged about by the organising teacher here.

£500o towards a Seven Stories, Newcastle Nursery Rhymes project working with local communities.

£3000 for the Clearvision project to fund My Home Library, which sends specially adapted braille versions of popular children’s books to newly registered blind children so all the family can read, whether braille users or not.

2013 projects:

£15,000 for a new campaign supporting School Libraries. This will be a competition run with the Schools Library Association to provide an injection of funding and expertise to school libraries in need of a makeover. This will be launched in the autumn and will mean one grant of £6,000 and two grants of £3,000 plus consultations with a trained librarian to the schools that demonstrate the most need for help. Watch this website or twitter (@sdowdtrust) for further details in September!

£5,000 to Reading Force, which runs book groups for families in the armed services. This can be linking the kids and their Mum and Dad away on active service through reading the same book. £3,500 is going to support a large group in Plymouth and £1,500 to help set up a new group in North Yorkshire. Crucially, our support means Reading Force can claim match funding, so our £5,000 will bring in another £5,000 from elsewhere.

£5,000 to support book buying at the new Bootle Children’s Book Festival. Their aim is to give every child in Bootle a book of their choice.

In the same area, £1,500 to buy teenage books for a project run by The Reader Organisation for Young Adults in Leasowe Library. 

£2,000 worth of  new books to the Leeds Children’s Charity which runs short residential breaks in Cumbria for disadvantaged kids from Leeds. The list of the problems their children come to them with includes poverty, abuse, neglect, domestic violence and many are also young carers, so they clearly fit the criteria in Siobhan’s will, i.e. ‘spreading the joy of reading to those that need it most’.

£1,000 worth of new books for a primary school in Blaenau, Gwent that approached us for a possible one-off book donation. This is exactly the kind of school that our School Library Competition with the SLA is designed to help, but the Trustees felt the letter from a Volunteer Mum demonstrated exactly the kind of need we should be addressing, so we are putting together a selection of new books to arrive in time for lending during the summer holidays.

£2,000 funding for 10th Anniversary film of Letterbox, the scheme that sends books to children in care. The Siobhan Dowd Trust funded a pilot project  for sending books to teenagers, one of the first grants we ever gave.

Funding for extending Readwell to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast, initially for one year. Readwell is a charity that provides books and storyteller visits to children ill in hospital. Every term over 200 new books arrive in the wards for the use of patients and their siblings.

2012 projects:

£850 to Uddington Grammar School in South Lanarkshire for a sighted and blind students reading group.

CLPE’s Book Clubs in schools project £5,440  – CLPE will be providing a 2-3 page brief guide of tips for use once the project has been evaluated.

“Inside Stories”, a prison based project delivered by PACT, the charity that works with prisoners. The trust has funded a pilot project costing £4,550 and £3000 for books. The programme will take place in two male prisons HMP Whealstun in Wetherby and HMP Highdown in Sutton and two female: HMP Styal in Cheshire and HMP Bronzefield, Ashford, Surrey.

Letterbox – £10,000 for a pilot project for Letterbox Orange, for 5-6 year olds.

ReClaim Manchester – £750-£1000 to start teenage book group + £1000 worth of teenage books selected by Danny Hahn for use in the social centre lending library.

The Trust is pleased to support this years Oxfordshire Book Award, which is organised by Primary and Secondary school librarians and voted for entirely by children. The Siobhan Dowd Trust supplied books to increase participation among schools where the need is greatest. The award is in three categories: Best Book (Secondary school category), Best Book (Primary School category) and Best Picture Book (Primary School Category). A Monster Calls is nominated in the Secondary category, but the Trust was careful to supply ALL the books on the shortlist, and it’s the young readers who will be judging…

2011 projects:

Lunchboox is a weekly club run in Oxfordshire schools by Bookfeast.Its simple aim is to encourage Year 5 and 6 pupils to enjoy books and talk about them with confidence. Participating schools get support and know-how to start up and run a successful club – expert advice on the practicalities; information and resources about books, authors and related activities; provision of a group leader – or advice on how to recruit one – and an open invitation to attend Bookfeast’s author events and Schools Festival.

Cavan Library Service applied to the Trust for funding to resource the printing of resource packs for use in primary and secondary schools on each of Siobhan’s books. It is part of a hugely ambitious and celebratory project which involves the whole community in looking at and enjoying the work of a single author. Plays, Creative writing, artwork and lectures are all scheduled in a year-long celebration of Siobhan’s work. Cavan is in the Republic of Ireland, but shares a border with Northern Ireland, and is one of Ulster’s nine counties. In september, members of Siobhan’s family were proud to attend the official launch night of “One Cavan, One writer”, along with the Irish Minister for Training and Skills, Mr Ciarán Cannon, TD.

The Trust funded the purchase of books to be given away to 2,000 families participating in “Bookplay” sessions run thoughout Lambeth. Ran by The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE), they are drop in, structured sessions designed to encourage an early love of reading for pre-school children (and their parents or carers). The majority of sessions also have a Southwark library worker on hand to encourage use of the local libraries.

Funding was given to finance the hire of projection equipment for an Anti-cuts / Pro-libraries film: it was shown (as a flash mob) on Feb 2nd on the main entrance to the British Library. The film started as a protest about the closure of the local library in Taunton, but has become a rallying cry against all the threatened closures of libraries in the UK, attracting a large worldwide audience on YouTube, and screened at the TUC rally in Hyde Park in march 2011.


Funding was given to buy books for local schoolchildren to accompany visits by Childrens’ Authors into schools in East London. Part of a bigger festival, The Big Write,  organized by Discover, it features over 65 events and engages more than 2,000 people.

2010 projects:

Funding was given to support the work of First Story: their stated aim is to support and inspire creativity in secondary schools. They pay for authors to run weekly after-school creative-writing workshops. At the end of the workshops, a professionally produced anthology is produced and a book launch event is held in each school in celebration. From Sept 2010, there were 23 residencies under way in schools in London, Nottingham and Oxford. The trust grant is to help establish a reading forum/on-line book group supporting the work done in schools by First Story.

The  Siobhan Dowd Trust’s first grant was to Booktrust to launch the pilot programme Letterbox Club Green, aimed at improving the educational outlook for looked-after children in the early years of secondary school. The pilot involves 60 children from 12 local authorities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The (bright green) parcel‘s contents have been specially developed to suit the needs of 11-13 year olds, and includes a number of specially selected fiction and non-fiction titles plus stationary so the recipients can hopefully get writing themselves.