Covid-19 Response

Getting books to vulnerable young people in Middlesbrough

On entering the first lockdown in March 2020, Middlesbrough Reads, in partnership with School Readiness, provided 1800 books for the identified Children in Need/Child Protection children (aged 0-11), that were distributed by Social Workers.   In addition we supported Looked After Children by donating 175 books suitable for KS3 pupils, which were sent out via the Virtual School. (These resources had an RRP £13k, and made possible through the generosity of publishers)


Getting books to vulnerable adults and families

The Council established the ‘Help Boro Hub’ providing food parcels to vulnerable residents. A large number of recipients were single, elderly residents, experiencing social isolation with no access to libraries.  #BoroReads donated 120 new, adult titles that were subsequently included in the food parcels.  25% of the daily deliveries were identified as having children in the household, so 400 books were donated for inclusion in the parcels going to vulnerable families (RRP in excess £2k)


Food bank support

Once food parcel support transferred from the ‘HelpBoroHub’ to Middlesbrough’s foodbanks, Middlesbrough Reads applied to the Tees Valley Community Foundation for grants to replenish book stock, in order to be able to continue to support families in Middlesbrough. We were successful and able to purchase 2000 books that were distributed via the foodbanks.  In partnership with School Readiness, #BoroReads donated an additional 350 books for distribution via the MFC Foundation food parcels. (total RRP in excess £13k)


Supporting Pip – Disabled Mum’s community support

Middlesbrough Reads donated over 400 books to PIPSCO, a food delivery service set up by Phillipa Donegan, best known as Pip – Disabled Mum, in May, 2020.

Allison Potter, Manager for Middlesbrough Reads, came across Pip on Facebook after a friend shared a post. Pip, with the help of her support worker Madeline and husband John, set up PIPSCO in March. Pip ploughed their savings into setting up a food bank for disabled and vulnerable local families in her spare bedroom. In a two week period at beginning of May, provided food for 324 individual children.   As Pip is disabled and at high risk, she has to shield which meant she couldn’t get out to the supermarket. Home deliveries were also hard to come by so she decided to create a pop-up store and delivery service to help other people in a similar position. PIPSCO is supported by monetary donations, volunteers, and donations from wholesalers.

Thanks to publishers including Penguin Random House and Pan Macmillan, Middlesbrough Reads was able to donated 400 books to PIPSCO. The books cover age ranges from newborns through to teenagers and were included alongside food parcels. Pip also tries to include special treats each week, including chocolates and cornflake tart.

I gave a copy of Harry Potter to a very distressed 13yr old girl (during a DV issue while collecting an emergency food parcel. In an hour she had read a lot!  She told me she doesn’t read books, but a few pages in and she was hooked!  Thank you so much to everyone who has made this donation possible – these amazing books are sure to raise some smiles and will help the children learn at home during the pandemic.  I always say, as a community, we can pull through this together!

Pip Donegan, founder of PIPSCO


Magazine Donations

In summer 2020, Middlesbrough Reads received a donation of over 3,000 new magazines, for children and adults.

The Children’s Magazine Forum, who represent all the biggest magazine publishers offered some of the huge excess of unsold magazines to #BoroReads.  We received 2000 mixed magazines (with an RRP in excess of £13k) that have been distributed via Health Visitors (New Birth Visits), Children in Need/Child Protection via Social Workers, PIPSCO food bank, the Ethnic Minority Achievement Team, Early Help visits & Early Years Practitioners.

The magazines have sparked conversations about the value of reading, building relationships, having one to one time as well as building relationships with siblings. As you will know, many of our families are affected by poverty and some families would never have the funds to be able to obtain these magazines, they have been gratefully received

Health Visitor

The Ethnic Minorities Achievement Team distributed 100 magazines on their home visits.  Magazines offer a way in to reading English that is fun and engaging.

Our service provides educational support to INAs (International New Arrivals) to our community. A magazine is a luxury to most of our children particularly to our asylum seekers and refugees who have never seen a magazine! Magazines break down the language barrier for the children, they are visual, colourful and interactive.  Children are reading and they don’t know it!  I feel the magazines will turn them on to the joy of reading and hopefully into lifelong readers. EMAT Team

The Publishers Association donated 1000 magazines and puzzle books suitable for adult readers, including Arrow Words, Logic, Mountain Biking UK, Vogue and House and Garden. These were mainly distributed, via the team of Therapeutic Care Volunteers, to adult patients who, due to Covid restrictions, have been unable to have visitors at James Cook University Hospital. The remainder were taken out to new mums by Health Visitors.


Autumn foodbank support – White Feather

The White Feather Project is a non-profit charity working in the local community, whose mission is to help support the local community with food deprivation, based in North Ormesby.

They deliver emergency food care packages to people in crisis and that are vulnerable, and run an eco-food shop serving the local area to help low income families. They have teamed up with other organisations and bringing our community together.

Middlesbrough Reads, in partnership with School Readiness, donated 500 books, magazines and stationery packs to be included in the parcels for families.


Stay Warm & Well – Winter Support

Middlesbrough Reads was approached by the new Warm and Well Winter Support Project, which has been set up by The Teesside Family Foundation, Ageing Better Middlesbrough and Staying Put Agency (from Middlesbrough Council), will provide essential supplies to older people to help them stay warm, active and busy over the festive period. Many older people have been hit particularly hard hit by the pandemic, having been cut off from family and friends and unable to access the internet, so it’s hoped this service can go a long way in to helping those who need it across Middlesbrough. Middlesbrough Reads provided 100 books, 200 magazines and 80 puzzle books for inclusion in their activity packs being delivered to over 50s, to keep them occupied during the winter months.


Project Santa

Middlesbrough Reads was contacted by disability activist, advocate and blogger Philippa Donegan (aka Pip – Disabled Mum) to explore an idea to provide a special Christmas treat in store for hundreds of Middlesbrough children this December.

Clinically vulnerable children or children with a vulnerable parent, children of low income families or those in foster care would most likely not be able to visit Santa’s grotto in 2020 so Pip wanted to bring Christmas to their doorsteps. Thanks to ongoing donations by publishers, Middlesbrough Reads donated 1400 books, 100 audio books and 50 tactile books for the project.  Each book was wrapped and quarantined and children were referred by family, friends and professionals, to receive a visit from Santa or one of his elves.

National ITV news covered the story along with various media outlets, and by Christmas Eve, 1532 books were delivered to the doorsteps of vulnerable Middlesbrough children.

“You have made Christmas very special for some children this year!”

“Thank you so much – the boys loved their books!”

“Well done to all the elves, bringing cheer in these strange times!”


NEPACS – Christmas 2020

For the fifth year #BoroReads has support NEPACS at Christmas.  However, 2020 was a different approach due to the ongoing pandemic.  Thirty prisoners were permitted to receive a Purple Visit from their families – a video call.  On the call the dad would read ‘The Night Before Christmas’ and in the family hamper there was a copy of the book for the child to follow/read, donated by Middlesbrough Reads

“Thank you for your continued support – the children will love receiving these very special gifts!”


Christmas at James Cook Hospital

For the fourth year Middlesbrough Reads has donated books for young patients at Christmas.  In 2019 one the many books donated by Penguin Random House was the festive title The Christmasaurus, written by popular children’s author Tom Fletcher.  Over 130 copies (RRP £900+) were gifted to young patients at James Cook leading up to Christmas. Thanks to the generosity of local partner WHSmith, a Christmasaurus cuddly toy was gifted to nine-year-old Marley Gill, who is spending time in the hospital this Christmas. His mum said “Reading in hospital is helping to widen his vocabulary and keep his brain active.”

In 2020 Middlesbrough Reads, in partnership with the school Readiness Team, donated 80 books for distribution amongst young patients over the festive season.


Christmas Foodbank Support

Middlesbrough Reads and School Readiness  helped spread the joy of reading over the 2020 festive season by gifting over 3,000 books to a range of fantastic local partners – including the Teesside Family Foundation, The Genesis Project, The Salvation Army, MFC Foundation, Tees Valley Together, The Junction Foundation and Hemlington Linx.  These books were used in Christmas food parcels and hampers, helping families in need of extra support this year.

Thank you for your support, it really means a lot and makes such a difference to the families we support!”  “Thank you for the amazing support you’ve given our project and many others too!”  “Thank you so, so much for your amazing donation.  These books will reach a lot of young children this Christmas!