Although Julian, aged 12, was surrounded by enthusiastic readers there was something hesitant in his own relationship with books. When Doorstep Library volunteers, Selena and Nick, first knocked on the door of Julian’s family home, ready with rucksacks full of books and the desire to share them, they received a warm welcome. Julian’s older brother was an avid reader and his mother openly discussed her hopes that her two youngest sons would grow into confident readers as well. Julian’s younger brother immediately took to the reading sessions, happily choosing and sharing books with the Doorstep Library volunteers.
Unfortunately, Julian didn’t seem to share his family’s enthusiasm for Selena and Nick’s visits: although he politely accepted the books they offered, he didn’t want to read with them, and often quietly left the room during their visits.
Undeterred, Selena and Nick made sure their visits were consistent. They never pressured Julian but each week they took the books they thought he would most enjoy. Gradually, he began to find reasons to stay in the room for their visits, and although he didn’t yet read with them, he listened to his younger brother read aloud and even began discussing his own interests with them. Selena and Nick made sure they always gave Julian’s tentative participation their full attention, taking his opinions seriously and encouraging him to build his growing confidence.
A breakthrough moment came when one week, the volunteers lent Julian a copy of ‘Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different’, an anthology of stories of men who went against mainstream stereotypes to change the world. The following week, Selena and Nick found an astonishing difference in Julian: “he couldn’t wait to tell us about the famous boys and men he had read about!”. Julian sat with Selena and read his favourite entries to her with confidence and enthusiasm. When the session came to an end, Julian asked “can I give you a hug?”, a significant and unexpected moment of connection between a volunteer in her 70s and a young boy just beginning to find his voice in the world.
Selena and Nick’s patient and encouraging approach had laid the foundation for Julian to discover the joy to be found within the pages of a book and ‘Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different’ was the right book, shared at the right moment, to inspire an extraordinary change in him. By slowly gaining Julian’s trust, by helping him feel heard, Doorstep Library volunteers Selena and Nick have been able to support, not only Julian’s literacy, but his confidence: “we can tell it makes him feel special, someone who is worth listening to, it makes him feel valued and important”. The work that Doorstep Library does goes far beyond literacy attainment; we work to empower the next generation, children like Julian, to find their voice and place in the world.