November 1, 2021

Northumberland mum donates hundreds of pounds worth of books to women’s refuge


Purple ribbon: often worn in solidarity with those who have experienced domestic abuse (MesserWoland, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

This week the Newcastle Chronicle brought heartening news from Northumberland, UK, as local mum and Usborne Publishing sales partner Rachel Shayler donated £300 worth of children’s books to a women’s refuge in the area, which has just opened a new on-site library.

Shayler, who is from Whalton, Northumberland, started her Wiggly Worms Book Co. earlier this year in partnership with children’s book publisher Usborne. She tours local community events and schools with a “pop-up” book store, earning commission on the books she sells. Speaking with the Newcastle Chronicle, she affirmed that all children should be given the chance to read, regardless of their situation at home:

Reading offers them new worlds, experiences, escapism, distraction from real life problems and a sense of belonging. I wanted to offer these amazing Usborne books to children who might not otherwise have easy access to them… I enquired with the refuge whether they were in need of any children’s books, and the staff member there practically bit my hand off she was so eager for them. It turns out that the staff were planning to build a on-site library for the mothers and children who lived there, and whilst they’d received lots of donations for books for the mums, they were struggling with sourcing any for children.

Earlier this year Shayler set up a JustGiving page with the idea of donating a small number of titles to a local refuge, having previously volunteered with a charity linked to survivors of domestic abuse.

“The project isn’t just important for the children, it’s also important to the mothers at the refuge,” she says. “Often they have to flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They don’t have time to grab any books or bring things to keep their children entertained… We were thinking of adding some of the books into a welcome pack for them when they arrive for this very reason.”

Successive lockdowns appear to have worsened instances of domestic abuse across the country. In March, the charity Refuge reported a 61% rise in the number of calls made to their helpline between the period of April 2020 and February 2021, with over 4,000 referrals made to secure refuges across the country. “This is a worrying trend,” the charity says, “particularly as being isolated with an abusive partner is likely to have made reaching out for support more challenging.” All the more important, then, for inspirational ideas like Shayler’s to take centre stage.

Find out more about Refuge’s work in the UK here.



Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.