Picture book author and illustrator Nicola Kent has donated £500 worth of children’s books to the Play Service at London’s Whittington Hospital today, as part of her award prize as the Independent Booksellers’ Best New Illustrator.
The prize, organised by the Publishers Association and voted for by independent booksellers, was awarded to Nicola earlier this year, with 19 publishers providing £500 worth of children’s books for Nicola to donate to a library of her choice.
Nicola has chosen to give the books to the Play Service at the Whittington Hospital in the London Borough of Islington. The play workers will use the books to give children on the wards as therapeutic entertainment, escape and education, and as an invaluable distraction for children waiting for or undergoing treatment. Nicola visited the Whittington Hospital today (Wednesday 27th November) to donate the books.
Nicola spent three months in hospital as a child, so has personal experience of how emotionally distressing it can be to have to cope with serious illness at a formative age. She was keen to donate the books to benefit children going through the ordeal of illness, pain, boredom and alienation from normal childhood that children undergoing treatment can experience.
Nicola said: “Books have a unique ability to distract, de-stress, fuel the imagination and take us all away from the challenges of our day to day lives. I am so glad the kind donations from publishers will be enjoyed by children who are putting up with particularly gruelling challenges.”
“When I was in hospital as a child, there was no play service and no books, but kind gifts from friends introduced me to authors who changed my life. When I visited the Whittington recently I was so impressed that there is now provision for children to be emotionally supported through play – they even have some rabbits which the children find great comfort from. But the library of picture books is small, and the library for older readers is non-existent. So I know this addition will fill a really important gap.”
Sarah Otley, Play Service Lead, said: “Play is essential for a child to be healthy, grow and develop. For a child in hospital it is essential they have appropriate therapeutic play interventions to help them cope with pain or anxiety due to medical procedures or illness. Play specialists support the child or young person through their hospital journey to alleviate the effects of hospitalisation providing emotional support and facilitating normalised play.
“The generous donation of these books will help our team here to provide distraction therapy during medical interventions and also aid normal play and development, without such kind donations we would struggle to fulfill our role.”
Eliza Kavanagh, Communications Manager at the Publishers Association, said: “We created this award with our members to celebrate children’s books. Children’s publishers are passionate champions of reading for pleasure so it’s wonderful to see Nicola donate their books to the Play Service at the Whittington where they will undoubtably delight children who are especially in need of it.”
Alyx Price, Communications Director, Macmillan Children’s Books said: “We are delighted that Nicola won the inaugural Independent Booksellers’ Best New Illustrator Prize this year. Her illustration is loved by families for its warmth and humour, and it is great to see her talent publicly recognised in this way. Macmillan Children’s Books are proud to publish her. This prize is not only a fantastic opportunity to celebrate Nicola’s work, but has also allowed her to reward young readers who are cared for at the Whittington Hospital, which we all hope will benefit children and teenagers for many years to come.”
The Whittington Hospital is in the London Borough of Islington which has one of the highest child poverty rates in the UK. Its paediatric ward, Ifor Ward, looks after over 2,000 patients a year while its child ambulatory ward looks after 4,000.