Queen Consort hails the ‘life-changing’ power of reading
The Queen Consort hailed the “life-changing” power of reading for children during a visit to a literacy charity on Thursday morning.
Camilla, 75, took part in helping to act out a poetry reading and sang Happy Birthday with the volunteers and staff of Coram Beanstalk - a charity that aims to foster a love of reading in children - for its 50th anniversary.
After cutting the celebratory cake, she addressed the gathered audience - including a group of primary school children - and said: “I’m a very proud patron of Coram Beanstalk, I’ve been involved for quite a long time.
“I had no idea how huge it was and how many different things you’ve encompassed over the years, especially the children. It is literally life-changing for them.
“We've got this wonderful poet reading his charming poem - it does make such a difference to read.
“You can escape into different worlds, you can laugh, you can cry, you can learn and it’s thanks to all of you that it’s happening to all these children, so thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.”
The poet, Joshua Seigal, said later that it was a “wonderful experience” to see the Queen Consort joining in with the audience in acting out the chorus of his poem Just a Book. He quipped that he would add her endorsement to the blurb of his next book.
Camilla became patron of Coram Beanstalk in 2013, when she was the Duchess of Cornwall, as part of her support of literacy in the UK and internationally.
The charity - which was formed as Beanstalk in 1973, before joining the Coram group of charities in Feb 2019 - has helped more than 250,000 children to develop their reading abilities. Coram was established under a Royal Charter signed by King George II as the Foundling Hospital in 1739.
During her visit, Camilla heard about its history and plans for the future. She also met some of its longest serving volunteers.
Peta Travis, who has volunteered for the last four decades, said it is “lovely” that the Queen Consort is “passionate about reading and is prepared to give her time to come and support Beanstalk”, adding: “It absolutely does make a huge difference.”
One university student, who met Camilla through Coram Beanstalk when she was still in primary school 10 years ago, was asked by the Queen Consort whether the charity had been helpful for her.
Jadesola Kadejoh, 20, said that it had, particularly because she was diagnosed with dyslexia in secondary school.
The Queen Consort responded: “It does help, doesn’t it, the one-to-one support makes such a difference.”
As part of her visit, Camilla also sat and listened to a young girl reading Morris and the Bundle of Worries with her adoptive mother.
She applauded when the girl finished reading the passage aloud and told her: “There’s nothing better than reading.”
Camilla also signed the charity’s visitors’ book before leaving - the same book that the late Queen Elizabeth II signed when she visited what was then the Foundling Hospital as a 10-year-old child in 1936 and again in Dec 2018.
Addressing the Beanstalk staff as she was leaving, she said: “It’s down to all of you and it is lovely to see it thriving and just going from strength to strength.
“It's due to all of your help, so thank you very much. It's a wonderful charity and you do so much for children in building their confidence.”
Earlier, the Queen Consort helped out charity staff and stamped inside the covers of two books at Book Aid International depot in south London.
During Thursday morning's visit, she described reading as her “passion” and revealed that she receives hundreds of letters from around the world due to her Reading Room initiative, launched in 2021.
She said: "During lockdown everybody went back to reading, thank goodness.
"I've got my Reading Room which goes all of the way around the world. It gets letters from all over the place, everywhere, I had one from Papua New Guinea the other day."
She also gave her stamp of approval to books being sent to children in Africa. She heard how Book Aid International receives 1.1 million books donated by publishers from over stocks that would likely have been pulped.
In an impromptu speech with no notes, she told staff: "Thank you everybody for the wonderful job that you do. Books are my passion."
Then speaking about the children in Kigali, Rwanda, who will receive the donated books, Camilla said: "Books are a lifeline."
She added: "A lot of them are in a terrible situation and it is a form of escapism."
Meanwhile, the Princess of Wales released a new video as part of her Shaping Us campaign in which she talks to school children about having both good and sad feelings and the importance of support within a family.
What is #ShapingUs?
Introducing Layla’s story to the children of St John’s CE Primary School and chatting about the important people in their lives, who they share their feelings with… and Barnaby Bear 🧸@earlychildhood ▶️ https://t.co/ajo3nmbQOz pic.twitter.com/kMxmGSXzVe
— The Prince and Princess of Wales (@KensingtonRoyal) February 2, 2023
Sitting in a classroom with six reception-age pupils, the Princess said: "We all have feelings, don't we? Good feelings and sad feelings. But if we've got our friends around us and our family, it makes us feel better, doesn't it?"