Patrons and supporters
- Dame Jacqueline Wilson
- Rt Hon. Alan Johnson MP
- Lemn Sissay, MBE
- Professor Sonia Jackson, OBE
- Malachy Doyle
Dame Jacqueline Wilson
Dame Jacqueline Wilson was born in Bath in 1945 and spent her childhood in Kingston-on-Thames, where she still lives today as a full-time writer. She has written many books for children, and her sensitive understanding of modern children, the way they live and the problems they encounter, together with her sense of humour, have made her an extremely popular author, particularly with the nine to eleven year age range. She has sold over ten million books, which have been translated into over 30 languages.
In 2005, Jacqueline Wilson became Children's Laureate for a two-year term and in 2007, became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE).
I think the Letterbox Club is such an exciting and worthwhile project. It’s great that looked-after children get their own special parcel of books and stationery and stickers. It’s like a little birthday present every month. I’m delighted to be involved - I think it’s a wonderful way of introducing children to the joys of reading.
Jacqueline Wilson became a patron of the Letterbox Club in 2007.
Her books include The Story of Tracy Beaker (1991) and its sequel, The Dare Game (2000), which tell the story of a child who lives in residential and foster care; The Bed and Breakfast Star (1994), about a family living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation; and The Illustrated Mum (1999), who is covered in tattoos and has multiple boyfriends. She wrote her own screen adaptation of Double Act for Channel 4, which won the Royal TV Society Best Children's Fiction Award, and The Story of Tracy Beaker has had three television series.
Rt Hon. Alan Johnson MP
Alan Johnson is no ordinary politician, reader, or author. Raised in the grinding poverty of pre-trendy 1950s Notting Hill, he went on to hold five Cabinet positions - including Education Secretary.
Johnson is passionate about literacy skills and encouraging a love of books from an early age. As Education Secretary, he championed reading through new Government programmes such as 'Every Child a Reader' and says that as a politician he has always considered the plight of those from a similar background to him.
To actually possess your own books was different. Being able to pick them up and dip into them or re-read them whenever you liked lifted the pleasure of reading on to another plane.
As a child his mother signed him and his sister up at Ladbroke Grove Library before he was even able to read. From that point on, books were destined to play an essential role in his life story, and became a crucial tool in surviving an impoverished upbringing. Johnson says that 'being able to escape into a book is just a marvellous means of coping'.
Lemn Sissay, MBE
Lemn Sissay, MBE, is an internationally renowned poet, author of five poetry collections: Tender Fingers in a Clenched Fist (1988), Rebel Without Applause (1992), Morning Breaks in the Elevator (1999), The Emperor's Watchmaker (2000) and most recently, Listener (2008). He is also the editor of The Fire People: A Collection of Contemporary Black British Poets (1998), and his work has appeared in many anthologies.
He is a regular contributor to Poetry Review and has judged various writers competitions such as the Arvon Poetry Prize and the John Llewellyn Rhys Literature prize. He is currently artist in residence at the South Bank Centre, and has been writer in residence at the Cambridge Literature Festival, the Belfast Literature Festival, University of Arizona, California State University and Contact Theatre Manchester.Every child in care deserves to receive books. That the books come through the post in an envelope addressed to the individual child is just the best! I wish The Letterbox Club had been around for the hundreds of young people that I came across when I was in care.
He was born in Lancashire of Ethiopian parents. His 2004 drama Something Dark deals with his search for his family after being fostered by a white religious family who, after looking after him as their own child for eleven years, decided to cut off all contact. He is also a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live.
He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours.
Lemn Sissay became a patron of the Letterbox Club in 2007.
Professor Sonia Jackson, OBE
Sonia Jackson, OBE, AcSS, FRSA, is Professor of Social Studies and Education at the University of London Institute of Education. She is a qualified clinical psychologist and social worker and was Head of Social Policy and Applied Social Studies at the University of Wales Swansea, before moving to direct research projects at the Thomas Coram Research Unit.
The Letterbox Club parcels, as the evaluation reports show, bring great pleasure to children and play a key role in introducing them to books and providing a focus for carers to sit down with them and read and play number games together. This is a wonderful investment for local authorities who are really serious about fulfilling their legal duty to raise the attainment of children they look after.
She has served as a Trustee of the National Children's Bureau and the Who Cares? Trust (of which she is now a patron) and as Chair of Children in Wales.
She first drew attention to the neglected education of children in care in the early 1980s and has published many books, chapters and research reports on children in public care, with emphasis on the interface between care and education. From 2001-05, she carried out the only UK study to date of university students who were in care as children. With David Berridge, she carried out the evaluation of the Virtual School Head pilot, as well as the evaluation of the Boarding School Pathfinder with other colleagues. Other research projects undertaken include Young People in Public Care: Pathways to Education in Europe (YiPPEE).
Malachy Doyle, Letterbox Club's patron in Wales and Northern Ireland, was born in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, in 1954. His parents had recently moved up from Dublin and named him, their seventh child, after a local saint. They lived in Whitehead, a small town at the mouth of Belfast Lough all his childhood; his step-mother still lives there. He went to secondary school (Saint Malachy’s College) in Belfast, and then to Bolton, Lancashire where he studied for a degree in Psychology. Malachy taught in Leeds for a year, followed by six months packing Polo Mints. He then worked for seven years in advertising, firstly for Rowntree Mackintosh in York and later for General Foods in Banbury, before buying a small holding in West Wales.
To feed his wife, Liz, their three young children, Naomi, Hannah and Liam, and numerous goats, pigs and chickens, Malachy took a job as a care assistant in a local Residential Special School. For the next seven years he darned socks, patched jeans and generally looked after the children there, before being offered the post of Deputy Head at another Special School. They moved to Machynlleth, a small town on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, and three years later he began to write for children.
On becoming a full-time writer, Malachy and his family moved to a big old house overlooking the sea, in Aberdyfi. And seven years later, when the children had all left home, Malachy decided to return to Ireland, where he and his wife bought a farmouse on an island off the coast of Donegal.
Malachy has published over 80 titles to date, and his books are available in 23 different languages. He writes for young people of all ages, and his books, including Georgie, Cow, The Dancing Tiger and Tales from Old Ireland, have won many international awards.