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Children’s Literature Festivals

2155. Christina Gabbitas

Christina Gabbitas, from Selby, is a children’s author and poet who founded the ‘Children’s Literature Festivals’ charity in 2019 and has delivered eight free to attend literature festivals, with the ninth taking place this Autumn.

Growing up in a deprived area, Christina enjoyed spending time with her family in their local library and would have welcomed the chance to attend a literature festival, but it would have been costly for her whole family to attend. Christina wanted to make literature festivals and books accessible for children from less privileged backgrounds and was inspired to set up the ‘Children’s Literature Festivals’ charity.

Festivals have since taken place in Selby, Blackburn with Darwen, Keighley and Oldham, with Christina organising one virtual festival during the pandemic. This year’s festival at Blackburn with Darwen will be the first to include sign language, giving the opportunity for children and families to participate in a BSL session. 

In June, the charity held their first ‘Children’s Literature Festivals Book Awards’, where children were invited to vote, comment on their favourite books, and to shine a light on librarians for all their hard work, their favourite storytelling librarian. 

Through the charity, Christina has engaged with thousands of families, gifting over 24,000 books to children. 

Christina’s award coincides with National Libraries Week, an annual showcase and celebration of the best that libraries have to offer.

In a personal letter to Christina, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: 

“Through your fantastic Children’s Literature Festivals, you have brought together thousands of families to share the gift of a wonderful book and you have introduced them to the treasures that can be found in our libraries.

“You have also gifted more than 24,000 books to children and made them feel valued and empowered by inviting them to be judges as part of your book awards.”

Congratulating Christina on her award, Keir Mather, Christina’s local MP for Selby and Ainsty, said:

“Christina’s work delivering literature festivals for children from less privileged communities demonstrates the power of authors and the written word to transform young people’s opportunities in life. We are remarkably lucky to have people like Christina in our community, and we can’t wait to support her in whatever she decides to achieve next.”

Christina said:

“On behalf of all the children and families who have benefitted from the festivals, it’s a huge honour to receive this award. My best wish is for more areas to benefit from free to attend, inclusive literature festivals and books.”

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