This week on the #MYCHARITY series, we speak to Gemma Malley, Director of Communications and Development at BookTrust
Current job: Director of Communications and Development at BookTrust
One word that best describes how you work: Open
Current mobile device: iPhone 6
Favourite website: Arts and Letters www.aldaily.com
First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
I started out as a business and finance journalist, then moved into education. I was director of communications at Ofsted before having children and carving out a career as a children’s author. I spent a lot of time in schools and it was so interesting seeing the difference in the pupils at schools that really celebrated reading, even those in areas of real social deprivation. Eventually, I started to miss the collaboration of work and was delighted to be able to combine all my passions at BookTrust, the reading charity which ensures that all children are able to experience the life-changing benefits of reading.
Take us through a recent workday.
I drop my three children at school first then make my way to the office; my days are usually a mix of meetings, reading paper and proposals and checking in on campaigns. Our fundraising team is relatively new and we are very entrepreneurial in approach but everything we do is grounded in testing. We know that there are lots of parents out there who are passionate about reading and can see the difference that reading together has made to their own children’s confidence, creativity, school attainment and communication skills. But there are so many children who barely have access to books and reading, who start school a year behind their peers, and who struggle to catch up. Many people want to support our cause; we just need to make it fun and easy for them.
Do you have the magic recipe to balance your personal and work life?
Loving what you do helps enormously, and also accepting that home and work-life can’t be entirely compartmentalised. I often think about work when I’m at home – but equally, I frequently send myself emails during the day to remind myself about the equipment needed for school the next day! I work from home one day a week so I can do school pick up; it’s important that I see my children at school and have a chance to talk to other parents as well as teachers. I also start the day early – I’m regularly cooking shepherd’s pie at 6 am ready for supper. I’m much better in the morning – past 8 pm you don’t get a huge amount of sense out of me.
What is the next big thing in the charity sector?
Trust is going to be key – showing that you are making a real difference in what you do. Also, I think it will be increasingly important to make people feel good about giving. It’s all about experiences and social media these days – feeling good about the choices you’ve made, feeling like you’re doing some good, and having a great picture to share to promote the cause are all very appealing to people.
How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?
Hanging out with my children exhausts me in a whole different way and I go by the mantra ‘a change is as good as a rest’. We have huge monopoly-fests; my children are apparently natural born property moguls. I also do barre classes which make me howl because they’re so difficult, but I feel invincible afterwards.
What are you currently reading, or what’s something you’d recommend?
I’m currently reading The Friendly Ones by Philip Hensher which is brilliant. I read as much as I can – I’m the old fashioned person on the train clutching a book, not staring at my phone. And I’m reading Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl to the children at the moment. We read all sorts of books – sometimes a classic, sometimes the latest thing and quite often a book about Ninjas, Minecraft or Lego. The best book is a book that you/your children truly want to read.
Fill in the blank:
I’d love to see my team answer these same questions.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My mother always used to say ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ Working that through – the worst scenario and what you’d do – makes it much easier to keep going when the going gets tough.
What is your view on paper books versus digital books? Do you think that the next generation will still read on paper?
I hope so. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with digital books, which can also be enormously helpful to children with some additional needs, but paper books have a soul – you own them and transfer a bit of yourself to them when you read them, folding down corners, making dents in the spine. Children love physical books, and when they read them they share them – cuddling in for a bedtime story, turning the pages together, pointing at things. Whereas no child will share a digital device. Looking at the books on someone’s shelves is such a great way of getting to know them; scrolling through an iPad list just isn’t the same.
Gemma is on Linkedin.
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The WeGiveIt #MYCHARITY series asks heroes, experts, and flat-out productive people to share their ambitions, routines and more. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email Sara