We caught up with Ken via email.
I’m an Australian author, based in Perth. Well over half of the 40 books I’ve written are for children or teens, and these are published in many countries around the world. In 2012, Scholastic brought my successful series of Jake books to the Philippines and I was also a guest at the Philippines International Literature Festival. I met some wonderful people at the festival, including Manila author Robert Magnuson.
Why did you choose to donate a set of Robert Magnuson's picture books to Sambat Trust school libraries ?
I was fortunate to discover the magic of books early in life, and I was brought up believing that it’s important to try to make some positive difference to the lives of other people. Over the past five years I’ve taken every opportunity to donate books and, where possible, visit organisations that connect children with books and stories. Until recently my giving had been confined to India, Malaysia and Vietnam, but when I learned about Sambat Trust I saw an opportunity to extend it to the Philippines. I was very impressed with the work of Robert Magnuson and I like the values that underpin his books – kindness, for example. I know the books will entertain the children and also promote an appreciation of all that is good about the world.
One for One Books [www.oneforonebooks.org] is a not-for-profit organisation that was set up in Malaysia. The idea is simple – to sell books and then to donate a book for every book sold. Donations are made to disadvantaged kids, and One for One is now establishing 50 libraries in underserved local communities. The organisation also runs Wisdom Clubs, which aim to build a love for reading and critical thinking across a cross-section of society. I met the founder of One for One Books at a conference and decided I’d do anything I could to help the organisation grow and extend its reach. Individuals like me are more effective when we work with others.
Why is it important for children to have access to books?
I believe that the value of books goes far beyond education. Improving basic literacy skills is important, of course, but stories also provide unparalleled access to the hearts, minds and souls of others. They lead us a deeper understanding of ourselves and equip us to deal with situations we haven’t yet encountered. These are some of the messages I like to spread as I write and as I travel. In the last three years, I’ve spoken to more than 70,000 kids, telling them that books are the best exercise for the imagination, and that we all need imagination to be the best that we can be. This is the same for people everywhere – whether living in the Philippines, Australia, India or France. Sadly, there are children everywhere whose imaginations are not being fed by books. For some, poverty is the cause. For others, there is a kind of ‘privileged neglect’ – here I mean children who are materially comfortable but deprived of stories through the misguided priorities of parents.
Oh yes. After my first visit in 2012, I visited the Philippines twice in 2013 – once for the Little Lit Fest in Manila, and then for a conference and a visit to Davao campus of the University of the Philippines, where I spoke to creative writing students. I will certainly visit again in 2014, and I hope to be able to visit many schools. It would be a real pleasure to meet kids at Sambat Trust schools and to donate more books! –I’ll try to make that happen.