Ian Rankin backs initiative to provide books to Edinburgh’s rough sleepers

Scottish novelist Ian Rankin will today be joined by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in supporting a scheme that sees books being distributed to people who are rough sleeping in Edinburgh.

The Inspector Rebus creator is backing an initiative adopted by local homelessness charity Streetwork which includes literacy classes and a network of outlets offering free books.

Streetreads’ will also see books being handed out to people on the streets and in emergency accommodation, recognising that a book can provide a place of space and solace.

An official celebration at the Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh will coincide with a call out to well-known individuals in the literary world to become ambassadors. The general public will also be encouraged to help hand out books, co-ordinate their collection and to fundraise.

Streetreads is the brainchild of local woman Rachel Cowan (aka #bookwumman) who started it after she got to know a homeless person who was a keen reader.

Rachel said: “The impact a book can have on a homeless reader is huge. Our books are given as a gift and are in excellent or even new condition so our readers know they are getting a present which is given with respect and love.”

Ian Rankin added: “I’ve been a long-time fan of Streetreads and have seen first-hand the great work they do. Books can transport us anywhere, to times and worlds that excite and stimulate. That’s hugely important, no matter who you are or what your circumstances.”

Lorraine McGrath, chief executive of Streetwork and its sister charity, Glasgow-based Simon Community Scotland, said: “At Streetwork, we create connections with people from every background, circumstance and organisation – supporting people into recovery and off the street.

“Stories – our own and those of others – are a great way of connecting with each other and Streetreads is a beautifully-engaging way to do this.

“For most people, reading a book is a delightful, everyday pastime. Through Streetreads, this ordinary activity is more easily available to people facing and recovering from homelessness in Edinburgh.

“We have been friends of Streetreads and Rachel for some time, loving the work she’s done in creating this amazing service.

“We are delighted to bring this fabulous initiative to Streetwork, working with Ian Rankin and other supporters to reach further and build new exciting connections and opportunities for those we support.”

The launch is being supported by investment management firm Baillie Gifford which is headquartered in Edinburgh.

Sam Pattman, sponsorship manager at Baillie Gifford, said: “By giving away books to homeless readers, Streetreads ensures that - no matter what an individual’s circumstances are - reading is still a possibility. As a firm, Baillie Gifford advocates the importance of literature, which is why we are delighted to support this incredibly worthwhile initiative.”

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