What better to give than the gift of reading this Christmas by Michaela Skilney

It’s safe to say that 2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. Covid-19 roared into town at the start of the year like an evil queen, ready to wreak havoc with the kind of ferocity chronicled in a Grimm Brothers fable.

Asked to distance from our family, friends and schools left a lot of us feeling disconnected. Our personal tribes were forcibly disbanded, and despite the collective experience, most of us had never felt so alone.

While a vaccine gallops closer towards us each day like a knight in shining armour, the fear of future lockdowns is still thick in the air and recovery from isolation has only just begun.

Living in the Macedon Ranges, a collection of sweet country towns not too far from Melbourne, our closest neighbours aren’t a typical stone’s throw away. We live in the bush, and whilst home learning this year our five-year-old son saw all but a few faces in the flesh – his father’s, mine and the odd wallaby on our block.

As an only child, I was nervous that the lack of social interaction would be severely impactful. But as my sister likes to say, “when you have a book, you have a friend”, and indeed, learning to read this year gave him an army of collegiate to call upon for company.

Despite his unorthodox introduction to school life, I believe that reading acted as his own vaccine, allowing him to dive into his imagination and find solace in famous storybook characters and new fairy tale friends – a precious gift we hope to have passed on to others this Christmas.

When disconnected or displaced, a feeling experienced by many this year, there’s never a richer reminder of kindness and community than your local Street Library. A visible example of generosity and honesty, Street Libraries are proof that community connectedness is triumphantly alive – even when life may feel otherwise.

Having just published my first children’s picture book – Just Peachy – we decided as a family to donate copies to Street Libraries across our region this festive season as a way to express gratitude for the role that books have played in our lives this year. Not only am I immensely grateful to have written and published my very first book in 2020, seeing what they’ve done for our son is something we hope to give other families through my book.

With Santa’s helper in tow, we popped copies of Just Peachy into libraries located in Woodend, Kyneton and Lancefield last weekend and the experience was cathartic for all of us. While we planned to be doing the giving, we were the ones who truly received – the gift of rediscovering our local neighbourhoods freely after months of separation was a blessing.

As explored in my book, life isn’t always peachy. But spirited communities and selflessness – qualities championed by the likes of Street Library – are stronger than any pandemic and in times of need, prove to survive and thrive.

Just Peachy by Michaela Skilney is available worldwide now in glamorous gloss paperback and a velvety soft keepsake hardcover from all good online bookstores. For a full list of stockists or for more information visit: www.michaelaskilney.com