I remember having seven teeth taken out when I was about nine years old. There was no room for the big ones to come through I was told, as I was put under general anaesthetic in the dentist’s chair, waking up later with a groggy, confused feeling, sore and incredibly gummy.

My most vivid memory of that day is not the gas though, nor the inability to eat or drink for some time after, nor going back to school the next day with huge gaps in my grin. No, it is of leaving the dentist proudly clutching a copy of Roald Dahl’s Matilda which my mum had secretly bought for me in advance, hidden in her bag, and produced when I came around from the anaesthetic. This was my treat for being brave and I can remember the surge of love I had for her in that moment.

And I can remember what feels like every page of that fantastic book, of going to bed early each night to devour it, desperate to read more but aware that the more I read the sooner the book would be finished. Some nights I would limit the number of pages I allowed myself, carefully working out how many evenings of sheer joy I had left.

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I grew up with books, with parents who enjoyed them, and siblings to share them with. I appreciate how lucky I was. My older sister had many of the Roald Dahl books which I borrowed from her shelf and then put back. But Matilda was mine – a brand new copy just for me. I wrote my name in the inside to make this point clear, and there it remains today as my daughter and I read the book together, just as I did with her big brothers before her. Decades down the line, I still get a thrill out of this very special book and the memory of my mum giving it to me.

Why am I telling you this? Because this feeling matters in childhood. Every child in Scotland surely should have a chance to feel excited about getting a new book of their own? To own something valuable and precious, life-changing and magical. They should have their Matilda moment (minus the general anaesthetic, preferably).

The Herald:

And that is why this week we launched our Christmas appeal with Scottish Book Trust, asking readers to help buy new books for children this festive period. Not every child will love reading, that’s a given, but every child deserves a chance to. The reality is that too many children living in poverty will not get a book this Christmas.

“Owning your own book is a powerful tool – no, weapon – for a child,” said author Val McDermid, writing exclusively for us as we launched the appeal. “It’s something to enjoy, something to take pride in, something new, something indisputably theirs. Being able to read gives a child confidence to speak out; confidence to apply for jobs; confidence to break free from a life lacking in dignity and decency.”

Our Christmas appeal sees Scottish Book Trust organise the delivery of new books for children through food banks. I appreciate how much the cost-of-living crisis is impacting families and the pressures over the winter months are some of the most severe. But if you can donate, be sure of the difference it will make to a child.

For more details, visit scottishbooktrust.com

Thank you.

Catherine Salmond