Meghan Markle and MeghanAs Harry, Meghan and Archie enjoy their first week with baby Lili, the Duchess of Sussex’s eagerly anticipated children’s book The Bench was officially released yesterday. To coincide with the release, which captures the “special relationship between father and son through a mother’s eyes”, there was an exciting announcement from Archewell yesterday. With the support of the book’s publisher, 2,000 copies of the book will be given to schools, libraries, non-profits and community centres.
Archewell revealed the following:
‘After more than a year of unprecedented challenges for schoolkids and families everywhere, The Duchess believes the path ahead must include a focus on well-being—and nourishing our communities through food, education, and emotional and mental health support.
At Archewell, that is often centered on food and essential needs (as evidenced by our partnership with organizations like World Central Kitchen) but also nourishment through learning and connection (as seen in The Duchess’s support of last year’s Save With Stories initiative to raise funds for educational resources like books, toys, and worksheets).’
Organisations receiving free copies include Assistance League® of Los Angeles which has served the local community for over a century. Harry and Meghan visited the organisation’s pre-school learning centre twice last year. One of the couple’s visits coincided with the 23rd anniversary of Diana’s passing and to mark the occasion they planted Diana’s favourite flowers, forget-me-nots, with the children.
Archewell is working closely with First Book, a non-profit providing equal access to quality education for children for almost thirty years. They have distributed over 200 million books and education resources to programmes and schools across the United States and Canada. I was interested to learn about the organisation’s ‘Stories for All Project’, which increases diversity and promotes inclusion.
It was a treat to see an interview with The Bench’s incredibly talented illustrator Christian Robinson feature on Archewell. Meghan has said, “Representation was particularly important to me. And Christian and I worked closely to depict this special bond through an inclusive lens.”
On approaching the project within the theme of inclusivity, Christian said:
‘Pictures matter. Pictures are tools designed to communicate. It’s important for me to create images that empower as many young people as possible. Seeing yourself on a page, seeing an experience that reflects your own, where you can point out, “Hey, that looks like my dad, that looks like me,” that is sending the message that you matter, that your story matters.
Another thing that excited me about working on this book with Meghan is that from the get-go, we had a shared vision of making this book as inclusive as possible. What’s really cool is that this story is specific to the author, in terms of her observing the bond between her husband and son. But it’s also so universal. It’s neat that with specificity comes universality. Basically, in telling your story as truthfully and authentically as possible, you end up telling all of our story, one in which everyone can see some part of themselves.’
On the book’s focus on a father-son relationship, Christian spoke about the importance of his relationship with a caregiver – his grandmother. “I didn’t grow up with a father figure. My grandmother was my caregiver, and took care of me, my brother, two cousins, and an aunt in a small one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. My nana has always been a foundation for our entire family. Her strength and resilience inspire me, and she taught me that it’s not what you have, it’s what you make with what you have.”
The book is filled with beautiful illustrations and words. Of course, Meghan dedicated the book to Harry and Archie. “For the man and the boy who make my heart go pump-pump.” There’s a particularly touching illustration of Harry and Archie feeding chickens on the bench with Meghan holding Lili in the background.
The Bench is available at Amazon in hardcover, Kindle edition and an audiobook read by the Duchess.