|The Hibbert Assembly|
for a primary school assembly.
|Ask children if any of them have a birthday in February. Perhaps their birthday is 7 February or on a date close to that? Tell them that a writer called Charles Dickens who lived over 100 years ago was born on 7 February. Do any of them know of any of the stories that he wrote? Perhaps they have heard of A Christmas Carol and Ebenezer Scrooge who was such a mean old man that he would not celebrate Christmas. Or perhaps they have heard of Oliver Twist? Or of a musical, Oliver, which is based on Dickens's book.|
|Explain that in Dickens's day children did not always have the chance to go to school. Some were so poor that they did not have clothes that were fit to go to school in. Sometimes people who knew how important it was for children to learn, set up special schools for the very poor. These were called "ragged" schools. As a boy Charles Dickens had been poor himself and at one time his father had to go to prison because he did not have enough money to pay his bills. But when Dickens became rich, because of the stories he wrote, he helped to support these "ragged" schools. It was not enough for him that poor children could have some teaching. He used to say that they needed the chance to be clean, too, and that the schools should provide warm water for them to get washed, and even baths!|
|Dickens was also sad that so many children in his day were ill. There was no national health service in Victorian times but some well-to-do people set up a hospital in London, at Great Ormond Street, specially for sick children. You may have heard about it, because Princess Diana cared very much about this hospital and used to visit the children there. The hospital was very short of money and Dickens did all he could to help it. People paid to hear him read from his books and he agreed to give a reading in aid of the hospital.|
|Dickens was by no means the only person of his day to care about children or the poor. But through his books and his own actions he helped to influence people in power. He was someone who helped to make the world a better place. As we approach his birthday we might just think of him for a moment and be grateful for his life and work.|
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