The Duchess of Cornwall has become patron of Silver Stories, a charity which encourages children to read to the elderly to help combat loneliness.
Camilla was treated to a telephone storytime from two Silver Readers: 10-year-old Tegen and 11-year-old Ollie, who called her at Clarence House from their school in Nanpean, Cornwall.
The thrilled duchess, who is known for her love of books, chatted to the youngsters after listening to their renditions of excerpts from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and David Walliams’ The Ice Monster, which she said were two of her favourite books.
Praising both children for their brilliant reading, Camilla told Ollie: “You should be an actor. You do all the voices so well.”
Silver Stories really is magical, it’s so very special to build that relationship with a child, to hear a child read, to hear them become immersed in a tale and blossom as a storyteller
Camilla, who has been a member of the royal family for 16 years, confided that she had adjusted her own public speaking style after Ollie told her he used to read more quickly but has changed this since becoming a Silver Reader.
The duchess said: “I used to read very, very fast. When I made a speech, I used to talk very, very fast and then you have to take a deep breath and slow down and look at the commas and full stops.”
Camilla is not the only royal to alter her public speaking techniques over the years.
In the early days of her reign, the Queen worked on her style of delivery, with the Duke of Edinburgh helping her and encouraging her to lower the high pitch of her voice.
Camilla highlighted the importance of Silver Stories in bringing joy to the older generation.
“When you are sitting by yourself you get a bit lonely, don’t you?” she said.
“It must be so cheering for them to hear your voice reading these lovely stories and I think you are doing an absolutely brilliant job.”
Silver Stories was founded in 2016 by retired headteacher Elisabeth Carney-Haworth and her husband, retired police sergeant David, in response to concerns about the loneliness felt by older people, an understanding of the importance of intergenerational relationships and a desire to develop the love of reading in children.
Mrs Carney-Haworth said: “From our work, David and I were both acutely aware of the loneliness of some older people.
“As a teacher, I was also aware that I wanted to give my children a broader and richer reading experience – not just reading to a teacher, a teaching assistant or a parent, but to read with a real purpose and to someone who won’t judge them.
“And Silver Stories really is magical, it’s so very special to build that relationship with a child, to hear a child read, to hear them become immersed in a tale and blossom as a storyteller.”
One Silver Listener described the impact the charity has had on their life.
“I am blind so phone calls work really well and especially through winter it was great to have that contact and with a young person. I love it” they said.
They added of their reader: “He’s a lovely boy. He’s so polite. I love listening to him. He’s been ringing for three months.
“I can’t see my own great-grandchildren so this has been a great new connection. I can feel his confidence increasing with his reading, he does sound effects. Nice to have a little chat too.
“I sit down ready at 10am on a Saturday really excited.”
The charity, which currently covers Cornwall, Wales and other parts of England has eight schools involved who read to 43 listeners, and 42 readers who read from their homes to Silver Listeners.
The Carney-Haworths won a Points of Light award from Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2020 for their work.