Term 4 – Floella Benjamin
Floella Benjamin was born on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, in September 1949. She came to Britain in 1960. She had to leave school at sixteen when she worked in a bank and thought she could be Britain’s first black woman bank manager. She soon realised it was an impossible dream in those days, so she got a job in a musical. After several years and after lots of auditions she got a part in a television program. She then moved onto a program called Playschool, which is where most people who have heard of Floella Benjamin know her from. She did Playschool for 12 years and loved every moment of it. She says that working for and with kids is the best job in the world.
She then went onto making TV programs and started to write books.
In 1994 she wrote Coming to England. It tells the story of her as a little girl living in the Caribbean and her journey as a ten year old to England. It tells of her battle to feel as if she belonged, what it’s like to be different, to come as a child from a different culture to a new country where you are rejected and have to face adversity day after day. How to survive and win through.
Since then she has written over twenty books both for children and adults, many of them based around her experiences as an immigrant to England.
Her latest book is Sea of Tears, which is her first novel. It tells of a young south London girl’s journey to Barbados with her parents – the opposite to Floella’s experience.
She has always had a passion for encouraging children to read and has been on the Smarties Book Prize panel as a judge many times. She has also worked hard with publishers to encourage writers and illustrators to show more accurate picture of Britain’s society in their books. Believe it or not, when she started work in TV, most pictures in books only showed white children!
In 2001 she received an OBE for her services to television and in 2010 was made a Baroness for her work on behalf of children’s rights. She continues to work to improve the conditions for children in this country.
She says that whatever she does she does it with a big smile on her face and that children should keep smiling too. Remember … WINNERS SMILE…