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The Tidy Books UK Blog

  • Stop the summer reading slump

    Schools out – and kids can’t get their uniforms off quick enough. With the summer holidays here they’ve got six whole weeks to relax and have fun, so doing anything remotely school-related will be the last thing on their mind now. Trouble is, when kids go back in September they’ve often forgotten some of the things they learned in class. It’s what teachers call the summer reading slump.

    One brilliant initiative to keep kids reading through the holiday is the Summer Reading Challenge run by the charity The Reading Agency. Once they’ve signed up at their local library, kids can take out six books to read over the summer and there are competitions, games and rewards to collect to keep them motivated, and stop the summer reading slump.

    You can help your kids with the challenge by letting them choose their own books. According to Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading report  9 out of 10 kids are more likely to finish a book that they’ve picked themselves. And as they’re allowed six books for their summer reading challenge, this is a good time for your kids to be free with their book choices – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, picture books or whatever else takes their fancy.

    The Tidy Books Box puts books within easy reach of kids to help stop the summer reading slump The Tidy Books Box puts books in easy reach

    It’s all about making reading enjoyable for the kids while they’re away from school and not turning it into a task. But of course the books need to be accessible so kids don’t forget they’re there. You could put them in our Portable Book Box , which makes a handy mini-library that can be moved around the house. It can go with them into the garden or over to their grandparents’ house – even in the car to take on holiday.

    The box’s front-facing design means books can easily be identified by their covers, so kids won’t get impatient trying to find the one they want! It holds up to 40 books – plenty of room for all your kids’ books – and also comes with a play clock so they can have fun learning to tell the time as well.

    Kids deserve the summer off but reading doesn’t need to feel like homework. All they need is a little inspiration and they’ll soon see that reading a book at any time is fun!

    Happy summer reading everyone!

     

  • Kids know best

    When my daughter, Adele, was about four years old, it was clear that she had a will of her own. There was a determination about her that I’d first seen when she started crawling and she’d move around the house exploring her new territory. I loved watching her, staying close enough to keep an eye on her but far enough away to let her find her own way of negotiating things.

    As Adele grew up, I was proud to watch that strong-minded character develop, but not everyone was convinced. I could see people thinking ‘Hmmm, she’s going to be difficult.’ But they were wrong. That strong-willed girl has turned into an amazing 18-year-old who has a strong sense of independence and whose opinions I really value.

    As a mum, I let both my children explore their world without too much interference. Of course I made sure they were safe, but I felt it was important for them to have their own space to figure things out for themselves. In that respect, I followed the Montessori philosophy of allowing kids to develop naturally, giving them chance to learn by their own actions rather than through rigid instructions.

    Adele was the inspiration for the Tidy Books strapline ‘Kids know best’ (it was also a bit of a tongue-in-cheek play on ‘Mum knows best’). I truly believe that, when it comes to reading, children are able to make and develop their own book choices when they’re given the opportunity. That was my thinking behind my first design, the front-facing bookcase, because it allowed kids to pick out a book without the help of a parent. It gave kids their independence.

    Adele with the very first Tidy Books bookcase, made by Geraldine.

    My own belief is backed up by research that shows children should have more of a say in their own reading material. One American study found that kids whose parents were choosing their books were turned off reading. The findings also revealed that if a family were in a bookshop, a child would pick a book they thought their parents would want them to read. The conclusion was that kids like to discover books for themselves – and allowing them to make their own choices inspired them to read more.

    I totally agree. The whole ethos behind Tidy Books is to give kids a sense of independence so that they feel free to choose their own books. It widens not just their world of reading but also opens up the opportunity to make their own choices in life. Kids really do know best. Just ask Adele…

  • The books you choose give a child a message

    "If you're reading this blog to be told what books to choose for your child, I'm sorry, I can't do that. "  - Rachel.    

    Rachel writes from literacy charity Beanstalk and is our guest blogger.

    Tidy Books supports Beanstalk, the national literacy charity which places volunteers in schools to read one to one with children who've fallen behind with their reading.  Our recent competition was designed to help Beanstalk create a reading corner and help volunteers encourage a reluctant child to fall in love with books.   Rachel tells us how the reading volunteers work their magic...

    Only someone who knows your child can do that. That's why our volunteers begin by getting to know their children using games, discussions and, yes, books. Books like 'Charlie Cook's Favourite Book' by Julia Donaldson, 'You Choose' by Pipps Goodhart and 'ABC UK' by James Dunn. Once you've begun to know the child, you can begin to choose their book.

    One of our volunteers was allocated to a child who was one of twin sisters. "She can read well but she lives in her sister's shadow" the teacher told him. He chose 'Double Act', a Jacqueline Wilson novel in which a shy twin finds her voice. It wasn't necessary for the volunteer to spell out the similarities between the fictional Garnet and the girl reading about her. He simply introduced the right book and watched it work its magic.

    In Allan Bennet's 'The History Boys', a teacher tells his pupil "The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours." This empathy drives adults to read, and by choosing a book with which a child can empathise, you enable a child to experience that too.

    The books you choose give the child a message about you

    Lots of the children our volunteers see can't tell us what sort of books they like. They don't have the vocabulary to categorise genres and can't call to mind any hobbies or interests, so asking multiple choice questions leads to disjointed conclusions like "So you'd like a book about Chelsea FC, Romans and magic?!" But don't give up. Imagine the message you give to the child when you return with 'Frankie versus the Rowdy Romans' by Frank Lampard! You've listened to the child. You've puzzled over their words, sought recommendations from wizened book people and been on a quest to your local bookshop or library or Beanstalk reading corner and returned with something precious: a book just for that child. Now they have incontrovertible proof that they matter to you.

    There is a Beanstalk legend about a particularly well-to-do volunteer - the sort of lady who reads 'The Lady' - you know the sort I mean. She was allocated a boy who was interested in one thing: wrestling. The next day when she popped into the corner shop she gave the friendly news agent the shock of his career by calmly requesting her copy of 'The Lady' and a WWF magazine: ("no sir, not World Wildlife Fund, World Wrestling Federation!") You can imagine the effect it had on the chid. He spent half an hour twice a week teaching his volunteer all about wrestling, barely noticing how his reading became more fluent week by week. By going out of your way to choose a book which is personal to the child, you send them a message that they matter.

    The books you choose give the child a message about your relationship

    Much of what children do in schools is compulsory, and rightly so; it prevents gaps in their learning and develops their work ethic. But in order to instil a love of reading for pleasure we offer something tangibly different to work. That's why many Beanstalk volunteers begin their session by spreading out anything from three to twenty books across the table. "What do you want to read today?" they ask.

    In their first session together, one volunteer used a multiple choice personality quiz to get to know her child. 'Are you a Horrid Henry or a Perfect Peter?' asked the title. The child smiled when he read the answers about pulling pranks, but consistently chose the options which revealed him to be a compliant 'Perfect Peter' type. For the next several months of reading together, the child was allowed to choose the books and games himself. Even when he stumbled over a word the volunteer told him what a great effort he'd made and helped him work it out correctly. One day he chose the Horrid Henry book and turned back to the quiz. This time his answers were different. Knowing now that there was no risk of judgement or criticism from his volunteer, he expressed a mischievous sense of humour more like Henry's than Peter's! By offering a choice of appropriate books, the volunteer had given the child the message that, regardless of is choices, she would accept him unconditionally.

    Beanstalk volunteers see children who have never experienced the empathy of reading, never had someone take the time to choose a book just for them or never been given the unconditional freedom to choose a book themselves. The right book is important because of the messages it gives, whether a child is receiving those messages for the first or the millionth time. And that will be much easier when books on offer are displayed in a logical, original and stylish way.

     Rachel provides support and advice to Beanstalk reading volunteers, who in turn deliver tailored, ‘one-to-one’ sessions to hundreds of children in primary schools across London.   

    Thank you to everyone who entered our recent competition with Beanstalk to win a Tidy Books Bookcase and help Beanstalk create a reading corner for their reading volunteers.  We couldn't have done it without you!

  • Toxin-free furniture that’s safe for your home

    Recently I’ve been reading a lot about indoor air pollution and am alarmed to discover that the air in our home can be five times more polluted than outside air. It’s down to VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds – which can be found in everything from air fresheners to new furniture. These VOCs are toxic pollutants that evaporate into the air and they’ve been associated with health problems such as allergies, asthma and respiratory disease.

    I have personal experience of VOCs. Not long after setting up Tidy Books I noticed a strong toxic smell coming from a new consignment of bookcases. I made enquiries and found out that the smell was caused by VOCs in the acrylic lacquer we used on our furniture. I was horrified. I was told that the bookcases should have been aired for longer in the factory before being sent out, but to me that wasn’t a solution. I didn’t want my workforce being exposed to VOCs and to be breathing in toxins.

    Once I’d heard about VOCs, I did more research and realised they could be harmful to my customers as well. There was absolutely no way I wanted anything to do with VOCs so I looked around for a safer alternative. That’s when I stopped using acrylic lacquer and replaced it with eco-friendly water lacquer, which emits hardly any VOCs.

    Now, reading about pollution in the home, I’m so glad Tidy Books furniture isn’t bringing in harmful pollutants and contributing to the problem.

    It’s funny how things work out, too, because switching to water lacquer had an unexpected bonus. The acrylic lacquer we used to use was so thick it completely covered the wood, leaving the furniture with an unnatural high-gloss finish that I always thought spoilt the look. With water lacquer, you can see the grain and all the lovely natural markings, allowing the wood to be the star it should be.

    I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the way things turned out. I couldn’t have continued my business using VOCs – now I design and manufacture furniture that doesn’t just look good in the home it’s also safe for you, our workers and the planet.

    * Interested in how we do things at Tidy Books? Find out more about our eco-friendly manufacturing

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