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The Tidy Books UK Blog

  • 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

  • WIN a designer kid's bookcase and help reading charity Beanstalk

    Beanstalk came to us with a book storage challenge: how could we help their reading volunteers find the just right book to encourage a reluctant child to read? We knew it was perfect opportunity to design a practical book storage solution for their tiny office with the help of you, our Tidy Books followers. That’s why we’re offering you the chance to win a Tidy Books’ designer kid's bookcase and help Beanstalk at the same time.

    Beanstalk is a national reading charity who train, vet and place volunteers in schools to read one to one with children who have fallen behind with their reading. We’ve been in partnership with Beanstalk since 2014, and with every product we sell online, we donate a portion of that sale to help Beanstalk ensure that every child becomes a reader.

    The Beanstalk team wanted to create a reading corner in their offices for the reading volunteers. The reading volunteers come to browse the large collection of books, when they’re looking for the ideal book to interest a child who’s finding books daunting.  

    Getting the right book builds a rapport with the child. That’s why it's so important to make Beanstalk’s book collection easy to browse. We know that our followers and customers value the opportunities to help others, and that they love a competition! More details on how to enter the competition at the end of the post.

    When we visited the Beanstalk office, we realised the scale of the challenge they’d set us! Books are stacked to the ceiling, there are books on the floor, and shelves of games stacked precariously behind the door. Space has to be maximised in their small office. 

    Beanstalk’s  reading helpers meet with a child once a week, away from the classroom to read, play a game and build rapport. For many children this is often the only time during the week when they are given options, asked their opinions, and able to enjoy quality one-to-one time with a consistent adult role model.

    Beanstalk aims to reach 18,000 children by 2018 and the volunteers are crucial to opening the door of reading to children.  

    “It's all about the quality of the volunteers ... they sprinkle our children with their magical reading fairy dust and open up the wonderful world of books to them.” (Beanstalk Schools’ Survey, Christmas 2015)

    To help the volunteers connect their children with reading, the Beanstalk team have big ambitious: in a very small space, they want to add a couple of comfy chairs; all the better to browse books in, and to have a space to display themed books e.g. bereavement or holidays or non fiction to help volunteers find just the right book for a particular child.

    We created a storage design wishlist for Beanstalk’s office space to create a welcoming library for the reading volunteers.  We included:

    1. A Tidy Designer Kid's Books Bookcase to display themed picture book, which are often hard to store and see.  
    2. A Tidy Books Box to be used next to a coffee table for returning books to.
    3. Two Tidy Books Sorting Boxes to store Beanstalk’s range of educational games that reading helpers play with children to build rapport.  

    Sounds good? This is where you come in.   

    Help Beanstalk create a new reading corner when you enter our exciting competition to win a new Tidy Books designer kid's bookcase. Created with the help of an interior designer, the new colour range is designed to fit perfectly with modern decor. 

    For every 100 competition entries, we'll donate a Tidy Books kid's bookcase or storage product to kit it out.

    You can win one of Tidy Books designer kid's bookcases, created by an interior designer, when you enter the competition on our Facebook page.

    Hop on to Tidy Books Facebook page. Follow the 3 simple steps to win yourself a super Tidy Books designer bookcase!

    Remember, the more people who enter, the more we can donate to Beanstalk!
    Will you help Beanstalk volunteers find just the right book for every child they read with?

    Competition to win your own designer kid's bookcase ends 11th June 2017, midnight.

    ENTER NOW

  • Adventures in Bunk Bed Land

    Last week I was talking about bunk beds – as you do – with one of my friends. She grew up sharing a bunk bed with her sister and had such sweet memories of her experience. They used to pretend their bed was a ship and loved taking it in turns to climb up the wooden steps to be the lookout. And of course their ship needed lots of sailors – ably played by their teddies!

    It made me smile to hear her stories. Instead of being cross that they had to share a bunk bed, her and her sister loved being together and really embraced their bunk bed as an adventure. It was a comforting experience, too. At night, they often played ‘Tickly Two’ – my friend would stretch her arm down from the top bunk to meet her sister’s outstretched arm and they would gently tickle each other until they felt sleepy.

    I couldn’t imagine my daughter and son having quite such a lovely time together. When Adele and Emile were young they had separate rooms, each with their own bunk bed so they could have a friend staying with them for a sleepover. We were lucky that our house was big enough for the kids to have their own bedrooms, but I don’t know how they would have got along if they’d had to share.

    My friend reckons they might have got on better than I imagined. She heard about one woman and her brother who’d shared a bunk bed when they were young, and the brother had helped his sister to read. Apparently he got fed up with her pestering him to read her a bedtime story so he helped teach her to read by herself.

    I love that that little girl learnt how to read independently. It’s exactly why I make all the products I do, so that kids can create their own personal environment and become independent as they learn. I made the Bunk Bed Buddy so kids who sleep on the top bunk can still be close to their books. It also gives them a safe place to put their bedtime drink and allows them to have their own personal area for storing bits and bobs that they want close to them when they’re sleeping.

    My friend wishes she’d had a Bunk Bed Buddy when she was a kid. Much as she enjoyed sharing a bunk bed, she says she would have loved to have had her books and personal things next to her. And she really wishes she’d had somewhere to keep her teddies safe so she didn’t wake up to find her special sailors had fallen overboard in the night!

    * Do your kids have bunk beds? I’d love to hear how they get on – drop me a line.

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