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Reading to children

  • International Book Giving Day

    I’ve just read an incredibly sad statistic. Almost one in eight children in the UK has never received a book as a present, according to the National Literacy Trust. It’s upsetting to know that, for whatever reason, so many kids could be missing out on such a wonderful gift.

    As a parent, I’ve always bought books as presents for my kids. Over the years, giving them books has given me a great deal of joy as I’ve watched them unwrap their gift and excitedly open their new book. I’ve loved seeing them with their head buried in the pages, soaking up the pictures and words as they’ve got lost in the story.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all children could be given the gift of a book to encourage and nourish their love of reading? Well, one fantastic initiative is working to help make that happen. Held every year on 14th February, International Book Giving Day was set up with the aim of getting a book to as many children as possible.

    book giving day, kids books, reading, Tidy Books Celebrate International Book Giving Day!

    What’s great is that it’s really easy to get involved. You can donate kids’ books to a charity, children’s hospital, hospice or refuge. You could pop one round to your neighbours’ kids. Or you might want to leave a book somewhere a child might find it, like a dentist’s waiting room. You could even make the gift really special by wrapping it up and adding a note.

    I love this idea – but of course, you don’t have to contain your book-giving to Valentine’s Day! Here at Tidy Books, we’re passionate about getting books to kids all year round, which is why on the first Friday of each month you can donate your quality books to us. We then pass on the books to the charity Give a Book, who give them to school breakfast clubs. If you live in the area why not pop your kids’ books into us – we’re at 10 Hatherley Mews, Walthamstow, London E17 4QP.

    * Are you giving someone a book this Valentine’s? Why not drop me a line and tell me about it. I’m excited about every single child that gets to experience the magic of books.

  • Two great kid’s books about managing life’s trickier moments

    We review two very different kid’s books that’ll give kids food for thought about navigating your way through a problem. ‘That’s NOT how you do it’ is a real-life scenario that many pre-schoolers will come across, and Home and Dry is a fantasy tale, where there is grave danger, but everything turns out alright in the end.

    That’s NOT how you do it!  Ariane Hofmann-Maniyar

    Lucy’s got the hang of the world, but when Toshi arrives, she’s astonished that he doesn’t know how to do things right, just like she does.  She can paint elephants, build a tower and eat with a fork.  Lucy’s friends ask her to help them to do things the right way.

    Toshi makes Lucy’s jaw drop.  Not only does he not eat with a fork, he builds a different type of tower,  and he can’t make a paper star just like Lucy’s.  And he doesn’t even ask for her help.  Eventually, Lucy’s frustration bursts out, and she tells Toshi that he’s got it all wrong.

    This sweet, light-touch story combines a pre-schooler’s certainty with the discovery that difference doesn’t equal wrong, and can be oodles of fun too.   It’s a story that shows sharing another culture’s traditions and practices has lots to offer.  

    kids book, children, reading, Tidy Books

    When Toshi gives Lucy a swan to match her paper stars, she learns that there’s more than one way to do things.  She gets the lesson too that she might not always be right.  She and Toshi become firm friends.

    This is a lovely read for pre-schoolers or reception age kids, who’re starting to make friends and discovering the world outside their families.  It’s a great way for children to celebrate their differences.

    The simple illustrations are colourful and engaging. That’s NOT how you do it will appeal to teachers, parents and kids, and Lucy’s very expressive face will make children giggle!    


    Home and Dry by Sarah L Smith

    Rain, rain and more rain is just what the Paddling family love.  But when summer arrives and dries up the water, they set off in search of somewhere to paddle, and that’s when the trouble starts.

    The Paddling family live on a tiny island and water is their lifeblood; they catch fish, teach swimming and the ferry delivers their food and mail.  While the wind and the rain cocoons them in their cozy home and lulls them to sleep every night.  

    When the sun comes out and dries up the water, the Paddlings no longer live on an island and they have nowhere to fish and nothing to sail their boat in.  They set off on a journey to find water, and unexpectedly, their long-lost uncle Bastian sets off a journey to find them.

    kids book, children, reading, Tidy Books

    As Uncle Bastian arrives at the Paddlings’ home, the rain lashes down and the tide rises.  Uncle Bastian can’t swim.  He’s swept away on the rising tide.   Will Uncle Bastian be rescued in time to make it home and dry?

    Home and Dry is a wistful and charmingly odd story.  The pleasure of this meandering book is the repetition of the ‘pitter patter’ and the ‘whoosh whoosh’ right through the story, giving it rhythm and atmosphere.  

    The illustrations have lovely detail which kids will enjoy; from hairy dogs in lifejackets to boats on wheels.  They’re reminiscent of Shirley Hughes’ books, who wrote classics such as Alfie and Dogger, and whose drawings pick out the cozy intimacies of family life that feel so familiar to kids

    Home and Dry is a perfect book to share by the fire on a rainy afternoon.

    Both books are published by Child’s Play International 2016 and were sent to us for review purposes. Child’s Play’s children’s books are renowned for celebrating life’s diversity.

  • Christmas is coming – and this year it’s personal!

    Are you getting stressed about Christmas gift buying? Well I think we’ve all been there. You start thinking about what presents to buy for friends and relatives but as soon as an idea pops into your head the anxiety sets in. What if it’s the wrong colour? What if it’s not really their thing? What if they hate it?   

    People can be so worried about getting it wrong they end up buying a ‘safe’ present like chocolates or giving vouchers or a gift card. The trouble with presents like that, though, is they’re not very exciting. For the person receiving the gift, it can be a real letdown when they tear off the wrapping paper and see what they’ve got. And it’s not great for the gift-giver either as they lose out on that lovely warm, satisfied glow of knowing they’ve bought something special with that person in mind.

    It actually makes giving and receiving presents rather joyless – and certainly doesn’t make a memorable gift to cherish. That’s why I think a personalised present is such a wonderful idea. For the recipient, it shows that your friend or family member has taken the time to pick something meaningful to you. And for the giver, it’s an opportunity to buy a unique gift that shows your thoughtfulness.

    Tidy Books, bookcase, kids, children, personal, furniture, reading Donnie loves his personalised Tidy Books bookcase!

    That was certainly the idea behind my Tidy Books personalised bookcases and bunk bed shelves. I wanted to put a smile on children’s faces when they saw their name in colourful wooden letters. And I wanted parents and grandparents to be able to buy a long-lasting gift that they could be proud of. It’s the sort of gift that really brings the giver and receiver together, I think.

    The personalised bookcases and bunk bed shelves make a great present for children aged 1-5. It’s like giving them their own little library that they can fill with their favourite books. And with their name on it, it will feel even more special. Of course, you can enjoy their present, too, watching the kids have fun tracing their fingers around the letters and getting to know the alphabet.

    I like to think that my personalised products will bring families lots of wonderful bonding moments and memories that will last for years. And that’s got to be better than a box of sweets and a voucher, hasn’t it?

  • Why my designs have the Montessori philosophy in mind

    When my two children were growing up, I was quite a hands-off parent. My attitude was to let them do their own thing and learn about their environment and I’d be there if they needed me.

    My daughter, Adèle, was an early crawler – she was crawling at around six months – and I remember watching her crawl across the living room floor towards the kitchen. Between the two rooms there was a small step down and at first Adèle would stop at the step. Then she would crawl to the step and attempt to go down it before crawling back again. Eventually, as Adèle’s curiosity and confidence grew, she finally crawled down the step into the kitchen.

    It was just a small step and I knew it wasn’t dangerous, but of course I stood watching to make sure she was OK. And she was. It was so fascinating to watch Adèle on her journey from the living room to the unchartered territory of the kitchen. I could literally see her mind working out how to get down that step. Interestingly, when other parents brought their children round to the house they all intervened to stop their kids crawling down the step.

    Tidy Books, family

    As long as my children were safe, I felt it was important to let them explore and find out about the world in their own way. In that respect, I’m aligned to the Montessori way of teaching – allowing children the freedom to develop and to learn by ‘doing’ rather than being instructed how to do something.

    I didn’t send my children to Montessori schools, but I like many of the values that are set out in their teaching approach – so much so that elements of the Montessori philosophy run through my designs. Take, for example, the Tidy Books bookcase. Its front-facing shelves mean children can easily see their books and so can independently choose the one they want to read. And with the bookcase’s 3D alphabet, kids can play and learn in their own time. All my Tidy Books designs work in a similar way to give children their own personal environment to work things out for themselves.

    tidy books, clock, reading, Book Box, kids books, children, furniture

    While I design everything with children in mind, I don’t make nursery-style furniture that looks out of place in the home. The beauty of Tidy Books products is that they are also created to blend seamlessly into your living space. That’s great news for parents who, like me, hate too much clutter. And for your kids, it means opening up their world of independence way beyond their bedroom.

    tidy books, reading, Bookcase, kids books, children, furniture, alphabet

    * I’d love to know what you do to help your child foster their independence. Do drop me a line and share your experiences.

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