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  • 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.

    beanstalk, reading, reading aloud, tidy books, books A Beanstalk volunteer is reading one to one with a child

    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.

    beanstalk, reading, reading aloud, tidy books, books Beanstalk supports children who've fallen behind with their reading

    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!

  • Do you get school-run stress?

    Ready.... steady... let’s get the kids to school! Hmmm – if only it was that simple! Getting the kids up and ready for school can feel like a race that you’re never going to win. And when the clock is ticking and every minute counts, the stress can really start to mount.

    As a parent, I know this scenario only too well. You get a grumpy child who isn’t happy having to get out of bed. They can’t find their gym kit. The letter from school they were supposed to give you has gone AWOL. And of course when you’re in a hurry to get things sorted, everything takes even longer. The result? A pretty stressed-out, bad-tempered family!

    According to a 2014 survey, parents experience a 30% increase in their stress levels when they wake up with the school run looming in front of them. That stress level spikes at 8.15am and doesn’t return to normal until around 2.30pm. So those manic mornings are bad news for parents – and obviously not a great way for the kids to start their day either.

    Forget Me Not, Tidy Books, get organised, notice board, furniture, kids room, children Continue reading

  • Get prepared for back to school with these easy tips

    The new school year is just around the corner – only some days left until it starts for your children. Whether it is their first time ever going to school or they are just going back, our tips on how to prepare for the forthcoming months will make the start into the school year a success.

    Get 50% off the ForgetMeNot Family Organiser! Get 50% off the ForgetMeNot Family Organiser!

    Get organised!

    Get a family calendar and mark all the important school days in advance. Writing down all dates such as holidays and school trips as soon as you know them makes planning easier. If there’s more than one kid in your family, make each one pick a colour and label the events that they’ll be involved in. This way, everyone can see what’s coming up with a glance at the calendar.

    Buy on sale to save

    Buy the back to school essentials your child will need on sale! Most shops do special offers for this time of the year. There are some items that your kid will definitely need, such as a backpack, a pencil case with pens and pencils, scissors, a glue stick and a notebook or notepad. You could also buy a nice lunchbox and plan some meals ahead to avoid stress. Find some special offers in our online shop, too!

    Homework is fun – with the right surroundings

    Make a “homework station” – give your child a desk or if it already owns one, sit down together and give it a makeover! Redecorate a part of the room to adapt it to your child’s needs. Whether it is craft supplies, a new storage system or a magnetic whiteboard, it will make your little one start doing homework right away! Ban devices like TV and radio from that area to make it a quiet place with a productive atmosphere.

    Plan routines in advance

    Try to establish a routine before school starts – or at least talk about it. It could involve having breakfast with the whole family or the kids helping to prepare their lunchbox. The first week of school will be much easier if you get into a school day rhythm some time before school officially starts. Have your child go to bed and get up at the same time every morning to make the whole family get used to it. Designate a spot in your home where all school things go and entrust your kid with the responsibility of keeping everything in its place.

    School SuppliesIn case you still need a place where you can keep all the important things for school, we’ve got something for you: The Tidy Books ForgetMeNot is an organiser and a notice board for the whole family. It has a lipped shelf to store your keys, hooks to hang up your children’s jackets and school bags and a magnetic whiteboard to hold school letters and scribble down notes. And the best part is that you can buy it half price until the end of August – that’s a 50% discount!

    Encourage independence

    Help your child to a good start trusting them with tasks that they can do independently. Practice things like tying shoes or packing the school bags together. Your children will feel more confident if they have accomplished these things before school even starts. By giving them responsibility, you help your children develop into an independent person.


    Make a play out of it! It helps tremendously to make a practise run before the school year starts. If it is your child’s first school year, they will find it exciting to pretend going to school. Make the whole family get up at the time you will when school actually starts and practise everything from having breakfast to packing lunch and taking the bus or walking to school. This will also help your child overcome fears that he or she might have.

    Need more inspiration for back to school? Have a look at our Pinterest board for loads of back to school activities, lunch box ideas and more!



  • 7 of the Best Homeschool Classroom Organisation Ideas

    Taking a tour round the best ideas for the homeschool classroom was inspirational! Creative home educators have found some brilliant resources and added in their own ideas for independent learning and reading.  Here are some of our favourites!

    The Montessori Classroom from Racheous Lovable Learning makes great use of large storage units for toys and equipment.  And lots of sunlight!

    montessori shelves

    And from blogger Carisa at 1+1+1=1 who shares her amazing classroom space, with lots of great ideas for getting organised:


    More Montessori inspiration from Kavanaugh Report's colourful school room, with gorgeous gallery wall and interactive art!

    We loved this very sophisticated home school classroom from Joyfully Weary which looks like a very stylish place to learn.

    For homeschoolers educating in a smaller home, we loved these ideas:

    A behind-the -door- organizer from Crafty Homeschool Mama.

    Or Sam's Noggin who keeps it beautifully and minimally ordered:


    Or here is a great resource of ideas from HipHomeSchool Moms if you don't have a dedicated space for home educating.

    What's your best resource for your homeschool classroom?  Where do you store your kids books ? How do you display them to encourage independent reading?

    Here are Tidy Books kid's book storage solutions for Homeschooling. Build your kids love of reading naturally right from the earliest years, and will last your family 8-9 years:

    childrens bookcaseThe Tidy Books Box - White - Situ reading - Low Res

    2013 Product of the Year2013 Creative Play Awards Winner logo

    What's your best resource for your homeschool classroom?  Where do you store your kids books ? How do you display them to encourage independent reading?


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