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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.

    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!

  • From the violin workshop to the Homeland set

    Have you been watching Homeland? Whether you just drop in from time to time, or you’re a devoted fan, you may well have spotted a Tidy Books bookcase in Carrie’s New York apartment.

    Set designers for TV series like Homeland leave no detail to chance. So I was just a little bit gobsmacked to see one of my bookcases in Carrie Mathison’s daughter’s bedroom. How did the kid’s bookcase that I made in my violin workshop make its way to the set of an iconic show? I tracked down the team on the Homeland set to find out.

    In a surreal, but uplifting phone conversation with the Homeland production assistant, she told me how rigorously they pin down every detail on the film set.  She gave me a fascinating insight into the process of choosing each item for the show, including the bookcase, telling me; “You would not believe how many people it goes through before it gets agreed.”

    Franny’s bedroom, where much of the action takes place, has been painstakingly put together. The set production team begin with a brainstorm, and then the shopper researches and gathers potential items; think furniture, curtains, toys. The shopper takes hundreds of photographs to test how they will work on screen. Next, each product is scrutinised by the concept designer and the set designer until they have created exactly the right look to frame the story, right down to a vase on the windowsill or a picture on the wall. 

    I couldn’t help but be impressed; Carrie’s apartment in New York is seriously smart and Franny’s room, where Quinn and Saul talk to Franny and Carrie is a child’s dream; cute, stylish and cosy. And the bookcase fits perfectly!

    The conversation I had with the Homeland production assistant was a magical moment; the bookcase that I’d created for my daughter in my violin workshop in East London, because I couldn’t find a good kid’s bookcase, has travelled to the set of an iconic TV series which has fans all over the world. The production assistant was delighted that we’d got in touch - I think the magic resonated her too.

    It takes me back to how Tidy Books started, when I was watching my daughter Adele, then aged 3, getting frustrated with trying to find the book she wanted on a traditional book shelf. In that moment, I knew what sort of bookcase she needed. And when I couldn’t find what I needed in the shops, I set about making my own design in my violin workshop once Adele had been tucked in for the night.

    As the drama unfolds, key scenes take place in Franny’s room, with Quinn and Saul sitting on the bed to talk to Franny, and Carrie; there are plenty of opportunities to spot the Tidy Books bookcase! My favourite scene so far is where Quinn and Carrie are gathering items for Franny in her foster home, and Carrie picks out a book from the bookcase. I’ve got a little glimmer of hope that Franny’s love of books will be a comfort while she’s away from home.

    When I set up Tidy Books with a £500 investment; I couldn’t have envisaged that one real-life mother-daughter would be connected with a fictional mother-daughter in Homeland by my bookcase!

    So, next Sunday evening, if you tune into Homeland, it’s highly likely you’ll spot Franny’s Tidy Books bookcase. It’s been part of the action in most episodes so far, and as Carrie fights to bring her daughter home, it’s sure to feature again.

    You can see how the plot will unfold in this trailer. Will you be watching on Sunday?

    To celebrate its icon status, we're giving you 15% OFF the Tidy Books Bookcase in natural with letters. 

    Use code HOMELAND15 at the checkout 

  • Get sorted for Christmas...

    Yes, I’ve done it – I’ve mentioned the ‘C’ word and it’s still only October! I’m sorry if I seem a little premature but I’ve got two very good reasons for talking about you-know-what now.

    Firstly, I’ve just designed a new product that I think will make a perfect Christmas gift. It’s called The Sorting Box and it’s for children to store all their little toys and games. Now you might already have a storage box at home, and when your kids have finished playing they probably just chuck everything into it higgledy-piggledy and jumbled together.

    The Tidy Books Sorting Box

    Well this box is different. It’s got three different compartments so kids can put their things away in a neat and tidy order. They could use one compartment for all their trains and another for cars, or use the compartments to separate different Lego colours. When they next come to play, they won’t have to delve around in the storage box trying to find what they’re looking for.

    It’s a good way to give your kids ownership of their toys and build up their independence – with everything nicely sorted, they’re less likely to get frustrated and ask you to track down missing toys!

    The Sorting Box is great for younger kids, too. When you’re helping them to put away their toys, you can turn it into a learning game to teach them about different colours, shapes and sizes.

    I’ve designed the box so it won’t look out of place in any room of your house – in fact, you might want one for organising your own things! It comes in soft grey, dark grey, soft white and natural.

    So – what’s the second reason I’m talking about Christmas now? Well, the Sorting Box is currently available for pre-sale – which means if you order it now it will be delivered in time for Christmas. It’s something different to give as a present – but also very handy to have in your house for all those toys Santa will be bringing the kids!

    * The Sorting Box is suitable for children aged 3+ and costs £59 + £12 per lid (you can stack two boxes on top of each other, with one top lid). To pre-order yours head to our website

     

  • Geraldine's Live Below the Line campaign to help end hunger

    Could you live on £1 a day for 5 days?  Sounds tough, but that's just what Tidy Books' CEO Geraldine will be doing next week to raise money for The Hunger Project.   Geraldine will be sponsored for spending just £1 each day on all her food and drink for 5 days from Mon 27th April until Fri 1st May as part of the Live Below the Line campaign.

    geraldine grandidier baby nutrition square

    Continue reading

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