At Parrot Street Book Club, one thing we hear from parents time and time again is that their kids will only read books by their favourite author or in their favourite series. My own eight-year old son loves to read and re-read his favourite books over and over again. And when he finds a series that he loves, he won’t stop until he’s read everything in that series. Right now we’re halfway through a Tom Gates marathon and I know he won’t look at another book until he’s finished (except for his favourite Asterix books, which he’s re-read so many times they’re falling apart).
This sort of reading behaviour is very common and there’s nothing wrong with it. We all need old favourites to comfort us. And at Parrot Street we’re firm believers that all reading is good reading. But we also know that many parents would like to see their kids reading more widely. And what on earth is my son going to read when he’s finished with Tom Gates … and how is he going to find it?
The truth is that the choice is just a bit overwhelming, which might be one reason why our kids are happier sticking to what they know. Children’s publishing is booming at the moment, which is fantastic news for bookworms, but can also mean that discovering new authors, titles and genres is difficult and a bit daunting. Where do you start?
Bestsellers and celebrity authors take an increasing majority of the market share because they are easy to find. Our children inevitably are heavily influenced by what they see on TV, online and in print media. And publishers tend to channel the majority of their marketing spend on a handful of titles each year. On the flipside, there are hundreds of amazing books and authors flying under the radar, just waiting to be discovered.
We work with a lot of smaller, independent publishers, whose work you might not easily find on the bestseller tables at your local Waterstones. Their catalogues are a treasure trove of new and emerging authors, books in translation and so much more. They don’t get the press coverage and they’re constantly fighting for space on the bookshop shelves, but they are curating amazing lists of books and are the perfect place to discover something new and exciting. Here are just three of our favourites:
1. Barrington Stoke specialise in short, accessible, inclusive books for children of all ages. Its books are super readable, age-appropriate and dyslexia-friendly – perfect for all readers. We love the Little Gems series in particular.
2. Gecko Press is based in New Zealand but its list is truly international. It describes itself as a publisher of ‘curiously good children’s books’ and its list is packed full of fun, quirky and beautifully produced books for children of all ages, including lots of titles translated from other languages.
3. Firefly Press is an independent publisher of children’s and young adult books based in Wales. Set up only five years ago, they are already award-winning and are great champions of local authors. They boast a fantastic list of books that are funny, fantastical, exciting and full of adventure – all things we love!