In the days of the tablet, and when even toddlers have mastered the pinch gesture to zoom in, you’d be forgiven for thinking that printed kids’ books are likely to become a thing of the past. Far from it. In May the BBC reported that, with 2016 UK book sales hitting a record £3.5bn, the children’s sector alone was up 16% to £365m!
Books as a secret door
Bestselling children’s author Mac Barnett gave a TED talk in 2014 called “Why a good book is a secret door” which went on to have more than 1.5million views. In it he talks about a good book being used by a reader to slip through into another world – a world somewhere between truth and lies. Because, even though the reader knows it’s not real in the true sense, he suspends disbelief to inhabit it temporarily and experience its “wonder”.
The wonder of personalisation
In time for Christmas, the Independent has just published its list of the “10 best personalised children's books” - 2 of the top 5 coincidentally produced by us – and “wonder” is a golden thread that’s woven through all of them.
Because even very young children recognise that they have not really travelled the journeys and met the characters depicted and that, as pigs, Peppa George and their parents cannot really talk. But the use and familiarity of their own name, and their enjoyment and pleasure at being part of the story, makes these inconvenient facts totally unimportant!
Personalisation for a world more familiar
A multi-cultural society, and one where households rarely conform to the average “mum, dad and 2.2 kids” of old, means standard depictions of family life often aren’t recognisable to today’s youngsters.
Personalisation of books and the characters within them is the perfect tool to reflect this diversity. Many now offer the ability to create avatars with different skin tones, hairstyles and hair and eye colours and eye-shapes to represent a broader ethnicity of characters as well as stories that include same-sex, single and mixed-race parents.
Literacy and life skills
The New York Times reported on an in-depth study by researchers at the University of Washington, which followed children for five years assessing their reading and writing activities at home, and corelating these to their school progress and skills.
Perhaps not surprisingly it linked “a print-rich environment in which there are appealing books available, suited to the child’s age, and a pattern established early of reading together for pleasure” with literacy skills, a greater ability to study and develop what it referred to as “language by ear, mouth, eye and hand.”.
We’re biased of course but it seems there are plenty of good reasons, whether they appear on your little one’s letter to Santa or not, to include a personalised books in their stocking this year. As Maya Angleou (almost) said, “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for <insert name here>.”