In considering the leaps and bounds that can be made in children’s literacy levels it has got to be said that my true belief is that all small children getting started on their reading journey must be given access to any spark that will encourage a love of books into later life, there is no better spark than a set of personalised books.
A personalised book will fascinate them, you can watch the amazement grow page after page.
I have seen the look of wonder on children’s faces when they first open a personalised book and see themselves in it, it is magical and that moment stays with them from then on and into the future as they realise books are treasures to be held as dear as a favourite teddy bear.
I know of one little girl who insists on taking her books everywhere she goes as if she is taking her best friends out with her.
But the scope of personalised books is so much more, my own feeling is that in capturing the positivity a story about themselves gives children towards a book we should then capitalise on this and as in the case of my own books, the stories to give out positive and interesting messages to receptive little minds.
Personalised children’s books telling stories of everyday life is a wonderful way to introduce small children to life experiences whilst tending and nurturing the stirrings of a love of books into the future.
Having a wide range of stories involving close family members, extended family and even school and everyday friends, with stories covering everything from learning to ride a bike to lessons on why littering is a bad thing or even a first trip to the dentist is in my opinion a great way to get multiple use and maximum benefit from a book that children will most definitely read over and over again.
As an author and having concerns about literacy levels in children in the UK, when I read statistical information from organisations like the literacy trust which states quite clearly that literacy levels in individual children rocket when a child is given a personalised Book that appears to them to be all about them, I feel truly vindicated and am happy to have spent so much time , effort and money on creating a range of beautiful personalised children’s books.
One of the reasons I decided to get my illustrator to try and represent as many children as possible in our books was to try and be as inclusive as possible of all children, it’s no good to simply carry on publishing books that only represent children one way, such as girls always having to be rescued and playing no real major part in the story or conversely boys always playing the character of the baddy or the hero in every story and likewise it’s no good to simply have all white children and sometimes include the odd black child or Asian child as a token nod to the different ethnicities is that we have in the United Kingdom.
Gender stereotypes and ethnic stereotypes can truly be blown away in a personalised book therefore not only are we using the information gleaned by the literacy trust regarding literacy levels achieving much higher states by giving children personalise books but we are truly blowing away stereotypes based on colour as well there can be no better tool for allowing children to grow up understanding the diversity in their country than giving them stories about themselves.
Books containing children from non-white ethnicities always seem to me to be telling a tale of sadness or leaving the homeland or having to seek safety or at the very least having to give something up, I find it unacceptable that children can’t just simply be children in the story, whatever colour they are wherever they come from children’s share the same feelings like the same things and are frightened of the same things and we should as authors and publishers try to accommodate as many children as we possibly can.
In my books for example we even can have the option of having a redhead child with green eyes blue eyes or dark eyes, Chinese children, black children and I am even working on Versions of my books portraying twins and disabled children, all these children deserve the same chance to read stories about everyday things about all children regardless of their background.
Just ordinary stuff, I truly believe allowing children to see themselves just as children first will have a positive effect on society as they grow older.
Purchasing one of my personalised children’s books for a little loved one in your life isn’t just a gift of a lovely book with a lovely story is it is in my opinion the gift of literacy and inclusivity and your child will truly love his or her personalised book.
I get asked all the time why do I illustrate all my books for all the different coloured children I meet and to keep my answer as simple as possible all the children I meet on all the school author visits that I do promoting literacy, virtually every class has children of all different colours. personalized children story books the loveliest smartest brightest kids and some of them simply don’t have normal ordinary everyday story books with pictures that look like them and I don’t think that’s fair. I never have done and so one day When a little black boy of about seven called Gabriel walked up to me after one assembly and asked me why there wasn’t a kid that looked like him in my books, I thought to myself “yeah why isn’t there” and so I went away and I illustrated the book especially for Gabriel. I did another for his sister Pearl, so now personalized children story books I have storybooks with black children and Chinese children as well and have plans to do Asian children.
Creating new characters for my books is effectively to create a whole new book, it is time-consuming and very expensive, as all of my books are hand painted and not computer generated characters, so the only drawback for me is that each story that I write is not one book but actually ends up as eight or 10 books because of all the variations.
I am delighted to be vindicated in my belief that all children of all colours deserve and have the right to be represented in just normal ordinary children’s books by the fact that it has now been recognised that children from non white backgrounds have difficulty in finding ordinary children’s books that represent them and I hope my books will go some way in redressing the balance for them.
Being inclusive as a society and learning to be inclusive as an individual starts at a very young age and children being made to feel completely ordinary no matter what their background is in my opinion a great thing.
In a recent article published by the BBC, I was delighted to read that my concerns about black and minority black background children was not only my concern and that steps are being taken by others involved in children’s literacy to create books about children with different coloured skin in skinnymonkeyandme.com is quite simply the place to come if you are from black, Asian or in fact any background and I will do my best to make sure everybody feels they are represented in my ruby and the skinny monkey series of books.
The BBC article is available to read on this blog in its entirety and spells out exactly why what skinnymonkeyandme.com is doing is important to the future of our nations children.