Publishers Barrington Stoke share the story of their new series, involving Book Trust President, Michael Morpurgo
At a panel event a couple of years ago, a young man who struggled with reading told us that he had been really upset to discover that he couldn’t ‘even’ read his young daughter’s picture books.
This young man knew very well that parents who read to their children do them a huge service – building their store of language and sense of story and providing positive reinforcement about the value of books, reading, learning and discovery.
He was distressed not only because he was struggling to give these gifts to his child, but also because his self-confidence had taken a knock with the realization that he couldn’t read a book aimed at a young child.
We reassured him as best we could that picture books aren’t necessarily easy reads, since they aren’t intended for children to tackle solo. We suggested he try picture books with audio CDs, wordless books, or books for beginning readers. We also put him in touch with our good friends at Dyslexia Scotland.
But the conversation stayed with us…
A large number of the letters we receive from parents of dyslexic children explicitly state that one or other parent has dyslexia, and many more suggest it through reversed characters or quirky spelling. These parents often write to tell us of their delight in the fact that their children have been able to achieve something they have not – through our books, they have become readers.
We began to wonder if we could publish a small list of picture books that would work as fantastic reads for anyone but that would minimise obstacles for dyslexic parents who want to read with their children. These obstacles may include busy layouts with design elements under the text, complex fonts and deviation from ‘left to right’ approaches to text.
With a little help from our friends…
Michael Morpurgo was the first author to sign up to the list, saying:
It's only by loving stories ourselves and by passing on that love that we create readers. I was immediately taken with the idea of Red Squirrel books, a picture book list that dyslexic parents and less confident readers can read with their children.
Partners and supporters at The Reading Agency and Dyslexia Action undertook to help get books into the hands of those who could really benefit – we were able to add 2,000 free copies to the run to offer to libraries, childcare courses, prisons and young offender institutions. The last two are particularly pleasing since family reading for prisoners is a cause close to Michael Morpurgo’s heart.
Bookseller, librarian and reviewer response to the list has been quite marvellous and a wonderful reminder that in the UK we have a huge community of people who all want the same thing – more people to read, to read more, and to love reading.
About the books…
The Picture Squirrels bring together beloved authors and fabulous illustrators in a series of picture books for anyone who’s nuts about stories – with the added bonus of a cluster of special features designed to support families who are yet to crack the reading habit.
All I Said Was by Michael Morpurgo and Ross Collins
A boy who wants to fly swaps places with a bird who want to read a book but who has the better end of the bargain? A gorgeous and thought-provoking exploration of the power of books to take us anywhere we want to go from former Children’s Laureate and National Treasure Michael Morpurgo and ‘Elephantom’ creator Ross Collins.
Freddy and the Pig by Charlie Higson and Mark Chambers
Charlie Higson takes a laugh-out-loud look at little boys and their charming habits in Freddy and the Pig, with hilarious illustrations by rising-star Mark Chambers. Freddy thinks he’s hit on a great plan when he sends a pig to school in his place. But after some initial teething troubles, the pig quickly settles in and Freddy soon finds himself out in the cold. A laugh out loud exploration of why what we wish for isn’t always good for us.
Itch Scritch Scratch by Eleanor Updale and Sarah Horne
A gang of nasty nits are in town and no matter how much the mummies go mad with mayonnaise and nit-combs they think they are here to stay. A rollicking, rhyming text that will make you scratch. From award-winning author Eleanor Updale and picture book star, Sarah Horne.
Wolfman by Michael Rosen and Chris Mould
The award-winning Michael Rosen teams up with fabulous illustrator Chris Mould to bring us a rollicking romp filled with thrills, chills and laughter. Wolfman has escaped and the townspeople are terrified! Whatever can Wolfman want? A very funny tale with a seriously toddler-friendly punchline.
We are thrilled to be publishing two more Picture Squirrels in September 2015. Read our blog about them!