Wednesday, 10 February 2016

#CoverKidsBooks - Chapter One

#CoverKidsBooks has been going for just over a week. And in that first week, some extraordinary things have happened.

The Times Educational Supplement has listened to our call for more children's books coverage. The TES announced on Friday that it is now running regular children's books reviews, written jointly by teachers and students. The TES article began:

"It's high time youngsters were given a voice about the literature they enjoy – that's why TES is giving pupils a platform to review children's books"

and then it got even better:
"So this week we launch reviews by young people, with a little help from their teachers. Our first choice, What Pet Should I Get?, is from that all-time favourite Dr Seuss and is reviewed by Alice Edgington’s class of Year 2s at St Stephen’s Infant School in Canterbury, Kent."

We are thrilled by this news, and we thank the TES for responding to our call in such a positive, constructive way. Their response can be read here and the first review can be read here. We look forward to seeing many more of their reviews, and we hope that other media organisations will follow the TES's lead. Our thanks go to TES Editor and Digital Publishing Director, Ann Mroz, for her fabulous, supportive article and to TES journalist Adi Bloom for breaking this wonderful news on Friday.


We were delighted that Michelle Pauli of the Guardian blogged about #CoverKidsBooks, and we whole-heartedly agree with her that "More coverage of children’s literature, including print­-based reviews, is something to fight for." Her blog thought we'd laid too much emphasis on print reviews.  We must acknowledge, of course, that our research isn’t comprehensive.  We focused on print reviews because we felt there was a problem there, whereas online coverage has no such problem. (At this point we would like to raise a glass to The Guardian for creating the Guardian Children's Books site: a unique, world-class online resource, of enormous value for children's literature, and unprecedentedly free to access.)

But as long as newspapers are still printing book reviews, we’d like that coverage to represent children's books fairly, which they do not currently do. And as Charlotte Eyre pointed out in her excellent blog in The Bookseller, print coverage remains relevant for many millions of people.

The point that print and online coverage can complement each other is really worth making here.  We particularly love this quote from Charlotte's article:
"no-one says "we don’t need reviews of adult books in newspapers because you can get them online", so why do we have to choose?". 
This pretty much sums up the whole raison d'ĂȘtre of #CoverKidsBooks in one line. Ask yourself this - if, as some claim, everyone looks to the internet these days to find out about books, why do newspapers still devote page space to reviews of, and discussions about, adult books? 


Launch day itself was amazing. The #CoverKidsBooks hastag was trending on Twitter for a couple of hours on Monday morning, all thanks to the number of tweeters who retweeted our tweets or, more importantly, added their own thoughts to the discussion. Here are just a few of our favourites (in no particular order, apart from the first one which speaks volumes):

Lexie (11 year old blogger)

Juno Dawson (YA Author)
Non Pratt (YA Author)

Sarah McIntyre (Illustrator)


When we were planning launch day we hoped that we would get a good response on Twitter. What we really had not expected was the number of people who would take time to write their own blog posts in support of #CoverKidsBooks. These are the ones we know about; if we have missed any out please let us know and we will add them to this list:

Fleur Hitchcock (@FleurHitchcock) wrote this wonderful blog post, which has another of our favourite quotes of the campaign so far:
Mr or Mrs Newspaper Editor – it’s time you woke up – there are lots and lots of people out there who NEED professional reviewers.  It’s time we had them back in the pages on a regular basis. Not just Summer round ups, and Christmas choices, we need them week in week out.

Victoria Brown (@vabrown95) discovered the campaign because it was trending on launch day, and then wrote this fabulous blog post, which included this great quote:
I miss being a child. I miss the hours spent reading books. I miss finishing a book in a day and knowing tomorrow I will be in a whole new world. I miss arguing with my mum because I have run out of things to read. As a child, there are seemingly no barriers to what you can access, and if #CoverKidsBooks brings more awareness of new titles, it brings new books to new audiences, another experience for a child, another happy memory, another treasured possession, a new story to tell.

Sue Cowley (@Sue_Cowley), who with 12.5K followers must be one of the most followed British teachers on Twitter, wrote this lovely piece, in which she announced:
for my #29daysofwriting I will be posting a series of children's book reviews, to complement S.F.'s campaign


If in our very first week, a major media organisation like the TES has decided to change its policy to #CoverKidsBooks, it is only because the children's books community has been so totally brilliant. Your tweets, retweets, blogs, offline chatter and overall support for #CoverKidsBooks have been more important than the initial blog post itself, and for that we are very grateful. Our next main campaign post will appear here on Middle Grade Strikes Back on Monday 15th February, when S.F. Said will be writing about the interviews he has been carrying out with booksellers. We hope you will join us again on that day and use your voices to help make more people sit up and notice #CoverKidsBooks.

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