On Monday 3 November, day one of Dyslexia Awareness Week 2014, we held an event with Barrington Stoke at the Free Word Centre to say thank you to all those involved in the publication of Picture Squirrels, Barrington Stoke's new picture book list. The event was attended by authors including Eleanor Updale; illustrators including Chris Mould and Sarah Horne; booksellers; librarians; and supporters of the initiative, especially those involved in reading projects across the UK and who helped the books reach as many families as possible.
As part of the event, Lynne Taylor, who leads The Reading Agency's Chatterbooks network of reading groups announced plans to encourage libraries and schools to set up new Chatterbooks groups for children with dyslexia during 2015.
Families discover benefits of reading together
Barrington Stoke have an award-winning track record in commissioning, editing and designing books to break down barriers that can stop children reading, including dyslexia. The books can be read with children by dyslexic parents and parents with low literacy so earlier this year, we worked with them as part of our Six Book Challenge adult literacy programme to offer less confident adult readers 500 free copies of Barrington Stoke's Picture Squirrels books. The readers were encouraged to read with the books with their children and each book counted towards the Challenge.
Genevieve Clarke, who leads The Reading Agency's adult literacy work, says: "The Picture Squirrels are filling a real gap. I know they've been appreciated by library staff who have been encouraging less confident readers to take part in our Six Book Challenge programme by sharing books with their children."
Pauline Martin, stock and reader development librarian at Jarrow Library, was one of the librarians who received the free books. She said: "The free books provided by Barrington Stoke were a great incentive to act as a hook to engage with our early years partners. The Six Book Challenge encourages us to foster partnerships with the parents of our early years children by focusing their attention on reading for themselves as well as sharing books with their children."
Alan Smith, librarian at Her Majesty's Young Offender's Institute Brinsford, used the Picture Squirrels in his institution. He said: "This is really wonderful and such a great source for our work with families."
Dyslexia-friendly resources for children
Libraries across the UK are also using material supplied by Barrington Stoke to create displays and highlight dyslexia-friendly books during Dyslexia Awareness Week. Special resources for children with dyslexia, created by Barrington Stoke in partnership with The Reading Agency, include a Chatterbooks activity pack full of great activities to get children reading, using Barrington Stoke's books.
Following the success of Chatterbooks groups set up specifically to support children with dyslexia, including Edinburgh Libraries Chatterbooks group which has been meeting since 2010, The Reading Agency in association with Barrington Stoke is launching an initiative to encourage libraries and schools set up more Chatterbooks groups for children with dyslexia. Lynne Taylor announced: "We will be holding special training sessions in association with Barrington Stoke during 2015, and creating more resources to help Chatterbooks group leaders. We aim to have at least two more dyslexia Chatterbooks groups running by the start of next summer."
"A love of reading is a hugely important gift to give every child, and we must ensure that low literacy levels, dyslexia or reading difficulties don't mean that some libraries miss out," says Mairi Kidd, managing director of Barrington Stoke. "We're delighted to be working with The Reading Agency and their brilliant network of projects to make sure this does not happen."
Find out more about the Six Book Challenge
Set up a Chatterbooks group at your school or library
Download our Barrington Stoke resources for Chatterbooks groups