Reading Matters – news from the world of children’s books

Welcome to this week’s look at the latest news from the world of children’s books. The global news continues to be disturbing and there are days when it can feel overwhelming. The world of children’s books however tends to be a positive one and even now there are things to celebrate and share. This coming week we mark Empathy Day and initiatives such as this are a source of hope. More good news this week was that the Knights Of and Jacaranda Publishing #InclusiveIndies campaign raised over a staggering £100,000 and this figure continues to climb. Both of these publishers ensure that everyone will have a voice and be able to see themselves in literature. Also, generous people continue to create and share resources and ideas freely across social media to ensure that our children are still able to access stories. So there is some good news.

What I’m reading…


This week I have rather concentrated on what I am planning to read rather than reading itself. Once again I am participating in the 20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge. This is organised by Cathy at 746Books You can browse my rather ambitious selection of titles here. The first book on my list is Can You See Me by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott which is on this year’s Empathy Collection list and I can now well understand why. It is a moving and enlightening read.

 News and resources…

Children’s books roundup – the best new picture books and novels – another fabulous collection of suggestions from Imogen Russell Williams for the Guardian. Every time I say I am not buying any more books Imogen manages to tempt me!

The Bird Within Me Written and illustrated by Sara Lundberg Translated by B.J. Epstein Teacher Notes – ‘teacher notes’ does not really do this comprehensive resource created by Martin Galway for Book Island Publishers justice. There are discussion prompts, writing ideas, art and cross curricula projects included making this invaluable for schools. I re-read my copy of this thoughtful book last weekend with Martin’s notes beside me and it made for a richer reading experience. Highly recommended.

Love My Books Newletter – the latest newsletter provides links to yet more wonderful creative activities linked to popular books. New additions include The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Beetle Boy by M G Leonard. There are free activity books too and ideas for picture books for all ages. In addition I suggest some possible titles to follow popular, classic picture books.


Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Halls and David Litchfield – this beautiful picture book full of kindness and hope is free to download from the Walker Books website. The illustrations are simply gorgeous, I have to keep going back for another look. The book supports the #SaveWithStories campaign from Save the Children and is a generous gesture by its creators.

The Humble Mayor of Grumble by Hilary Robinson and Steven Johnson Free Downloadable Story – a lovely review by @BookMonsterAlly of a story of hope resilience, community & gratitude during a pandemic with a link to download this illustrated poster story, ‘a fable for our time’ for use in the classroom or at home.

31 Children’s Books to Support Conversations on Race, Racism, and Resistance – a children’s book list for anti-racist activism including picture books, novels and biographies.

#BlackLivesMatter 21 stories for teens – a downloadable poster created by school librarian Lucas Maxwell featuring books that are popular with pupils at his school.

Book Trust announces the Book Buzz titles – 17 exciting books for Bookbuzz 2020: a wide variety of titles, from non-fiction reads for curious minds, to fast-paced page-turners. Bookbuzz has something for everyone. Registration is extended until October this year so there’s still plenty of time to get your school involved.

30 Picture Books to Promote Black Representation in Children’s Literature – a collection of wonderful books selected by primary school teacher Miss Newton @MissNewton91 on Twitter.

Before You Get to Year 7 Booklists – another fabulous resource from Lucas Maxwell. These booklists are divided into genres including comics, horror and books for fans of the Wimpy Kid series.

Fly with Tiny Owl: Access extensive library of free resources – Tiny Owl not only produce gorgeous picture books but they have also worked with others to create many wonderful resources for schools. There are links to videos, creative ideas and teaching ideas.

Empathy Read Aloud – Enjoy listening to wonderful empathy boosting stories and poems from the empathy book collections read aloud by authors, illustrators and poets.

Exploring Empathy: the importance of teaching empathy in the classroom – Miranda Mckearney OBE – Empathy is an important life skill for children to learn, and a force for good. Miranda McKearney, the founder of EmpathyLab, explains how Empathy Day uses books to boost empathy by teaching children to see things from other people’s perspectives.


Chicken in the kitchen read by Lucian Msamati | Tata Storytime. Kids book read aloud – a big thank you to Mat Tobin for sharing this on Twitter this week. It’s absolutely great and a master-class in how to read a story aloud. I have been exploring the other videos on Tata Storytime and they are perfect for sharing.

Year 6 Transition to Secondary School Booklist – this booklist is on the Books for Topics has been collated by @TheBookWhisper2 who blogs at

No reader is too young to start’: anti-racist books for all children and teensIt’s never too early to learn that racism is wrong and we should be doing something about it. These books will help show our kids how, writes publisher and bookseller Aimée Felone for the Guardian 

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival At Home 2020 – this annual treat for children’s book lovers is brought to us all for free this year thanks to their At Home programme. The line up includes S F Said, Emma Carroll, Jeremy Strong and more.

Librarians Under a Lockdown: Rising to the Challenge – this article by Bev Humphrey of the School Library Association for NACE, in addition to detailing the different ways in which school librarians have adapted to the Coronavirus pandemic, also provides links to online CPD and guidance on planning for the future.

Summer Reading Challenge – This year, Silly Squad, the Summer Reading Challenge 2020, will celebrate funny books, happiness and laughter. Children taking part in the Challenge will join the Silly Squad, an adventurous team of animals who love to have a laugh and get stuck in to all different kinds of funny books!

Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye…

Mrs Noah’s Garden by written by Jackie Morris illustrated by James Mayhew – my own copy of this gorgeous picture book arrived last weekend and this review by Jo Bowers for Just Imagine captures its appeal beautifully.

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicol– as we approach Empathy Day I think this book may we’ll feature on future Empathy Collection lists. Jo Cummins says ‘I would urge all educators, anyone who knows or works with autistic children, and anyone who enjoys a powerful story, to read this book!’ It is suitable for aged 9+

Thank you for reading. I do hope that you have found something of interest among this week’s items and enjoy a restful weekend with time for some reading.

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