When I was a small child, I loved going to the bookshop with my mum each week. I remember those days with fondness: walking along the huge shelves, looking at the bright colours and carefully selecting my new adventure. I was very lucky that these trips were so regular and my home was brimming with stories. It is this foundation which has instilled in me the importance of early reading for children. Not only does it support the development of early literacy, but it enables children to develop a love of reading and an imagination that (hopefully) lasts a lifetime.
Book clubs for adult fiction have always been popular, but in recent years there has been a considerable rise in book clubs and subscription boxes aimed at children – bringing the magic directly to their letterbox. During the pandemic, with bookshops and libraries closed or restricted, this has never been more important, and one of the latest book clubs to join the market is the Kind Kids Book Club. As well as bringing books into the home of early readers and beyond, Kind Kids Book Club also seeks to promote the importance of kindness and empathy amongst children.
As a parent to two small children, Kind Kids Book Club really resonated with me and I couldn’t wait to find out more. So, we spoke to founder, Amie Jones, to find out her all-important top book recommendations as well as the inspiration for the book club and the industry partnerships she is developing.
What was the inspiration behind the Kind Kids Book Club and how does the subscription service work?
The idea for the book club came to me during the first lockdown in March 2020. I had just given birth to my third son, Huw, and had my other little boys, Amos (two) and Dylan (five), at home with me, too. We have always loved reading together, but books really came into their own during this strange time. We were able to use books to talk about how we felt, escape to other places and cheer ourselves up.
As the global news got bleaker, amid protests and pandemic, my boys had more and more questions. I realised that, now more than ever, it was essential to teach them about kindness. And not just kindness, but social conscience. Empathy. Compassion. Understanding. Self-love. Love for the planet. So, I started to do my research and sought out more inclusive books: books full of empathy and kindness, books brimming with the big wide world, books about experiences that are not our own – and the Kind Kids Book Club was born!
Our subscribers receive two beautiful and inclusive books direct to their door and can sign up for three or six months. Our packs also contain a set of carefully curated reading prompt cards to spark thinking and inspire action, a book club magazine and plastic-free materials for craft activities and sensory play related to each story.
Children’s Mental Health Week took place recently with the theme of ‘express yourself.’ What are your top three book recommendations to help children express themselves?
There are so many brilliant books out there on this topic, but my top three are:
1. What Wesley Wore | Written by Samuel Langley Swain and illustrated by Ryan Sonderegger (Owlet Press)
In Westburrow Wood there was a weasel called Wesley who loved clothes and had his own unique style. Sensitive, emotive and endearing, this book introduces an empowering and enduring role model for boys and girls who like to express themselves and also gently addresses tough issues such as bullying, fear of difference, empathy and forgiveness.
2. How to Be A Lion | Written and illustrated by Ed Vere (Doubleday)
When Leonard the lion befriends Marianne the duck and starts writing poetry with her, the other lions have something to say. A celebration of being different and choosing to be yourself, this stunning modern classic confirms that we don’t always have to roar to be heard.
3. All Kids Are Good Kids | Written by Judy Carey Nevin and illustrated by Susie Hammer (Simon & Schuster)
A timely reminder that you can be grumpy, sad, messy, loud or tired – and still be brilliant! A charming board book celebration of all kinds of kids, expressing all kinds of emotions.
One of your subscription packages is for children aged 0-3 and you include all of your children in the list of founding members. Why is it so important for us to teach children as young as this to engage with and explore books that tackle issues of kindness and empathy?
I’m a firm believer in the idea that it is never too early to start reading to little ones. By that token, I also think it’s never too early to start introducing stories that celebrate being kind, embracing difference and championing diversity. Books are an indomitable force for good and children’s stories for the very young can be so powerful. This doesn’t have to be a didactic or overly-complicated process – it’s all about sharing lovely stories with heart and allowing ideas about empathy, altruism and compassion to filter through.
Kind Kids Book Club has lots of gorgeous books included in the subscriptions. Do you design these around your own personal collection and recommendations or have you been working with publishers to develop a wider range of titles? If so, who have you been working with?
At the start of the book club – over six months ago now – we based our choices on books we had read and loved. As things have progressed, we’ve been fortunate enough to build some great relationships with publishers and are now shaping our collections with their help.
We are passionate about working with independent publishers (such as Owlet Press, Formy Books and Really Rather Wild, to name just a few), and celebrate and promote their outstanding work whenever we get the opportunity.
After almost a year of social restrictions and multiple lockdowns, children are struggling with not being able to see family members and friends and the uncertainty of school and leisure activities. How do you think the pandemic and everything we’ve learnt in the last twelve months will impact our reading choices and those of our children?
I think living in such unprecedented times means people are looking for books that nurture social conscience. In an upside-down world where everything feels wrong, we need a road map for empathy, recovery, leadership and community. I think books – and reading with our children, in particular – will play such an important role as we move forwards. Stories that help adults and children alike to process change, emotion and loss will be a top priority for lots of people.
Do you have any lockdown reading recommendations to support children’s self-esteem and mental health?
There are so many books that have helped us through lockdown, but my top picks so far are:
Dreams for Our Daughters and Songs for Our Sons | Written by Ruth Doyle & illustrated by Ashling Lindsay (Andersen Press)
A stunning poetic introduction to what it means to be a child in these challenging times, these keepsake books feel like a gentle, hopeful dream for a kinder world. The message here is crystal clear: it is in your power to shape a better future for everyone.
Clean Up! | Written by Nathan Bryon & illustrated by Dapo Adeola (Penguin Random House)
The perfect antidote to the lockdown blues, this book will transport you to a beautiful Caribbean island. Rocket, the inspired and inspiring protagonist who sets about cleaning up a beach which is full of plastic, is tenacious and brave, and serves as a reminder that there is always something we can do to make the world a better place – even if we are only small.
My Mum’s A Tiger | Written by Kate Claxton & illustrated by Angela Mayers (Really Rather Wild)
A dazzling tale of body confidence and self-esteem, Eliza and her mum give us a gentle lesson on embracing the skin we're in and celebrating all our spots and stripes. A must for every child’s bookshelf!
I Really Want to Shout | Written by Simon Phillip & illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti (Templar Publishing)
The latest in the I Really Want To… series, this story follows a determined heroine as she struggles with feelings of anger and frustration. A masterclass in identifying and processing emotions, this book is a must-have to weather the stresses and strains of lockdown.
Felix After the Rain | Written & illustrated by Dunja Jogan (Tiny Owl)
A beautiful book about coping with feelings of sadness, this tale of Felix and his suitcase of worries couldn’t be more pertinent for lockdown. Translated from Slovenian, and complete with stunning illustrations, this is one title not to miss!
Break the Mould: How to Take Your Place in The World | Written by Sinead Burke & illustrated by Natalie Byrne (Wren & Rook)
From the power of being different and discovering things you love about yourself, to using your voice to be an ally and show friendship to others, this uplifting non-fiction guide from disability activist Sinead Burke will give your little leaders the confidence to break the mould and find their place in the world.
Where can our readers find out more information about the Kind Kids Book Club and the subscription packages on offer?
You can find out more about us via our website www.kindkidsbookclub.co.uk and our Instagram account @kindkids_bookclub