Keepsake children’s classics from Puffin… if you can find them

Whilst passing through the corridors of Penguin’s children’s division the other day, I came across these gorgeous clothbound versions of some children’s classics on display, including Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, The Wind in the Willows and Black Beauty.


Puffin’s clothbound classics

I’m sure that, by now, most people will have seen Penguin’s range of clothbound classics (e.g. Charles Dickens’ titles) lining the shelves of high street book stores, with a surge of other publishers producing equally fancy editions of old favourites. It seems a profitable way of re-releasing the classics in a format that readers will want to collect and put on display, as opposed to downloading them on an e-reader. But, despite these clothbound Puffin’s classics being released as far back as 2010, this is the first I’ve seen of them…


Penguin clothbound classics

I’m not sure why they’re so hard to come by – I have yet to see them in a UK shop. Have I missed them? Not looked hard enough? Or have they just not been marketed very well here? I showed a photo of the attractive spines to some publishing friends of mine the other day, and they too remarked at how pretty they were and wondered why they’d never laid eyes on them.

Apparently Waterstones do stock them, but with limited availability – so perhaps the chances of spotting them on a shelf depends on which branch you visit. I hate to direct people to shopping for books online, but it seems that it’s the only place I’ve managed to find them (and even then you have to word it correctly, specifying ‘Puffin Classic’ or the exact title you want in any search box, as opposed to any generic ‘clothbound children’s classic’ phrase). This is surprising, given that these are exactly the type of books you imagine would sell in higher numbers on the high street than online. It’s all about the texture and how they feel in your hands – which you just don’t see on a computer screen. Surely those looking for keepsake books are more likely to buy them from a store?

I suppose that, once purchased, the books would make great gifts for children – either those you want to introduce to the classics or those who have already enjoyed them and would appreciate a copy to keep. But if given as a first copy of one of the novels, I do wonder if they’d be built to last… In various places online, some readers have commented on clothbound designs degrading and rubbing off with their fingers – which goes for other clothbound titles as well as these Puffin ones – so it’s questionable whether they’d last being carried around in a backpack or fingered through over time. That’s what makes me think that they’re more likely to be picked up by readers just like myself – those who love children’s books and want any excuse to re-read them, and equally love nothing better than an aesthetically pleasing cover…  Either way, they’re certainly a pretty addition to any bookshelf. If you can get your hands on them, that is!

If you do want to buy them online, you can get them on the Penguin website or order them into a Waterstones store (type in ‘Puffin Classics’ in the search box and select items between £10 and £15 to get them in your search results).

The New Scholastic Research Results: a flashback to my dissertation

Earlier today, the Bookseller reported on the findings of the new Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report (4th edition). It’s a report that’s been conducted since 2006, based on a survey of adults and children in the US (1,074 children between 6 and 17 in this one), giving useful insight into reading habits and trends.

The results didn’t really come as a surprise to me, having read their previous reports from the last few years, but some of the statistics are of interest – especially those concerning rates of reading for pleasure. It’s an area of interest to me, having spent so much of my time looking into it during research for my MA dissertation last year.


The report seemed to primarily focus on e-books:

  • Although there was a sharp rise in the amount of children who had read an e-book (46% of children in this study as opposed to 25% of children in their 2010 study), 80% of the children still did most of their reading from print books.
  • The main time a print book came across as preferable to an e-book was at bedtime and for reading along with friends, whereas e-books were seen as useful for reading when travelling or when they didn’t want friends knowing what they were reading.

Of interest to me, was that 21% of the children who had access to e-books said that they were now reading more books for pleasure. Moreover, the report found that ‘half of children age 9–17 say they would read more books for fun if they had greater access to e-books – a 50% increase since 2010’. Does this point to e-books being directly beneficial for encouraging increased reading for pleasure in children?

Reading for pleasure

New scholastic research However, the number of children in the survey who read for pleasure between 5-7 times a week (considered to be ‘frequent readers’) decreased from 37% in their 2010 survey to 34% in this recent survey. Although not a huge decrease, it is still notable that there continues to be a decrease at all.

There can be many reasons for this. In fact, it was one of the key areas for my MA research. The reasons for the amount of time (or lack thereof) a child spends reading for pleasure are vast – and are partly believed to be based on children’s perceptions of reading – such as the importance they place on reading for pleasure. It can be due to parental influence (e.g. whether their parents visibly read or not); access to books (e.g. money to buy books); time (e.g. versus time spent doing homework); competitive media (e.g. leisure time spent playing video games, on computers, watching TV) and much more.

The additional finding that younger children are more likely to read for pleasure than those in the older age bracket is not new. In fact, this is known to be around the difficult ‘transition’ age, where children move from primary to high school and adjust their reading preferences – sometimes finding it difficult to move from one age level of literature to another. But, again, there are also many other reasons why children’s interest in reading for pleasure declines with age.

A potential link? The focus of my work…

In their previous reports, they found that children’s use of media – including social media – increased with age, documenting this right through from 6 to 17 years old. But, in this report, they only seem to have reported on the 12 to 17 year age-range. Still, the increase is there.

In my work, I noticed that the previous reports (as well as reports by the National Literacy Trust in the UK), documented this rate of reading for pleasure decreasing with age whilst the rate of other media consumption increased (e.g. social media, playing games, using a mobile phone). I therefore began wondering whether there might be a way to tackle this potential link…

This is what led to me coming up with the idea of a platform that would utilise children’s growing interests in other media to engage them with reading for pleasure after the age of 8. I looked into what drew them to this other media, and found another potential link between the importance placed by children on social interaction as they grew older and the other media they were using. I conducted research for my platform concept with children across libraries and schools and came up with some interesting results – with an extremely enthusiastic audience reaction to my concept. The research is now being used by The Reading Agency as they develop a similar model.


Scholastic’s research was instrumental in me putting two and two together to come up with this idea, which I hope will be of some use. Reading for pleasure is directly linked with literacy and academic achievement and also has an influence on a person’s economic and social wellbeing, so efforts to promote it are of paramount importance. Such reports by Scholastic, as well as such bodies as the National Literacy Trust, are of use to everyone involved in the effort to improve literacy rates in the UK and abroad – whether it achieves a deeper understanding of the issues or provides new ideas for tackling them. However, with this new survey documenting an increase in the number of parents concerned about the time their children spend reading for pleasure (up to 47% from 36% in 2010), it’s clear that much more still needs to be done…

Read the full report here:

National Libraries Day: a record attempt

National Libraries Day is coming up!National Libraries Day takes place on Saturday the 9th of February this year, and it’s just been announced that school libraries around the country will be marking the event by attempting a Guinness World Record.

Parallel Universes, as the project has been called, will involve over 50 schools attempting to create a record for the world’s largest simultaneous story writing workshop. The children involved, all from school years 6 and 9, will try to finish a story begun by the author Matt Haig. I think it’s a great way to bring libraries into the spotlight at a fragile time.

You can find out more about the events planned for the week leading up to National Libraries Day by visiting their website:

Check out the events section for other upcoming events that may be of interest.

Quentin Blake is knighted

I was thrilled to hear that Quentin Blake has been knighted in the New Year honours list.

Quentin BlakeKnown perhaps most widely for his illustrations for Roald Dahl’s stories and his drawings during episodes of Jackanory in the 1970s, as well as his support for hospitals and health centres around the country, Blake has apparently referred to the honour as ‘quite a nice 80th birthday present’.

Since the illustrator has just moved to Norfolk, two new exhibitions will be held in the area to display some of his work, including ‘The World of Quentin Blake’ at the Diss Corn Hall Gallery (until February 2nd) and ‘Quentin Blake: Drawn by Hand’ at the The Big Draw Quentin BlakeFitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (February 12 to May 12).

A new museum, The House of Illustration, is also due to open near King’s Cross in London in early 2014, to which Quentin Blake has pledged his archive of more than 4,000 drawings and 250 illustrated books. You can find out more about it by following this link. I can’t wait!

The Where’s Wally? fun run for the National Literacy Trust

I’m about to sign up to do the Where’s Wally fun run, which takes place on March 23rd, 2013. It’s a 5k or 10k run (depending on how fit you feel) to raise money for the National Literacy Trust. With such shocking revelations as the fact that one in six people in the UK have poor literacy, it’s a worthy cause…

Where's Wally?The NLT run community projects, provide support to schools and practitioners and fund extensive research projects to do with literacy. Having used many of their research sources for my dissertation last year, I’m aware of just how much a contribution the NLT make to understanding literacy problems and working out the best ways to tackle them.  And who can resist the lure of a free Where’s Wally? costume?

It’s a £20 registration fee and you’re then asked to aim to raise a target of £100 in sponsorship. For more details, visit the National Literacy Trust website.