The Importance of Print: Neilsen Book’s UK Children’s Summit

Back in March I was able to attend the London Book Fair. This is staged annually where Publishers from all over the world can interact. Alongside some of the most prestigious international publishers negotiating sales, there is also a number of extremely interesting talks and seminars going on from various industry officials over the course of the three-day event.

Children’s publishing plays a major part in the fair, with many prominent publishers in this industry present (pictured above is Usborne’s amazing stall). On the final day of the fair the Neilsen Book’s UK Children’s Summit, which I was lucky enough to be able attend, was held. They presented the latest data concerning the children’s book publishing industry and we were able to gain an insight into how the industry is progressing in this area.

The day was packed with insightful talks: from industry experts like Steve Bohme, the Research Director at Neilsen Books, to Joanna Feeley from TrendBible, who detailed how trends such as how our house layout can affect reading habits. These all gave a specific insight into a different area of the industry, and one that made a particular impact on myself was Cally Poplak’s, of Egmont Publishing, presentation on their research project ‘Print Matters More’. This presentation detailed Egmont’s most recent study, which was conducted in partnership with Foyles, in order to gain an insight into how children can be encouraged to read more.

The project was aimed at fifteen families with a child who was a reluctant reader. They were given a £10 voucher for their local Foyles every week for six weeks, during the summer holidays. In return, the families promised that they would spend 20 minutes every day reading together. According to Poplak “Being read to is a key factor in becoming an independent reader” and this was evident in the data presented.  The children throughout the weeks went from being reluctant readers, because of factors such as a disinterest in books or struggling with the level of content, to clearly engaging with books and enjoying the time that they spent reading.

Seeing the way these children began to connect with reading in such a short space of time, not only within the allotted being ‘read to’ time but also individually, was unbelievably heart-warming. It was a showcase of how both being read to and the whole experience of choosing a physical book contributed to their enjoyment of reading overall.

The take away from this talk was definitely that given the opportunity, all of these children began to not only enjoy reading so much more but also their reading skills improved vastly. It was clear to see the connection in how well readers connected with books when they were also being read to by an adult regularly. It was incredibly interesting to identify how the experience of picking a physical book from a bookstore affected these children’s desire to read, not only with parents but eventually on their own. These children were not only reading more but also for enjoyment, rather than finding it a chore as they had often found before. ‘Print Matters More’ gave an inspiring insight into the barriers behind children’s reluctance to read, and what the Children’s publishing industry can perhaps do to remove these barriers.

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