Meet, Little Box of Books, the children’s book subscription service working to add a little literary magic and much-needed diversity to the lives of our nation’s little ones.
In July of last year, tired with reading their child books that didn’t reflect their family dynamic, couple Lynsey & Neil, decided to set up their own children’s book subscription. Ensuring that every book is carefully chosen in discussion with publishers and children’s literary charities, Little Box of Books sets out to bring representative, diverse and inclusive books to the children of the UK.
Speaking of their driving motivation, Lynsey says: ‘We want to show kids that their normal, is normal. So, we find children’s books that feature BAME main characters, showing blended families, same sex parents and single parent families. We look for positive representations of disabilities and books that smash gender stereotypes.’
And it doesn’t just stop there. For each and every box they sell, Little Box of Books donate a book to Doorstep Library – a charity that does amazing work, reading to families in the most disadvantaged areas of London. Proving that when we shop, small, independent and local the benefits are far reaching #ShoppingSmallHelpsUsAll.
We were lucky enough to chat with Lynsey about the amazing work her business is doing to give back to the community:
What’s the story behind Little Box of Books?
We are a blended family. I was a single mother to Arlo until he was 2 ½ and tried in vain to find books that showed our family unit. When Neil came into our family, we looked for books where a Step Dad was doing the cooking or school pick up, representing the almost 1 million blended families we have in the UK. We couldn’t find them.
Last year the CLPE released a report which revealed that out of all of the children’s books published in the UK in 2017 only 1% featured a BAME main character. Only 4% featured any BAME characters at all.
After 5 years of reading children’s books, with our eldest child, we found the lack of diversity shocking. We decided to set up Little Box of Books, to do the hard work of finding the books that parents want for their kids and in the process send a very clear message to publishers that there is an audience for books that reflect society exactly as it is. We don’t need to pretend we’re in the 50s anymore. We’re a vibrant, multicultural society, where everyone deserves to be seen and heard. Children’s books should be representative.
That’s shocking, but amazing that you recognised and acted on something so important! So, what is the vision for the future?
Our vision for the future is that ‘diverse’ children’s books just become known as children’s books. The ones with BAME characters shouldn’t be labelled diverse. We’re all part of the magical mix up that is diverse.
So, when that happens, we’ll be out of business. In the meantime, we’re starting to supply schools with books and are becoming consultants to various groups to show parents, teachers and professionals the importance of diversifying their bookshelves.
What additional effort is your business making to give back to the community?
For each and every box we sell, we donate a book to [Doorstep Library] and at the point of purchase, every customer has the option to add £1 to their order to donate to the work that they do also.
Doorstep Library do wonderful work reading with families in the most disadvantaged parts of London, supporting children to develop a love of reading that will help them in every part of their life. We want to make that experience as valuable as possible so by donating books that show diversity in a family set up, we hope that some children will see their families in stories for the first time and engage even more willingly.
Amazing! So, what prompted you to get involved with additional Charity work?
Our subscription boxes and one-off gift boxes start at £18. We know that the cost of our products is a barrier to some families, but we truly want as many children as possible to be able to access diverse and inclusive stories.
Reading with a child is the single most important thing you can do to support their development. Children who read are more likely to succeed and do well at school in all subjects. This is why the work of Doorstep Library is so important.
Is there anything else that Little Box of Books has done, or is planning to do in the future to help within the community?
We have partnered with the local school, again to bring our books to a wider audience, and we are hosting a pop-up bookshop for families who are unlikely to purchase a subscription but may be interested in books where they see themselves reflected back.
We organise book readings and do classrooms sessions and bring stories to classrooms where there is a mix of race, cultures and backgrounds, so they have the chance to see themselves in stories.
What would be your advice to any other small businesses considering getting involved with charity work?
If you’re serious about it, do it from the start, write it into your business plan from the very beginning so you’re committed to it and so it remains a priority.
If you’re already established, find an organisation whose work is in some way related to your business and chat to them about how you can support. It could be as simple as social media support or raising awareness from your shop.
Never try to give a charity what they don’t need. Most organisations are quite clear about the support they need so respect that, deliver what they ask for and don’t over promise. Your support will grow as you grow.
In line with the campaign, could you please provide a comment on why you think supporting small businesses is so important?
Small businesses supporting each other results in a healthy thriving community. It means keeping someone’s dreams and passions alive. With a small business, every single customer matter, so you can expect to be well looked after by people who are fully invested in providing something of high quality.
Small businesses also create community; giving freedom to more people and making us less reliant on a few very removed multi billionaires.
Connect With Little Box of Books:
Watch Lynsey's recent interview with channel 4 news on the minorities under-represented in children's literature here.