From time to time, we shall be offering this page to guest contributors to survey some particular aspects of children’s books.
Who better to start with than the people who actually run school bookshops? We asked three people – two teachers, one parent – from the Avon SBA to tell us about their bookshops.
TOP OF THE POPS IN AVON
What affects children’s choice? What was selling well last term?
CLAIRE BOWEN, WRINGTON PRIMARY SCHOOL
We are a village school, with 120 children, twelve miles from the city of Bristol on a pretty awful bus route. There is a newsagent in the village which, because of its size, is restricted in the number of books it carries. The school bookshop is therefore the village shop window for children’s books. When selecting books, we try to achieve a constantly-changing display. The bookshop is run entirely by parents: we have a rota for selling and I have overall responsibility for selecting and obtaining stock, financial records, obtaining publicity material, organising competitions and authors’ visits, and liaison with the school about projects. The shop opens once a week, on Friday afternoons, from 3.15 to 4.00 p.m., to enable both parents and children to visit. We also run a savings scheme.
TV programmes do not seem to have any effect on the books we sell. The fact that a book has been read in class is usually an indicator that it will be in great demand. The teachers tend to choose books from the bookshop and we hope that in this way we are helping to make it easier for our teachers to see a wide range of books. Best sellers for us are:
The Mr Men series, Roger Hargreaves, Thurman
The Asterix series, Goscinny and Uderzo, Knight
The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark, Jill Tomlinson, Puffin, 65p
Steadily popular, for reading aloud and reading alone, especially with those who share the little owl’s fears.
George, Agnes Sligh Turnbull, Puffin, 50p
Another steady seller – perhaps because of its theme of getting help with learning things – and from a rather special rabbit.
A Pony in the Luggage, Gunnel Linde, Puffin, 40p
The most popular of all the horse books we have sold.
NORMA MACNEIL, SUMMERHILL INFANTS’ SCHOOL, BRISTOL
Our bookshop opened in April 1979 with a meeting of parents and school staff. We invited someone to come and talk about books and reading and it was a very successful evening. We were frankly surprised and very delighted at the enthusiasm of the parents and we became very hopeful for the success of the bookshop.
The school, which is near the centre of the city, has approximately 180 children from five to seven. The bookshop opens for book-buying between 2.30 and 3.00 p.m. every Friday afternoon. Parents are encouraged to come to school with other members of the family, collect pupils from the classroom and choose books with their children. After children are returned to their classrooms, the rest of the family can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in the school hall until home time. There is no commercial bookshop in the area and to buy books families must travel into town, spending book-buying money on petrol or bus fares. Sales in the bookshop have stayed constantly and surprisingly high. A huge bonus is that the bookshop has happily provided us with family contact in a relationship other than teacher-parent-child, and with the opportunity to talk in a relaxed atmosphere about more general topics other than school.
Every Friday morning we collect bookshop savings and children can spend these in the bookshop either with their families or by themselves with parental permission. Our best sellers in the autumn term were:
Kevin the Kitten series, Terry Hall, Hart-Davis Educational
In school, we watch Reading with Lenny on TV. The size and layout of the books are excellent and the price is just right. This series has been a runaway success.
The Munch Bunch series, Giles Read, Studio Publications
The story line has great appeal and again size and price seem to be significant factors.
Robin Hood Adventures, Ladybird Books
Topsy and Tim Handy Books, Jean and Gareth Adamson, Blackie
These are in the pocket-money price range. Although they don’t live in detached suburban houses, our children seem to identify with Topsy and Tim and again the book size appeals. The larger size Topsy and Tim books did not sell as well.
RIK MCCOY, PORTISHEAD COUNTY PRIMARY SCHOOL
The school has just over 200 pupils, infant and junior, from a wide variety of social backgrounds. The bookshop started in October 1977. We open once a week, on Friday, from half-an-hour before the end of school until about 5.30 p.m. The fourth-year juniors staff the bookshop on a rota. They are expected to keep the books tidy, take the money, give change and write receipts. I am there to help if asked and generally keep an eye on things. Our bookshop is in a classroom and the majority of books are displayed laid out on desks. My assistants pack the books away at the end of the session. Occasionally, on parents’ evenings for instance, the bookshop is mounted on trestle tables in the school hall.
I visit our supplier weekly to check on new publications, to collect orders for the children and parents, and to replenish stocks. One of the parents keeps a box file record of all new books and of books sold.
A significant factor affecting choice is a weekly 20/30-minute session which forms part of our junior assembly. I read extracts from two books and display new stock. Sometimes children contribute, reading extracts from stories, poems or jokes which they have enjoyed, or reading their own book reviews. In general, television adaptation of a book doesn’t seem to lead to sales; friendships do. Sometimes a group of children develop a rapport with each other which finds expression in the shared enjoyment of a particular author. A good example of this was Gordon Boshell’s Captain Cobwebb adventures (Fontana) which were taken up wholesale by a lively group of boys who loved talking about the stories and responded completely to this particular brand of humour.
Top of our steady sellers has been Roald Dahl (43 copies of various titles), followed by the Puffin Crack-a-Joke Book. When they first appeared in Collins Cubs, Paddington and Little Grey Rabbit stories sold well, as did the Usborne Nature Trail and Know-How books. Other good early sellers were Asterix and Charlie Brown books, with Peanuts and Snoopy (Hodder & Stoughton). Last term, sales of these and of Dahl dropped to almost nothing. Possibly they had sold so well initially that in a small school they couldn’t keep selling. Books are being swapped around and handed down in families. I think also that perhaps they had been on regular display for so long that children had read them in the bookshop. I suppose that’s really getting the bookshop habit.
Best sellers for us don’t mean sales in hundreds. Last term’s number one sold seven copies.
Follow That Bus, Pat Hutchins, Lions, 60p
This lively, amusing story took off after being read at assembly.
Masquerade, Kit Williams, Cape, £3.50
How to Eat Fried Worms, Thomas Rockwell, Piccolo, 60p