Picture Books with parents who struggle to read in mind

We often think about what we can do to support children who are struggling to read, who are yet to find enjoyment in reading, but what about parents who would love to read to their children, but lack the confidence to do so because of their own reading skills?

redsquirrelToday I’ve got a guest post from Red Squirrel, a new imprint from Barrington Stoke. Red Squirrel wants his books to be for everyone, because he knows that sharing stories is one of the best things families can do for their children. He has been busy gathering a cluster of dyslexia-friendly features to support parents and carers who do not read confidently so that they too can enjoy the books with their children.

“At Barrington Stoke, we subscribe to the belief that the single most important thing any parent or carer can do to support their child’s educational and intellectual development is to read to them. But what if a parent or carer is a struggling reader? At a panel event last year, a young man who had struggled with reading all his life came to speak to us. He had recently become a stepdad and was keen to read to his stepdaughter, but he found her picture-books really tough going.

The conversation stuck with us. A trawl through our team’s extensive picture book collections threw up some potential issues that might face a dyslexic reader in tackling a standard picture book:

  • Layouts can be very busy, with pattern and image often appearing under text and background colour and contrast varying widely. This may be an issue for readers with poor visual discrimination. Have a look at Oliver Jeffers’s lovely books for examples.
  • Type design is much more varied than in early readers and type used often requires much more of the reader. Have a look at the ‘w’ and ‘k’ forms in that well-loved classic The Gruffalo for an example.
  • Text orientation and layout often deviates from the ‘norm’ of left-to-right, straight lines and full paragraphs, and justification varies widely. Less able readers may not have enough text to ‘chunk’ for meaning, may lose their place or may struggle to follow the text sequence. Have a look at Lauren Child’s gorgeous, bonkers books for examples.


  • all i said was 2As is traditional in our office, our MD Mairi came in one day last year and said ‘Right, we should do these books,’ and everyone else put their heads down and hoped she would go away. But Mairi then had lunch with Michael and Clare Morpurgo, talked the idea through with them and came back with big news: Michael was on board. He was quickly followed by a marvelous roster of authors and illustrators including Charlie Higson, Ross Collins, Chris Mould and Michael Rosen.

    All of these individuals were exceptionally generous in working with us to tweak texts for an easier read and to create visually appealing layouts that also support less experienced readers. Our texts always read left-to-right and top-to-bottom, they’re dyslexia-friendly and there are gently tinted backgrounds to tackle visual stress.

    itch scritch scratch_press 2This first two books are published this month. Michael Morpurgo and Ross Collins’s All I Said Was is a celebration of the power of a good book to take a reader anywhere he or she wishes. In Eleanor Updale’s Itch, Scritch, Scratch, a gang of very nasty nits run riot in a family’s hair and in rollicking rhyme. In June Charlie Higson and Mark Chambers take a very funny look at little boys and their (not very) charming habits in Freddy and the Pig, and Michael Rosen and Chris Mould contribute a toddler-friendly shaggy-dog tale in Wolfman.”

    Visit www.redsquirrelbooks.co.uk to find out more.

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