I’m very happy that my picture book about a small monster learning to read, I Do Not Like Books Anymore! has been chosen by Empathy Lab for their 2020 Read for Empathy Collection, intended as “a diverse collection of books for primary and secondary children, all carefully selected by an expert panel to improve children’s empathy skills.” Founded in response to research suggesting that reading fiction can build our capacity for empathy, Empathy Lab describes empathic concern as “a powerful motivator for helping others, a force for social justice.” Whoop to that.
I loved making I Do Not Like Books Anymore! because the subject was so important to me – and because it’s always fun to spend time with Natalie and Alphonse. But I also felt quite a lot of anxiety about getting it right, and about how it would be received. Natalie’s struggles with reading, and the ways she and Alphonse find of reclaiming books and stories, were largely based on my own experiences as a child. Things I learnt as a Teaching Assistant and while working for an early-years education charity fed into the book too but I’m (obviously) no expert.
I think all that worrying about making A MASSIVE PEDAGOGICAL/DEVELOPMENTAL ERROR has made it extra-lovely that people have responded so positively to the story. The support of wonderful organisations like Empathy Lab and Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) means a lot – as do all the messages I’ve received from individual teachers, librarians and parents. I especially love it when children make their own books in response to the story, as Natalie and Alphonse do: like these ones shared by teacher @today_we_read on instagram or those I’ve been lucky enough to see develop at workshops and events (below is a very excellent book being created at Heffers in Cambridge in 2018).
There are foldable books to download and fill with stories on my Free stuff page, based on the titles of Natalie and Alphonse’s books – but I’m just as excited if children’s stories have nothing to do with Tomato And The Chair or The Magic Pigeon (although I would love to find out what happens in Whale Goes Shopping).