This week we’re joined on the blog by Toppsta founder and all round reading champion Georgina Atwell! We love working with our friends over at Toppsta and their website is a brilliant way for us to get direct feedback from our most important customers — our readers. Even better than that, Toppsta have become experts in getting books into the hands of reluctant readers and (as no surprise to anyone) we think that’s a pretty important thing too. Over to you Georgina …
I launched Toppsta in 2014 when, as a mum to two young children, I realised I wanted to know which books children were really enjoying, not just those books which adults thought children should be reading. Having worked in publishing for over a decade and then in ebook retail too, I knew that there was a discoverability issue which needed addressing, so I decided to set up an online community where children could review books and make peer-to-peer recommendations. For me, children are the experts and adults, well-meaning as we are, often overlook those books that children really enjoy. Five years later and with more than 45,000 book reviews the website has become a place where children of all ages and abilities can read, review and recommend books.
I think part of the reason for Toppsta’s popularity is because it isn’t driven by one person’s opinion, it’s a democratic community where everyone’s voice is heard. You don’t need to be an expert, just a reader or even a listener (oh the joys of being read to!), and it doesn’t matter who writes the review. Often it starts out with the adult writing down the child’s opinion and then as the child grows in confidence they start writing the review for themselves.
One of the most frequent queries I get from the community is from concerned parents of reluctant readers and I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Barrington Stoke books to them. The combination of authors who are household names, the low page count and age-appropriate storylines makes them perfect for reluctant readers of all ages. And it’s clear from the reviews of Barrington Stoke books on our website, that readers of all abilities love the books too:
Toppsta’s top Barrington Stoke books:
Lily has lots of worries. She’s struggling to compete in her fell-running races and, worse, she’s losing her gran to Alzheimer’s. But then she discovers her great-great-grandfather’s diaries from the First World War. Could his incredible story of bravery help her reconnect with her gran and even give her the inspiration she needs to push through and win?
“Have you read this book if you haven’t you need to read it. I loved this book because there was alot of subpence. My class loved this book because it was set in the war time. I would recommend this book to age 7 and up” — Toppsta Reviewer (aged 10)
A crumbling stone soldier sits on a bench in the park. Only Owen understands how important he is. At home, Owen and his mum are struggling and there’s nobody he can talk to. Hidden away in the park, Owen feels free to be himself. When the war-weary soldier is listening, his worries slip away. But nobody else cares about the soldier, and the town council want to tear him down. Owen’s the only one who can save him but can he find the courage to speak up before it’s too late?
“I would recommend this book to be read from 7 to any age because I think even my Mum would like this book.” — Toppsta Reviewer (aged 9)
The Primms may be the neatest, tidiest family ever. But when the Weirds move in next door – with their explosive experiments, daring stunts, and black cat Ginger – Pinchton Primm’s quiet life will never be the same. Buckle up for a whirlwind adventure with a family like no other!
“I absolutely loved this book and think that it’s one of the best ones I have ever read … The story was really funny and made me laugh a lot.” — Toppsta Reviewer (aged 7)
Part of the plan with Toppsta was always to get books into the hands of children who wouldn’t normally have access to books. We often get messages telling us how the book they’ve received through one of our giveaways is the first book they’ve ever had at home. It’s so important to us to know that we’re reaching families who perhaps don’t have a reading culture at home or where the adults are also reluctant readers. This, plus the free resources we provide for schools (including our handy book review template) means that we’re getting more and more teachers and librarians signing up to the site and we’re reaching reluctant readers through them, which is wonderful to see.
So if you or your children like reading books, we’d love you to come and join us. It doesn’t matter if you’re a bookworm, a reluctant reader or somewhere in between, it’s free to sign up and there are no real names, no photos and no forums. Just readers sharing books they’ve enjoyed, hoping to help other readers discover their next great read.