When Gecko Press began in 2005, only 1 percent of books published in English countries came from non-English languages. I thought it odd that English speaking children did not have access to the best writers and books from the rest of the world. And that was the beginning of Gecko Press.
Gecko Press continues to publish a small number of carefully chosen, edgy yet proven – what we call curiously good – children’s books, from the best writers and illustrators in the world, translated into English, for English-reading children everywhere. We also publish good New Zealand writers and illustrators to take in the other direction. Our books are sold directly in the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
When I started Gecko Press, the Swedish publisher of Margaret Mahy told me: “Either you’re an idiot or it’s an important niche. Let’s hope it’s a niche.” Now we are thirteen, and the niche for books in translation has got bigger – and somehow smaller.
I believe the wider art of reading is endangered, not from digital books, but from distraction, digital and otherwise; and that children must have the chance to discover the love of reading right from the start. There is such a lot of evidence to show the benefits of children not only being literate but knowing the pleasure of reading.
So Gecko Press is launching the Curiously Good Book Club. We have done lots of thinking, dreaming and planning. In our focus groups, we found that parents are sometimes daunted by the variety of books available. And while they love Gecko Press books, we could see that it would benefit people if we could recommend other books as well.
I also believe that we need to do more to make reading more visible. It is sometimes a private and perhaps quiet activity.
We want the club to work on behalf of all parents, aunts, uncles, booklovers, bookshops, libraries, publishers, authors, illustrators – everyone who knows a child they want to encourage to love to read. We want to be actively promoting reading as a whole and we want to collaborate with others also wanting to encourage children to love to read.
Vision for the Curiously Good Book Club
Our vision for The Curiously Good Book Club is a digital and real life community where people can share knowledge about great books for children (not just our books) and find creative ways to encourage children to love to read. The Curiously Good Book Club will include activities for kids, real people events and rich digital experience – all designed to get children’s noses into books. Next month we are holding an event at Porirua Library for example, about how to be a good reader-aloud. We will then convert this to a digital video-tips for reading aloud package. In doing this, we are trying to educate people about what is a good book, how to work with a book, how to share a book…
You can find out about our campaign to start the Curiously Good Book Club at pldg.me/gecko – where we are offering packs of our best books as rewards.
I hope you will join us!
Julia Marshall, CEO and founder of Gecko Press