A new children’s bookshop in Hitchin is specialising in inclusive titles, including books that celebrate neurodiversity.
Liz Tye, a former primary school teacher and trained SENCo (Special Educational Needs co-ordinator), set up the shop with Julie Anderson, the operations manager at Bounce Sales & Marketing. The pair have been friends for 16 years and have for a long time wanted to work together, and this year the time was finally right, says Tye.
Next Page Books is on the site of a former Boots, and stocks all kinds of children’s books, but Tye and Anderson will maintain a range that is as inclusive as possible.
“We have a collection of good-quality children’s books but our specialism is books that help children with individual needs, and neurodiversity is part of that,” says Tye. “There are more and more books that celebrate neurodiversity, maybe they have a main protagonist that has those conditions. Alongside that, we stock books that support those conditions.”
There is also a dedicated space for books that can help readers with dyslexia, mainly stocked with titles from Barrington Stoke. “We are great admirers of Barrington Stoke and we are doing really well with that list,” says Anderson. “You don’t have to be dyslexic [to enjoy those books] and they have been selling really well. We are also looking forward to You Can! by Alexandra Strick and Steve Antony [Otter-Barry Books], which celebrates inclusion and is out this week [7th October].” The co-founders are keen for their stock to represent cultural diversity, too.
The shop opened on 25th September with a range of activities, including readings from local writer Gemma Keir, author of The Abilities in Me, a self-published book dedicated to children with DiGeorge Syndrome. A local theatre company ran some sessions—and the Gruffalo made an appearance as well.
Tye and Anderson are forging relationships with local schools and run a reward scheme where customers complete loyalty cards to either get £5 off their next purchase or have £10 donated to a local school to buy books. Most people prefer to donate money to the schools (they can pick a school of their choice) rather than keep the money for themselves, says Tye. The schools can also pay a small fee (redeemed against any book purchases) if they want the shop to help them find books for their classrooms and libraries.