How to set reading goals for the year

We have compiled a quick guide to help you set and achieve your reading goals this year! tell us in the comments, what other tips would you ad to the list?

Set measurable goals

If thinking in terms of how many books you can read feels a bit excessive, think of chapters, or pages read instead!
The smaller goals are easier to reach and ticking those off the list will give you the encouragement you need to breeze through hundreds of awesome books.

Meet an Awesome Author: Christiane Bellstedt Myers

Christiane Bellstedt Myers, author of Scandi Christmas: Over 45 projects and quick ideas for beautiful decorations & gifts brings us her favourite quick ideas for awesome decorations you can make to impress your guests this holiday season.

Don’t forget to check out her book and the awesome guide she shared with us to make a glitter paper tree.

Will you be trying any of her awesome ideas? If you do, don’t forget to tag us on social media!

Awesome Author: Scandi decorations to make your Christmas AWESOME

Today we have an awesome guest takeover of our blog —Christiane Bellstedt Myers, author of Scandi Christmas brings us one of her amazing Christmas projects to make your decorations even more special.

Don’t forget to share your creations with us through social media!

Without further ado, let’s get to crafting!

Glitter Paper Trees by Christiane Bellstedt Myers

Photography by Caroline Arber © CICO Books

There is something special about being able to create a stunning centerpiece for your Christmas table without spending a lot of money. Adding a pinch of glitter reflects the light, making your table shimmer and feel magical and festive. Make a large tree or several smaller ones—or whatever combination works best for you!

MATERIALS

  • Oasis block
  • Terra cotta plant pot (I used an antique terra cotta pot but any = would work)
  • Wooden skewers
  • Paper (preferably old newspaper with a Christmas story or old sheet music)
  • Silver glitter

TOOLS

  • Craft knife
  • Small paintbrush
  • White craft (PVA) glue
  • Star cookie cutter
  • Pencil
  • Clothespin

How to make your Glitter Paper Tree

Step 1 Picture, oasis foam cube, skewers, plant pot and knife.
Photography by Caroline Arber © CICO Books

Step 1

Use a craft knife to cut a piece of oasis from the block. Make sure that the oasis fits into the plant pot snugly. Push a wooden skewer vertically into the center of the oasis, with the pointed end at the top. You may want to trim the wooden skewer, depending on the size of your pot.

Step 2 Picture, old and yellowed music sheets and some torn up pieces of paper next to them
Photography by Caroline Arber © CICO Books

Step 2

Take your paper in bunches of three or four pages and rip them into squares of varying sizes. There is no need to be precise; it is actually much cuter when the edges of the paper are not straight.

Step 3

Start pushing your bundles of paper onto the skewer. Turn the pot slightly as you add more paper bundles so that the edges of the paper are not all lined up evenly. You want to gradually decrease the size of the torn squares to resemble the shape of a tree.

Step 3 Picture, plant pot with some paper through the skewer and other pieces next to it.
Photography by Caroline Arber © CICO Books
Photography by Caroline Arber © CICO Books

Step 4

Take a small paintbrush and use it to spread glue on the edges of the paper. Sprinkle with as much silver glitter as you want! (Do this over a piece of old newspaper so you can catch and reuse the excess glitter.)

Step 5

Use a cookie cutter or draw and cut out two star shapes.

Photography by Caroline Arber © CICO Books
Photography by Caroline Arber © CICO Books

Step 6

Apply some glue on one star and press the other star onto it with the tip of the skewer sandwiched in the middle. Use the clothespin to hold the star in place while the glue dries; remove when the glue is dry. Paint the star with a little more glue and sprinkle with glitter to finish.

If you want to see more of Christine’s wonderful ideas, don’t hesitate to check out Scandi Christmas!

We hope you have fun making some awesome paper trees to decorate this festive season!

YOU ARE AWESOME: Syrian Relief

Your purchases make an impact: this time it was all the way in Syria. Over the last year we were able to sponsor 7 children and a family that, like thousands, have been displaced due to the ongoing crisis.

Thanks to your support, we partnered with UK-Based Syrian Relief to provide them with food, shelter and education aids. We believe literacy is the stepping stone upon which a successful and fulfilling life is built, but we understand that in some cases, facilitating it encompasses more than just giving books to those who need them: sometimes other needs have to be addressed first, which is why we thought this was an awesome project to support.

Meet some of the kids that, thanks to you, received the help they needed to write the first chapter of what will be an awesome future.

Meet Saleh

Saleh is 11 years old, is in fifth grade, and wants to become a football player.

Meet Zarhaa

Zahraa is 11 years old and she dreams of becoming an interior designer.

Stay tuned to get to know more of how you make an impact with every book

Books for the future🌱: Children’s Environment Books 🌳

COP26, the UN Climate Conference, is now in full swing, starting its second week in Glasgow. Leaders from all over the world have gathered in what is called the “last, best hope” to tackle global warming —a problem that affects us all, but how can we talk about it with the youngest ones?

Take a look at a selection of our favourite books to share with younger readers as they learn about what is happening at COP26

For Young Readers (4-7 Years)

The Curious Garden

by Peter Brown

This is the story of how a young boy can transforms a gray city into a lush, green world —a beautiful reminder of the power that one small person can have to transform the world.


The Lorax

by Dr Seuss

The Lorax is a timeless classic that has been using humour and rhyme to raise awareness of the destruction of the environment for more than fifty years. This ode to conservation is the perfect book to inspire a deep love for the planet in young readers. 


For Older Children (8-12 Years)

The Last Bear

by Hannah Gold

The Last Bear is a celebration of the love between a child and an animal, a battle cry for our world and an irresistible adventure with a heart as big as a bear’s.


Earth Heroes

by Lily Dyu

It’s easy to feel as if nothing you do can really make a difference when it comes to climate change, but in Earth Heroes each tale is a beacon of hope in the fight for the future of our planet, proving that one person, no matter how small, can make a difference.


How You Can Save The Planet

by Hendrikus van Hensbergen

If you’re worried about climate change, this book is an essential and reassuring read. Packed with reassuring step by step actions and easy to follow DIY activities, How You Can Save The Planet is the perfect gift for young activists who want to make a difference. 

Check the full list here

Awesome Eco-Fiction: When the environment takes centre stage

We kick off this week with a list of recommended eco-fiction books inspired by COP26, the UN Climate Conference being held in Glasgow. Leaders from all over the world have gathered in what is called the “last, best hope” to tackle global warming —a problem that affects us all.

Here are some of our favourite books that bring the environment into the foreground, some of them inspiring hope, and others bringing attention to how, if we don’t act now, it could turn it into the villain of the story. 

Dune

by Frank Herbert

Widely considered one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written, Dune follows Paul Atreides on a quest to avange his father’s death — and change the universe forever.

Now a motion picture!


Cloud Cuckoo Land

by Anthony Doerr

When everything is lost, it’s our stories that survive
How do we weather the end of things?

Cloud Cuckoo Land brings together an unforgettable cast of dreamers and outsiders from past, present and future to offer a vision of survival against all odds.


Bewilderment

by Richard Powers

What can a father say when his boy demands an explanation for a world that is clearly in love with its own destruction?

At the heart of Bewilderment lies the question: How can we tell our children the truth about this beautiful, imperiled planet?


Leave the World Behind

by Rumaan Alam

A family goes away to a rented cabin for a relaxing holiday, but when the alleged owners of the home show up in a panic seeking refuge, many questions arise.

What happened in New York? Is the holiday home, away from civilisation, a truly safe place for them? And are they safe from one another?


Where The Crawdads Sing

by Delia Owens

Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand.

When two young men become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

Closing the loop

With COP26 just around the corner, our Head of Books Simon Mackay shares his thoughts on why a circular model — where books are passed on instead of thrown away — is the future of bookselling.

Don’t forget to tell us what you think in the comments!

Apparently, it’s easy being green. Boris Johnson said so at the UN recently, so it must be true. “It’s not only easy,” he said, “it’s lucrative”. And it’s reasonably simple to see why a casual observer might think so. Surely all you have to do is plant some extra trees, eat some tofu, meet on Zoom instead of zipping through the glare of duty-free and the job’s done. Isn’t it? 

Unfortunately, of course, the green agenda is never really as simple as it first sounds. Tree-planting is a finite solution. Overproduction of soy has an impact on patterns of land use and soil depletion. And so on…

Books are even more complicated. How, for example, would you calculate the carbon footprint of a hypothetical hardback? On the basis of its paper? The glue? What about printing efficiency? How many litres of ink goes into the average book these days, anyway? And is your book less green if it’s shipped using a diesel lorry? Indeed, since some books have promoted ideas that have had a positive impact on global health, wellbeing and, yes, on sustainability, is it even worthwhile measuring the carbon in a book? How do you measure the carbon footprint of an idea, or of the empathies bred by books more generally?

What we do know is this: 86%–94% of a book’s carbon footprint is taken up in its original paper production and printing processes. Each time a book is discarded, that carbon investment is effectively lost. So no matter what other complexities exist around books and the ecological agenda, there seems to be some areas that we could and should tackle. Specifically, could we lengthen the lifecycle of each book we sell? After all, each time someone buys and reads a used book they are saving a book’s-worth of carbon footprint. Not to mention adding value to its original production costs. 

Other industries are catching on to this idea. In fashion, retailers have begun extending various product lifecycles. Rental and resale models in the garment trade enable customers to refresh their wardrobes without the customary guilt or high price tags of the high street. With furniture you now “upcycle”. With electronics, you “trade in”. So what are we going to do in the book trade?

I began my bookselling career in the 1990s. I’ve sold books to tourists for the National Trust (civilised), academic books to students (not so civilised), worked in the high street (where we all know you can forget civility entirely, especially at Christmas), and even had the privilege to run book events across the UK and on various digital platforms. Over those 20(-ahem) years, I’ve seen our industry evolve at a phenomenal rate. We have all become super-booksellers: faster, harder, stronger. More efficient at raising sales, increasingly good at refining our business models, we have nipped and tucked to meet demands and maintain margins. Through that work we are already doing a huge amount to reduce the environmental impact of our operations and supply chains. 

Through greater efficiency, improved logistics, carbon offsetting and a host of other measures, publishers have taken huge steps to ensure that books are printed responsibly. Great swathes of the industry have already set ambitious goals to achieve carbon neutrality—well ahead of any government targets—or, like Bookshop.org, have achieved carbon neutrality already. 

But the basic challenge remains. No matter how much we improve our model, crucial and commendable as that is, that model is largely unchanged. It’s linear. We sell a book to a customer. They read (or not) the book and dispose of it. We sell them another book, and they dispose of that. And so on. One report estimates that 640,000 tons of books end up in landfill annually in this way, each one producing methane as it decomposes. 

This is a boon commercially. But in environmental terms it presents a problem. We are not merely selling a book to our customers; we are selling to them the ecological responsibility of our product. We are putting the onus on customers to determine the environmental impact of our industry. We have a responsibility to help customers dispose of books in a more sustainable way. In fact, we need a new approach, one that looks at books not as mere products sitting on the counter, but as forces-for-good moving in circulation. We need a more circular model. 

The blueprint

The idea is pretty simple. We should buy back the books we sell and resell or recycle them in a structured, customer-centric way. This saves books going into landfill (the very worst option for them ecologically), and enables us to engage with the idea of “reuse”, which is the greenest tool the global system has to combat the problem. 

Naturally, this makes people nervous. Authors, publishers and booksellers rely on a financial model that is built on churn. But to be honest, we may be underplaying how much reuse is already part of our industry, and how much we might be able to rely on reuse to invigorate new markets. Back in 2002 when I worked at Blackwell’s, “student buy-back” was a core part of the business. Some core texts had a predictable resale value, and gave us a steady income. “Buy-back” was good for our customers, whether they were buying for the new semester or selling from the last one. 

Modern customers also seem to want to engage with books in this way. There’s currently no standard market measure for used book sales, but it is thought to be minimal. Based on our sales at AwesomeBooks.com, I suspect we may be underestimating. Increasingly we see customers are voting with their wallets and buying used books. 

Why? Price is clearly a factor, but so is social impact. In a recent study by Nielsen, 66% of post-pandemic consumers would prefer to support businesses that have a positive impact on the world. These people are generally willing to pay more for a sustainable brand. If we look only at so-called Millennial and Generation Z consumers, the proportion goes up to 72% and 73% respectively. Our customer base at AwesomeBooks has grown exponentially over the past three years in precisely these demographics. 

We have also found that more of our customers are buying used books as a way of author discovery. Often when these consumers find an author they like, they buy that author’s entire backlist in new books. By selling used books, we have driven new book sales up by more than 300% against the same period last year. Reuse does not mean locking ourselves into resale. 

I strongly suspect that while book sales are growing generally, book readership is in decline. A smaller pool of people are buying more and more books. Plenty of people now, and lots of children especially, do not have a book of their own. Access to books is collapsing. The pandemic has not helped. And so models that grow our market are now as important as those that protect it. At AwesomeBooks we run a Buy One, Give One scheme on every book we sell. Each purchase triggers the donation of a book through the National Literacy Trust. Schemes like this might not work for every business. But we could all encourage customers to bring their books back to our shops to help drive donations to stimulate new readers. 

Whatever the future holds for our industry, I firmly believe a more circular global economy is inevitable. Products will remain in the market for longer. Reuse will become the norm. Our challenge is around how we choose to respond to those developments. 

Navigating these waters won’t be as easy, perhaps, as some may like us to think. But a socially responsible, ecologically sound, commercially viable option is in all our interests. “It’s not easy being green,” said Kermit the Frog. And that’s precisely why the effort is so valuable. 

Why you should think outside the box when it comes to literacy

When it comes to literacy, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s all about inspiring children to read more books. Although this is undoubtedly important – National Literacy Trust research shows that children with strong reading skills achieve better academic attainment across a range of subjects and tend to be happier with their lives – literacy is about so much more than that.

Having poor language skills at age five has an impact on a child’s academic achievement, mental health and future employment prospects. Children who struggle with language at age five are five times more likely to fail to reach the expected standard in English aged 11, four times more likely to have reading difficulties in adulthood and more than twice as likely to be unemployed at age 34[1].

Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen in a way that lets us communicate effectively and make sense of the world. It encourages children to dream big, stretch their aspirations, think positively about the future and give them a route out of poverty. It’s for this very reason that the National Literacy Trust’s website for families, Words for Life, categorises its activities by the following actions:

  • Chat
  • Play
  • Read
  • Watch
  • Listen
  • Write
  • Make

Throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, more and more children turned to literacy-focused activities to help them feel relaxed during an uncertain and unsettling time. A quarter of children surveyed by the National Literacy trust said that writing helped them when they felt sad because they couldn’t see their family and friends. More specifically, half of boys surveyed – who are often less engaged in literacy activities than their female peers – said that listening to audiobooks increased their interest in reading.

Half (51.1%) of boys said that listening to audiobooks has increased their interest in reading and 2 in 5 (43.2%)[2] said it has made them more interested in writing. Evidently, audiobooks might be a way to re-engage boys and reluctant readers with stories and get them into reading and writing.

The National Literacy Trust’s Words for Life site is filled with lots of activities for families with children of all ages. The charity recommends the following activities to help your child have and learn more from home:

The memory game

The memory game asks families to gather a child’s favourite toys, books and objects, remove some of the items and get the child to see if they can list what’s missing. This game will help children to communicate better and solve problems. There’s also a video featuring a real-life family, which helps users to see the activity in action.

Listen to The Tindims of Rubbish Island

For some children, words on a page can take away the fun of reading. Children can join Captain Spoons, Mug, Jug, Brew, Skittle and friends on Rubbish Island in this fun free audiobook, supplied by Listening Books.

Write a newspaper about the environment

This activity is a good way of encouraging older children to look at newspapers and take an interest important issues, while building their vocabulary and writing skills. On this page, parents will also find a useful video including a real-life family trying the activity for themselves.

Make a calm down glitter jar

This arts and crafts activity is ideal for a rainy day! Encouraging children to follow a simple method helps them get better at responding to instructions. This particular task will also support a child’s mental wellbeing – shaking the jar and watching as the glitter slowly settles and everything calms down will help do the same to a child’s thoughts.

To discover more fantastic tips and activities to support children’s learning, please visit the website Words for Life.

To browse millions of new and used books visit www.awesomebooks.com. For every book you buy AwesomeBooks will donate a book to a child in need. Make an impact with every book and find out more about the Awesome Book for Book here.


[1] Law et al. (2009) Modeling developmental language difficulties from school entry into adulthood: literacy, mental health, and employment outcomes

[2] National Literacy Trust (2020) Children, young people and audiobooks before and during lockdown

This International Literacy Day we are celebrating the power of small changes

By Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust

Today marks International Literacy Day, a UNESCO-designated awareness moment that champions the importance of literacy as a basic right. It also offers a great chance to take stock of the current state of literacy in the UK. 

This is the second International Literacy Day since COVID-19. This time last year we were seeing publication of the first worrying data describing the pandemic’s impact  on education. Unfortunately these early predictions of an increased attainment gap between children from low-income backgrounds and their high-income peers are now being realised. In the first lockdown alone, a decade’s work to narrow the attainment gap was undone. .  

To make sense of the scale of this challenge, The National Literacy Trust has now launched a research ‘observatory’ to bring together the emerging evidence of the pandemic’s impact on literacy.

Much of the research we are drawing together shows that children who had good access to digital devices, books and paper, and confident parents experienced less of a negative effect on their learning during school closures.  Lockdown disproportionately impacted on the literacy of children from low-income homes. Without immediate action this risks exacerbating societal inequality for generations.

One small change right now can lessen this impact and transform a disadvantaged child’s future. Simple access and ownership of books can transform a child’s enjoyment of reading, help them see themselves as a reader and supporting the development of vital literacy skills.  

Unfortunately, we know that 380,000 children and young people don’t own a single book. This is why our partnership with AwesomeBooks is so significant – every time someone buys a book on this website AwesomeBooks will gift us a book to be distributed to children and schools who need them the most.

The importance of owning a book can’t be overstated. It is a gateway to reading and for many children establishes their entitlement to literacy, giving them the skills to succeed at school, access that crucial first job and ultimately support their own child’s learning. 

What’s more, our research shows that reading doesn’t just support literacy and learning, it also boosts wellbeing and enables every child to dream about the future. Many of us needed that extra support and shot of optimism during the pandemic. 

We’d like to thank AwesomeBooks for their support and partnership with the National Literacy Trust. COVID-19 severely disrupted the literacy and learning of so many – but collaborations between the private, public and charity sectors have the power to really support the youngest generation as they try and recover from the shock waves of the pandemic. 

All AwesomeBooks customers can donate to us today and contribute to our ongoing work with schools, children, and families in the UK’s most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas. 

So, thank you AwesomeBooks, and happy International Literacy Day!

To browse millions of new and used books visit www.awesomebooks.com. For every book you buy AwesomeBooks will donate a book to a child in need. Make an impact with every book and find out more about the Awesome Book for Book here.

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AwesomeBooks + Rackets Cubed

Over 2500 books donated

The last year has changed a lot of things. We may not be able to be together and to support each other the way we were used to, but more and more we’ve seen how creative and innovative people can be to continue to help and work for their communities.


This is the case of Rackets Cubed, a program started in 2016 support local inner-city children from schools with a high IDACI rating (Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index). Before the pandemic, they hosted multiple sporting and educational activities, and provided nutritious meals for the attendees every week.
When the pandemic hit, they were quick to start a Community Box which seeks to continue with their Awesome mission to encourage children to lead a healthy lifestyle and achieve academic success by providing food, books and games to over 900 families per week.

“We realise there is a massive education gap to fill as the children have now had nearly a year of hit and miss schooling,” a representative of Rackets Cubed told us, and so we decided to step in. We believe that there’s nothing quite as powerful as reading to unite us, nothing quite as empowering either. Books are not only a window into another reality but also a stepping stone to guarantee a brighter future that, in the current circumstances, started to dull for many children due to the lack of resources at their disposal.

Thanks to the support of the Awesome customers that chose to make an impact with their transactions, we’ve been able to donate over 2,500 books to Rackets Cubed through WLF, benefitting hundreds of families across the UK.