Thursday, October 2, 2014

Welsh Government funds initiative to boost child literacy levels

Funded by the Welsh Government and developed by the Welsh Books Council, a new publishing scheme to improve literacy standards in children and young people in Wales has been initiated as part of the Welsh Government’s ongoing drive to raise literacy levels.

Two independent publishers, Atebol and Firefly Press, are adding their influence to the ongoing debate about diversity in children’s books with new books which are set in Wales and which celebrate the achievements of Welsh people and Welsh culture. The books aim to inspire and excite young readers aged between 7 and 11 and to encourage them to read for pleasure. With the focus on Welsh people, culture and settings it is hoped that these books will be especially appealing to children who live in or have connections to Wales as well as being enjoyed more widely by children across the UK.

The need for children’s books to represent a wide range of cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds so that children can feel that books apply to them and in turn to help them enjoy reading and learn key literacy skills, is part of an ongoing debate, with vocal defenders amongst leading children’s authors including the current Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman and the US campaign We need diverse books.

In 2012 the school inspection body Estyn reported that up to 40% of children entering secondary school in Wales were falling behind in reading standards and in recent years, the Welsh Government has made significant progress in developing a comprehensive and coherent strategy on this agenda, with key developments such as the introduction of the National Literacy Programme, National Literacy Framework, and annual National Reading Tests.

It is in this spirit that this new publishing programme has been initiated, to represent and include children living in Wales and from Welsh backgrounds and to reflect life in contemporary Wales.

The Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates said:

“Access to books with which children can identify and which fire their imagination, is vitally important for engaging young people in reading and raising literacy levels which is one of our key education priorities. I am therefore delighted to be funding this series of books with a strong Welsh focus which will hopefully show that books are sources of interest and pleasure, as well as information.”

Author Malachy Doyle, who has written one of the Firefly Press books said;

“The children of Wales need books they'll actually want to read. Funny books, exciting books, books about children like them, living in the sorts of places they live. The Dragonfly series is perfect for this - they're fun and they're moreish, and children will love them.”

The five fiction titles in the Dragonfly series, published by Firefly are each set in a different Welsh town or village, and are written and illustrated by leading figures from the children’s book world including Shoo Rayner, Wendy Meddour and Malachy Doyle. Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates, will attend a launch for the series at Llandaff City Primary School in Cardiff on October 16.

The books in the non-fiction series Sparks, published by Atebol, focus on the achievements of well-known Welsh people such as Paralympian Josie Pearson and adventurer Maria Leijerstam (the first person in the world to cycle to the South Pole). The non-fiction books are supported by free online supportive material from here.

Both sets of books are available from leading booksellers across the UK, the publishers’ websites -

(also & from the Welsh Books Council’s retail site at and are available in print and as ebooks.

About the books:
The Sparks series, priced at £4.99 are;

Amazing Adventurers

Sport Stars

Exciting Entertainers

Sweet Success

Heroes & Helpers

The Dragonfly books, priced at £4.99, are:

Steve’s Dreams: Steve and the Sabretooth Tiger by Dan Anthony, illustrated by Huw Aaron, set in Newport

Dragon Gold by Shoo Rayner, set in Snowdonia

Pete and the Five-A-Side Vampires by Malachy Doyle, illustrated by Hannah Doyle, set in Llanidloes

Dottie Blanket and the Hilltop by Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Mina May, set in rural mid-Wales

Arthur and Me by Sarah Todd Taylor illustrated by Peter Stevenson, set in Caerleon and Harlech

Atebol press - is a leading and innovative educational publisher which specialises in the preparation and production of learning and teaching materials for the home, schools and colleges. Atebol originate and publish educational materials including apps and interactive whiteboard materials for the Foundation Stage, Early Years, Primary Education, Secondary Education and Further Education.

Firefly is a small independent publisher based in Cardiff and Aberystwyth, launched in June 2013. Firefly publishes quality fiction titles in print and ebooks for five to nineteen year olds. Firefly aims to publish books by great authors and illustrators wherever they are from.

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