At the Bookseller Industry Awards The Book Nook in Hove was crowned ‘Children’s Bookseller of the Year 2015’ throughout the UK, sponsored by Macmillan Children’s Books.
As Brighton’s only bookshop for children, owners Julie Ward and Vanessa Lewis have dedicated themselves to inspiring children to read. With Events nearly every two weeks, and contacts like Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson, The Book Nook is gaining popularity fast.
The staff have has really pushed the boundaries of creativity on how to involve children with reading. Inside the shop you can find a snack shop, a pirate ship where story time takes place every day, and regular events celebrating literature for even small children. It’s very rare that you’ll find someone with a business who wants to be so involved in the community and are so passionate about their cause.
Read the Interview with Julie Ward Below
Last year at The Book Seller Industry Awards, you faced big brands like Waterstones, Foyles and Storytellers Inc. How did it feel to have won the “Childrens Book Seller Of The Year” award?
We were surprised, we won it in 2012, but the competition last year was huge. We are very lucky here, Brighton has some of the country’s top illustrators and writers such as Chris Riddell, who wrote “Goth Girl”, a lot of these authors support us, we have events with them here. We’ve had Liz Pichon who wrote “Tom Gates”, and we also had Axel Scheffler who illustrated “The Gruffalo”, he signed books here for four hours! He drew a picture of “The Gruffalo” for us, we have events here almost every 2 weeks. For example for William Shakespeare’s 400th birthday, we had a “Where’s Will?” event. We have a lot of local Authors, Polly Dunbar, Emily Gravett.
We did over 100 events in one year, we work with the council for schools to improve children’s literacy, we work with universities and colleges and we supply the books for The Brighton Festival. We are more than just a shop; we believe there’s a book out there for any child, We’ve got a knowledge and passion for reading and we get wonderful reviews from customers. I did hope we had a good chance of it, we specialize in so many ways that big chains can’t. But we were still surprised!
What made you want to open The Book Nook? How did it happen?
My partner Vanessa and I own the shop, Vanessa used to be an English teacher, her passion has always been books and this has always been her dream. My background is in marketing and publishing. Before we opened here, we actually owned a sandwich shop, and we joke that is was our apprenticeship. We learnt how to do business from there, I created the business plan and we talked about what we wanted to achieve, we were surprised there wasn’t another children’s book shop in Brighton, especially with this being such a cultural city. We saw the gap, and we went for it.
Obviously you’re all very dedicated here, did you have a sole purpose for opening up?
Well, we saw the gap, but we wanted to spread the word of reading, that’s why it’s great working with schools, we take the authors to schools sometimes. We’d love to get a book into every child’s hands, and get them into loving to read, whether it’s fact or fiction, we are passionate about getting children interested, it really improves your life in so many ways.
At the moment, the school generation are much less interested in books than they were even 10-15 years ago, do you think it’s actually important for children to read, or is it more a hobby?
No I think it’s important, I think children should be read to as early as babies, and then eventually they’ll want to learn themselves. Jacqueline Wilson covers all issues, so do a few other authors, which is fantastic, you can learn about life and what’s out there and you can’t really get that anywhere else. It’s really important, it builds literacy skills and imagination.
What would you like for the future of The Book Nook?
There’s still people that come here and say they never heard of us, we still want to continue working will schools, but we’ve got a list of Authors we would want to do work with like Michael Morpurgo, Jeff Kinney and Michael Rosen, we’d love to do an event with him.
Something crazy like 1 in 4 children don’t have a book in their house, it’s quite high, just getting books out there is our aim, to let children see some of their heroes, to even become an author or an illustrator. We would love to organize our own children’s book festivals, our website is still being developed but we would like to offer specialised books. We get people calling from all over the world asking for books and advice.