Welling­ton-based Gecko Press founder and CEO Ju­lia Mar­shall ex­plains the ra­tio­nale be­hind the pub­lisher’s on­line and real-life ini­tia­tive, the Cu­ri­ously Good Book Club.

North & South - - Columns - By paul lit­tle

New from Anne Sal­mond, a mas­ter milliner, and a book club for the cu­ri­ous.


What is the Cu­ri­ously Good Book Club? JU­LIA MAR­SHALL: The sim­ple ex­pla­na­tion is that it’s a place, both dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal, for peo­ple who are all about en­cour­ag­ing chil­dren to love to read.

N&S: How will it get kids read­ing? JM: There are so many books, and it’s some­times hard to know which book is right for which child. The club will give [ par­ents and their chil­dren] use­ful in­for­ma­tion. One cat­a­lyst is that I was on a plane with a par­ent who has chil­dren who read a lot. That’s al­most as hard as the child who isn’t read­ing at all; you have to keep feed­ing them. He said he found it re­ally dif­fi­cult to find new books. On the web­site, we’re go­ing to get book rec­om­men­da­tions and post blogs from peo­ple al­ready do­ing this, and try to cu­rate lists so peo­ple can rec­om­mend books. We’ll also have we­bi­nars and re­sources like ac­tiv­ity sheets.

N&S: What’s the phys­i­cal side of the club? JM: At the mo­ment, we’re of­ten talk­ing to the con­verted, and we want to go be­yond that. We want to get in touch with sports clubs and get books in there, have sto­ry­telling on the beach, and take books to other places. We want ev­ery child to love to read. We’ll have events – we’ve had one at the Carter Ob­ser­va­tory and next month we’re go­ing to the Porirua Li­brary for a “How to be a good reader aloud” event.

N&S: Why did you use Pledgeme to raise funds? JM: Partly be­cause the real-world ac­tiv­i­ties are ex­pen­sive, and partly so we could spon­sor ev­ery child who joins with a read­ing jour­nal and an “I’m a Cu­ri­ously Good Reader” badge. And what’s come up is that book­shops can start clubs in the shop and we can pro­vide them with the pack. Then Rachel in the of­fice had the idea that chil­dren can rec­om­mend the books they’re read­ing in their club, and book­shops can put up those rec­om­men­da­tions in their shops.

N&S: How do I know this club won’t get filled up with peo­ple sug­gest­ing books they think are Good For Chil­dren? JM: There’s a slight dif­fer­ence be­tween talk­ing to peo­ple and talk­ing to ex­perts. We want to talk to ex­perts. I see that as a chance to go to book­shops and say, “What books do you rec­om­mend?” and then be able to say, “As rec­om­mended by the Chil­dren’s Book­shop” or “Whit­coulls rec­om­mends this”. Ama­zon does “If you like this, you might like this”, but it’s only al­go­rithm-based. We’ve ded­i­cated an ac­tual per­son to that. N&S: So, will I be able to find “books for 10-year-old girls who love sport”? JM: Yes. We know only our Gecko Press books, and we might have one like that. But we’d also go to the book­shop or com­mu­nity and ask, “Does any­one know books like this?” and get 55 rec­om­men­da­tions from peo­ple.

N&S: It seems pretty gen­er­ous for a pub­lisher to be pro­mot­ing other peo­ple’s books. JM: I think it’s crit­i­cal. That came out of the fo­cus groups. Peo­ple said, “We love Gecko Press books, but we don’t want only them.” As a pub­lisher, I think there are far too many books in the world. One an­swer would be for us to do more books, but I don’t want to do more, I want to do less. Maybe the an­swer for the 10-yearold who loves sport is Stacy Gregg’s horserid­ing se­ries [ pub­lished by Harpercollins]. It’s fun­da­men­tal to Gecko Press that any child loves to read, and we have to go be­yond our­selves. It’s good for the whole book com­mu­nity.

N&S: You’ve reached your Pledgeme tar­get, but peo­ple can still do­nate? JM: Yes, be­cause it’s go­ing to con­tinue to be ex­pen­sive. Any­one want­ing to do­nate can do so via geck­o­press. com/ book-club/.

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