NEW ZEALAND BOOKS
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.
New from Anne Salmond, a master milliner, and a book club for the curious.
NORTH & SOUTH:
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/.