Interview with Tamsin Irving -The Social Book Club

  • What was the inspiration behind the social book club?

The Social Book club was conceived during the first lock-down by our founder Phil Knight.  He started to write and illustrate books for his son and, with some encouragement from friends and family, realized that these stories could help & entertain a wider audience.  He decided to build a fun platform to support children, parents and teachers through these anxious times and beyond.  We launched at the end of October 2020 and have had incredible feedback from children and grown-ups alike!

  • What was the main purpose of the book platform?

The purpose of The Social Book Club is to help children understand THEIR world.  It is a collection of digital, audio and video tales on topical themes that include mental health & wellbeing, bullying, prejudice, tech-anxiety and many other issues facing our children today.  We provide digital workshops and resources for schools, with our virtual workshops covering challenging issues such as bullying, modern slavery & radicalisation.

We work closely with groups of parents to identify current topics causing most concern; those openly discussed, as well as those explored online, through peer group messaging, or via older siblings. This steer informs the authors and ensures that The Social Book Club’s content remains totally relevant. 

‘The Social Book Club is an invaluable resource for children, especially at this challenging time.  This vibrant library inspires curiosity and openness through a vast selection of original stories.  It gives children the opportunity to address a wide variety of topical issues such as bullying and racism as well as promoting creativity and both physical and mental wellbeing. 

The strength of The Social Book Club is its ability to remain agile and responsive to new and existing features of contemporary life. Its inception as an online platform means it can be shared with children at any time, in any place, to help clarify their understanding and development of a world which focuses upon positivity, and the best elements of humanity within a local and global context.’

Am Rai, Headteacher of Montpelier School, Director of The National Teaching School at the West London Teaching Alliance and National Leader of Education

  • Who is your target audience?

Children are our focus, we want them to come to The Social Book Club, primarily to have fun but to also learn while there are there.  Tech is everywhere and we believe it can be used as a powerful educational tool to help children in their social and physical lives.  We want parents and carers to know that children will be safe when they are on the site.  In 2020, children’s anxiety levels have grown at an alarming rate, so the focus of our books is to allay children’s fears with topical and inclusive stories.  For teachers, the content is aligned with the Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education curriculum.  The workshops and resources help to develop children’s personal and social development and are a valuable addition to stimulating reasoning and discussion in the classroom (whether physical or virtual).

‘We read Life After Lockdown and as a class we absolutely loved it’

Hati Errol, Year 4 Achievement Leader & PSHE Leader, Churchfield Primary School. 

  • What type of books are the most popular on the platform?

There are so many!  ‘Life after Lockdown’ is our most popular book, 2020 has been especially tough for children and this story really helps to give them an understanding of the situation that they have had to live through. The colourful series, Sammy the Strawberry & Friends resonates with families.  It was developed with the help of Waitrose & Partners. Dr Emma Williams, Nutrition Manager at Waitrose and supported with information which is based on the government’s Eatwell Guide recommendations.  And most recently, Betty makes Christmas, which is supported by John Lewis, is a heart-warming story about caring and sharing at Christmas and all year round. 

  • Can you tell us about the Social Book Club team and their roles?

We have the incredible energy and vision of our inspirational Chair, Truett Tate and Director of International, Dorthe Tate and all of our Board members and team.

Both of our Founders have extensive experience in working with children. CEO Dean Horridge realised early in his career, the negative effects of children’s inactivity during the school holidays.  Dean founded Fit For Sport weekend and holiday activity clubs for children in 1991.  Fit For Sport grew and became the UK’s leading childcare provider in educating and engaging children and young people through physical activity.  Dean remains a Board Member of the Junior Adventure Group UK (JAG UK Top Co Ltd). 
Dean also founded The Yellowball Foundation, which helps children from low-income families access out of school activities. Dean is passionate about making a difference in children’s lives and, as CEO/Founder of The Social Book Club, this passion and commitment continue.

Chief Creative Officer Phil Knight has been on a whirlwind adventure ever since meeting Emma Thompson in 2007, who showed him the horrid world of modern slavery. It set him on a journey to try and change things for enslaved people. He lived in a shipping container for two weeks with no comms and drummed for four and a half days non-stop, all to raise awareness of slavery. He then founded the Just Enough Group and educated over 150,000 children worldwide, before setting up The Social Book Club! 

We have 13 authors (and counting!) as part of our team.  We publish at least 4 books per month and are always looking for people of any age, nationality and background to add their stories and illustrations to the incredible variety of content at The Social Book Club.

Check out the bios of the rest of our team on our website!

  • Are there any future projects or plans for the social book club?

Absolutely! We have loads of exciting ideas for The Social Book Club! 

We will shortly be adding an International section to our site, with stories in multiple languages.  We want to reach the whole world with The Social Book Club message, and this is the perfect way to help more children.  We hope to launch our app in 2021, it will be a safe place for children to get lost in tales and characters and go on a journey of understanding.  Our goal is to have an app that parents trust and children enjoy!  We are collaborating with multiple partners & experts such as Waitrose, John Lewis, RPC Lawyers & Dr Julia Jones aka Dr Rock (check her book Billie’s Marvellous Music Diet on our homepage).  In 2021 we are looking to expand our partnerships with sponsored books, guest authors and, developments that we haven’t even thought of yet!

“The Social Book Club is delighted to be partnering with Waitrose. These six books will engage children and introduce them to the benefits of a varied and healthy diet, through a cast of colourful characters! The Social Book Club’s mission is to give children subject matter that supports them in these difficult times we know children are facing today.”  Dean Horridge, Founder and CEO of The Social Book Club

Dr Emma Williams, Nutrition Manager at Waitrose, said: “It is important for children to understand where food comes from and the role it plays in helping them to grow into happy, healthy adults, so we are excited to support The Social Book Club. We hope the books will show children how different foods work together to provide key nutrients in a fun and exciting way.”

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