“There’s no other book out there like it.”
(You and Yours BBC Radio 4)
I remember, many years ago, receiving a rather different Christmas present from my big brother Malcolm.
It was a personalised book called “Wizwam and I in Africa”. It wasn’t a particularly great story and the quality was fairly ropey, but it featured a wacky wizard (Wizwam), some adventures around Africa and… ME! And hey, my brothers also got a mention and my favourite food AND my first dog, Pickle!!
FAST FORWARD 40 years and here I am starting my own personalised book company, Tickled Moon, with my husband Simon. Obviously I have a vested interest now to learn more about the appeal of this different type of book. I’ve already written a previous blog post about what makes a great personalised book, but digging around I began to discover that there were numerous, convincing reasons for investing in a personalised children’s book.
7 to be precise.
So why are personalised books beneficial for your child?
1. IMPROVES LITERACY
In 2017 The National Literacy Trust produced a comprehensive report looking at “the potential impact of personalised elements on the cognitive and affective aspects of shared reading, including reading skills, interest, motivation and engagement.”
However, it is a really interesting read if you’re thinking of buying a personalised book. After looking at many different studies conducted around the world, the key findings about the benefits of personalisation on children’s vocabulary included:-
“developing early communication, language and literacy.”
“significantly better knowledge about the words that were in the personalized sections of the books than the words in the non-personalized sections”
“personalising books for young children can be viewed as a positive means to support young children’s vocabulary development during shared book reading”
One US study found that when personalised elements were added to school reading books, their reading comprehension scores improved by more than 40% compared with peers reading non personalised stories.
“personalised elements may not only attract children less engaged by non-personalised texts to reading, but that this impacts positively on their literacy outcomes.”
Which goes to prove that children don’t need much encouragement to learn when it’s more relatable to them and therefore FUN.
2. ACCELERATES LANGUAGE SKILLS
It’s wonderful to chat about your love of a good book with someone else. It creates an immediate positive connection. And when reading to your child, the earlier that starts the better, for your child’s reading and oral language skills.
The NLT report cites a 2014 study of 35 pre-school children that found that children spoke more, and for longer, when sharing personalised texts, suggesting that these texts supported the children’s ability to engage in book talk:-
“Children produced a significantly higher rate of utterances in the personalised reading context, which in comparison to the non personalised context also lasted a significantly longer time.”
“reading personalised books provides a positive context for speech production
“personalised books are particularly suitable in facilitating social interaction”
Let’s face it, we all like talking about ourselves! And our children LOVE it, especially in a fun, safe, storytelling environment. So when they are the star of the story, it is bound to really engage and encourage them to chat more about it.
3. EMPOWERS AND MOTIVATES THE CHILD
Most personalised books have the child as the hero, the helper and/or the problem solver. All wonderful, confident qualities that every parent is keen to encourage and develop within their child.
One US study found:-
“manifest and immediate” effects and “dramatic increases …in the amount [children] learned… and [their]…perceived competence and levels of aspiration” when learning contexts included personal information.”
WOW – ‘immediate effects’ and ‘dramatic increases’ – powerful stuff!!
An article in the Journal of Educational Psychology indicates “that personalised elements can increase children’s learning motivation, engagement and aspiration”.
The NLT reports concludes:-
“there may be great potential for personalised books to facilitate positive shared book talk, young children’s reading enjoyment and motivation, their sense of themselves as readers, their self-esteem and aspirations and, potentially, other areas such as developing empathy and theory of mind.”
4. A SENSE OF INCLUSION
Any child, regardless of gender, race, disability or background, can be the star of a personalised book. It’s not always easy to find children’s books about more specific, cultural environments and this can lead to a sense of exclusion or lack of self worth.
But when you personalise the story, it:-
“gives children the opportunity to see a person just like them represented in a published book”.
In a proper, bound with pages, published book. And that is so empowering for ANY child.
5. A UNIQUE GIFT
In the overcrowded, children’s gift market it can be hard to find a present that is truly ‘unique’.
But a personalised book really is one of a kind. Remember, “There’s no other book out there like it.” If you have 2 or more different personalisations, no two books, will EVER be the same. It will be your very own version of the story, totally and utterly original to you.
And that truly is unique, don’t you think?
6. ENHANCING QUALITY TIME
The demands on our time are in this electronic age seem to be never ending. Keeping so many balls in the air can take its toll on quality time with our children. A US study found that American families get just 37 minutes of quality time together per day.
That can have many detrimental effects on our children’s well-being including behavioural problems and lack of self-esteem (see How Not Spending Time With Your Children Affects Them).
So how do we enhance the precious moments we have with our little ones?
There is no doubt that enjoying a book together is one way to stop time for a few minutes and there is nothing more bonding than sharing a terrific bedtime story. Snuggled together, telling tales of fun and ferocity, silliness and sadness, or magic and monsters – these are memories that we treasure.
Add to that the enhancement of reading a book written ‘just for them’! As we’ve seen above, it has been proven to significantly improve the engagement of both the child and reader. A report entitled ‘Sharing Personalised Books‘ in the LICEJ concluded that:-
“personal stories shared through books…have the potential to harness special benefits which go beyond those usually found in shared book reading.”
Another article in Frontiers in Psychology concurs:-
“Printed personalised books, in particular, may be seen to enhance positive shared reading experiences, as the print format has been shown to support more shared activity between parent-child dyads.”
The engagement is enhanced through personalisations. The fun is enhanced. And so that special quality time together is enhanced and enriched.
7. A TREASURED KEEPSAKE
(OR… A Personalised Book isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for LIFE!!)
As my own experience illustrates, a personalised book wasn’t just a regular Christmas present, it was treasured for life. I can barely remember any other presents from my early childhood, let alone who gave me what.
But this book was and remains very special to me, because of the personalised element. I read it then with my family and 30 years later, with my own 2 boys.
Needless to say, it will never go on the Charity Shop pile.
So there you have it – 7 excellent reasons why Personalised Children’s Books are better than off-the-shelf books. Hopefully this article has opened your eyes to the fact that a personalised book has many valuable benefits for a child, other than being just a really fun gift. And maybe you’ll now seriously consider a personalised book as a children’s gift.
And above all, you’ll have started a child off on a wonderful journey of the discovery of books. As Imogen Russell Williams, the Guardian’s Children’s Book Reviewer beautifully says in this article :-
“…The sheer specialness of seeing your own name on a page in a well-loved and familiar context. …For children, at least, it broadens, rather than narrows the book’s focus; it makes explicit the idea that they are welcome here, in the world of the written word.”
“Wizwam and I in Africa” holds a very special place in my heart. It was really ‘special’ to me then, because the personalisations utterly delighted me.
And it is really special to me now, because like a dusty photo album, it is a snapshot of my childhood, my family and dear (long gone) Pickle.
If you’re interested in exploring personalised books further, why not take a look at Tickled Moon’s website and our books “The Birthday BOO!” and “The Christmas Wrapper”.
Aimed at 2-7 year olds, personalisations include your child’s name on the cover, spine and throughout the book, as well as other fun personalisations.