By Phill and Sally Featherstone
How should we say goodbye to Little Books?
Maybe we should start at the beginning. In 2000 the first Early Years Foundation Stage guidance was published, clearly establishing that the Reception year was part of the early years, and not just the first stage of primary education. Previously, practitioners working in Reception classes had no clear guidance about how they should plan the curriculum, or what the entitlement curriculum might look for children between 3 and 5.
The birth of an idea
It was around this time and to meet these new needs that we (Phill and Sally Featherstone) started Featherstone Education. Sally was then working as a consultant and trainer in early years education, trying to help practitioners to get to grips with the new curriculum. She produced almost all the early Featherstone materials, including the first Little Books. Phill managed the day-to-day business, including production and marketing, and edited many of the titles we produced.
Early in 2001 Sally was on her way back from training in a school in East Anglia. She stopped for a sandwich in a layby, and while she sat looking out over the Lincolnshire fields she thought about the people she had just been working with and what they had been discussing: i.e. how to manage the emerging demands of the new legislation while hanging on to the best of what they were already doing. The germ of an idea came to her, an idea for books for practitioners that would show them how they could build on their existing good practice to meet the requirements of the new Early Years Curriculum. These would be small enough to go in a practitioner’s bag, and would be bound so they would sit flat on a table while they worked with the children. They would be little books, but they would promote big ideas. The concept and title for the series were born. So was the strap line – Little Books with BIG Ideas.
An idea becomes a series
Featherstone Education began to produce more titles. Most of the early ones were written by Sally, but an ever-expanding group of other writers later contributed to the series. Many were practitioners, and all were knowledgeable about the early years, able to connect interesting ideas and good practice into new titles. Phill designed the covers, featuring un-posed photos of real children doing real things in real settings, and these became part of the Little Book identity. The demand was great, and so we set ourselves the target of producing a new book every month (ten titles a year – there were no new ones in the summer months). This pace of production, extremely challenging for a small company, continued until 2008, when Featherstone Education was acquired by Bloomsbury.
Illustrations at this stage were also carefully commissioned to reflect the principles of the series, and as every page was illustrated this was a key feature. Some of the early writers illustrated their own books, and friends and family were roped in to help before we could afford to employ professional illustrators.
The new era and a final goodbye
Bloomsbury Publishing continued the Little Books series, and 40 more titles have been added. The most recent title, the 100th (The Little Book of Talk), continues the tradition of taking familiar activities, giving them a twist, and linking them to a focus for early years practitioners.
Little Books have been a continuing success and we are proud of them. They are valued by practitioners and their managers and advisers, and have been used in many thousands of settings across the UK and abroad. We are sure they will remain what a practitioner once described as her constant backstop, as she said, ‘Whenever I am stuck for an idea, or wondering what to do on Monday, Little Books are there to help me’.
We wish Bloomsbury Publishing, all the users of Little Books and the children with whom they work the very best for the future.
Sally Featherstone has a wealth of experience as a teacher, head teacher and a local authority adviser and inspector. In recent years, alongside her activities in publishing, Sally built a national reputation as a trainer and consultant in the Primary and Early Years field. She is currently concentrating on expanding her writing about learning in the early years.
Phill Featherstone has been a teacher, local authority adviser and OFSTED inspector. He now spends his time on conservation work around the pennine farmhouse where he and Sally live, and on writing fiction. His first novel, ‘Paradise Girl’ will be published at the end of January.
To celebrate 100 Little Books, we are offering 35% off when you buy any 4 titles in the series! For more details visit: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/superpage/littlebooks/