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WBD and An Announcement!

5 Mar


I am celebrating in lots of different ways today. But first… A little announcement I have been hugging hold of for a while….

*small drumroll*

I am going to be reviewing children’s books for Chicken Newspaper! A fantastic newspaper for young citizens.


I am so excited about this project because there is a huge amount of passion sitting behind this newspaper. It is the creation of author and illustrator Ken Wilson-Max who I met at the A Place At The Table workshop. He is passionate about inclusion and getting quality books, stories and information into the hands of kids. Sound familiar?? He wants to get kids involved; getting the newspaper sponsored so it can get into individual schools for free, setting kids up with newspaper clubs so children learn about making their own newspapers and writing their own content. Chicken newspaper has children at the very heart. I am proud to be involved with the Chicken! mission.

It’s a great paper filled with current affairs, global learning, fascinating articles and brilliant art work. And from the next issue it will have a little Rainbow Library review section where I will highlight brilliant books that children will love to read. I’ll also be writing content for the Chicken! website with feature books and longer reviews. Woo HOOO!

So take a little look and hey… why not order a subscription to celebrate World Book Day??

International Book Giving Day is nearly here!

11 Feb

International Book Giving Day is THIS WEEKEND! A whole day dedicated to giving books to children…what could be better?

If you are new to IBGD you can find out more here. You can also download beautifully designed bookmarks and bookplates to tuck into the books you donate. Find them here.


It was IBGD 2013 that inspired the first Rainbow Library. The Rainbow Library has expanded and developed in the last two years and for IBGD this year I will be concentrating on my new partnership with HomestartUK. They are a charity helping families with young children deal with whatever life throws at them. They provide one to one support for parents through their volunteer scheme. This is hands-on support right at the most crucial time in children’s development. I really believe in Home-Start and the difference they make to children’s lives.

Before Christmas I donated a big box of books for them to give to the children they work with. Books are already helping children across Sussex; families in temporary accommodation, children with speech and language delay, families with mental health issues, children who don’t have any other books at home. The books are starting to filter out to these children who need them most.

HomestartUK work mostly with children under 5 so for IBGD 2015 I will be delivering another box of books tailored to that age group. I’m also setting up a library for HomestartUK to keep in their offices and draw from for their visits. This library will be filled with books that can help children in difficult situations. Books where they can see themselves or see other children experiencing the same situations they are facing. Books where they can see they are not alone, and books they can escape to. I want HomestartUK to have the resources available to help these kids. They can take the books with them to use during their visit, to lend to the family or for the family to keep. I want the Homestart staff to use them in whatever way they need to best support the children. I will keep the library up to date and packed full of brilliantly inclusive, imaginative, supportive books.

Join me! Celebrate IBGD by donating a book to a children’s charity near you. Or pop a book in the post for the Homestart kids. You can send them here:
Carmen Haselup
The Rainbow Library
19 Headland Way
East Sussex
BN10 8TF

I promise you that these books will be helping children in need and that they will make a difference. You will make a difference!

Thank you to Zoe from Playingbythebook, Catherine from Storysnug, Beth from Mummysaysknow and Lucy, Charlie and Josie Latter for their very kind donations. And as always, huge thanks to all the publishers sending review books. I couldn’t do it without you all.

A new partnership for The Rainbow Library

4 Dec

The Rainbow Library has always been about getting books into the hands of the children who really need them. That’s why I set up libraries in local nurseries, primary schools and community groups that cater for children from disadvantaged areas. I have had some lovely success stories and have seen children go from using The Rainbow Library to signing up at the town library and learning to read fluently. It is such a joy to support these kids.

And that’s why I have started a new partnership with a charity who directly support children from disadvantaged areas.

Home-Start helps families with young children deal with whatever life throws at them. They provide one to one support for parents through their volunteer scheme. Volunteers visit the family’s home for a couple of hours every week and tailor-make their support to the needs of the parents and children. They support parents as they learn to cope, improve their confidence and build better lives for their children. This is hands-on support right at the most crucial time in children’s development. I really believe in Home-Start and the difference they make to children’s lives.

I will be working with Home-Start to supply them with new and gently used quality books for the children they support across Sussex. These books will be given to the children to keep and will help the volunteers to support their families. I delivered the first crate of books to my local branch earlier this week – just in time for the children to get a new book each before Christmas.

The first five years of a child’s life are crucial for their development and well-being and have a direct impact on their future opportunities. I know I am preaching to the converted, but adding books into the mix here will help support these children reach and fulfil their potential.

I am really proud to support Home-Start and am excited about what we can achieve together.

Here’s half of the first delivery:


How can you help?
Support local.
Have a look for a Home-Start branch locally to you. Perhaps you could donate some books directly to them?
Pop a present in the post.
I will be putting together the next box of books for Home-Start in the New Year. You can help Home-Start’s wonderful volunteers to get books into the hands of the children who really need them by popping a book in the post for me to include in their next delivery. Why not add a book to your Christmas shopping list, or dig out a book that has been gently loved but is no longer read. Home-Start work with families with children under five but often there are older siblings, so any children’s books will be gratefully received. Anything that is sent to me labelled for Home-Start will make its way to the Home-Start children in the new year.

Carmen Haselup
The Rainbow Library
19 Headland Way
East Sussex

Finally, a huge thank you to all the publishers, authors, illustrators and booky peeps who send me books. I really couldn’t keep The Rainbow Library going without you. Special thanks to Sam Lloyd, Clara Vulliamy, Hilary McKay and Elli Woollard for donating their beautiful books to The Rainbow Library, some of which are on their way to Home-Start children as you read this. Thanks to Pavilion, Hodder, Orchard, Templar, Big Picture Press, Gecko, Bounce, ChildsPlay, Faber and Faber, Allen & Unwin, PatrickGeorge, Parragon, Salariyah and Frances Lincoln who have sent wonderful review books that have been included in the first Home-Start delivery. And last but not least, big hugs to Caroline Martin and Emily for passing on such well loved and well looked after books.

Here’s to a Merry booky Christmas and a Happy New partnership!
I’ll keep you all posted 🙂

Rainbow Library number 5!

11 Sep

Woo hoooo! I’ve set up a fifth Rainbow Library!

This one is a little different. It’s for C.A.T.S. club – the local community after school club which provides a breakfast, after school and holiday play scheme for children aged 3-14 years from all the surrounding schools. Quite an age range to provide for!

C.A.T.S. club is all about having fun and the staff are dedicated and passionate about what they do. With some children using the breakfast club from 7:30, then attending school and returning for the afternoon club until 5:45, it can be a long and tiring day. The staff at C.A.T.S. work hard to give their afternoon club a home from home feel. There are always lots of activities on offer, and toys and games for the children to play with independently, as well as a comfortable area for children to sit and watch a DVD or read a book.
And this is where the Rainbow Library comes in.

A big box of new and exciting books that they can look through and read, that will be updated every term. I want to make sure that there’s always something new for the children to look at, as well as a staple supply of favourites that they can return to again and again. I’ve tried to include a range of fiction and non fiction and to add books that will appeal to everyone in the wide age range they cater for. I’m also going to be adding a big box of comics for them to enjoy.

Yesterday was C.A.T.S club’s 13th birthday. Great timing for a sparkly new library!

Special thanks to Clara Vulliamy and Sam Lloyd for their generous donations, and to all the publishers and book creators who so kindly send me books to add to the libraries. I couldn’t do it without your generous support.

Back to the books

6 Sep

I love Autumn! It’s like a cosy spring – woolly jumpers and hot chocolates, beautiful colours and transformations in nature and the sense of fresh starts and new beginnings. I have had a fantastic summer and feel like we have squeezed in every ounce of fun. But now Mollie is back at school and I am back to the books.

I essentially took the summer holidays off so I have a lot of review books piling up to be stroked and sniffed and cooed over. I also have the Rainbow Libraries to spruce up and set off for the new school year.

Before the summer I had four Rainbow Libraries up and running and one in the pipeline. Now I have four up and running, another three being set up and a further one under discussion! I am really excited about these new developments but it means I have to turn this:


Into shiny new libraries in the next two weeks. Gulp!
I have enlisted help and ordered more coffee!
Wish me luck – updates to follow!

Ps – I completed my summer challenge and moved out about forty books. If I ignore the fact that more than that came in through one way or another, it still counts… right???

Reading the Rainbow – my summer reading challenge

30 Jul

This week I’m taking Mollie to the library to sign up to the Summer Reading Challenge and then we’ll have a booky picnic in the park and read each other stories. And I’m really looking forward to it! Last summer Mollie and I had a very booky summer holiday and this one is heading in the same direction. I guess it’s no surprise that books manage to infiltrate every corner of our lives. And of our house. Which leads me nicely to my summer book challenge.

My house is overflowing with books. I know that won’t come as a shock to any of you. I have a lot of The Rainbow Library books here for a summer holidays patch up and reshuffle, a (large) heap of review books I haven’t caught up with, all of Mollie’s books and all of my books. And somehow I still manage to keep buying more! You can actually hear the house creaking and shifting under the weight of all this paper. This beautiful, dream-smelling, transporting paper. But something has got to give. It’s the books or the house. And if I didn’t have my house where would I put my books??

So my challenge this summer is to release a book a day.

As well as all the boxes of books for The Rainbow Library, I have my own Rainbow Library in my house. It is full of actual grown up books (yes… I do read grown up books too! A lot of them)

And I have my beautiful book nook on my landing.

And what’s left of my Christmas book tree and the three rows of children’s books by my bed. And… And… And…
And then Mollie’s Room. Which is basically a library disguised as a bedroom.

I’ve been following the #bookaday tweets and thinking about all the amazing books I have stashed away that I don’t really look at enough. It made me realise that my books are a little bit neglected. I have a lot of unread books that have been gathering dust and overtaken by newer books in my reading list. It’s time to get up close and personal with my books again.

So my challenge is two-fold; to explore my bookshelves and read some of the books that have been hidden at the back of the queue, and to reduce the volume by releasing a book every day. I’m going to read through my rainbow, starting at red and choosing one book from each colour in turn. I’m going to read some of the books that have been smiling down at me, patiently unread, for a very long time. And I’m going to be Ruthless. I will give up on books that don’t grab me. I will give books away. I will cull. (But I will do it nicely while stroking them and telling them they are going to live on a farm.)

The ultimate plan is to get to know my books again and to give them a bit of an overhaul, hopefully making a bit of space. I’m not deluded enough to think that there will be more outgoing books than incoming. But at least I’ll be easing the floorboards a little.

Follow the fun with #readingmyrainbow

I hope that this will lead to some book chats. I do love book chats! So I’m going to start it off by asking which of these red books I should read first. What’s your recommendation?


How Gove stole our books

1 Apr

For the past few months I have been quieter than normal, on the blog and on twitter. I have been fighting hard for education in my own little corner of the world. Now that things have come to a head I feel that it’s the right time to lift my head above the parapet and ask for help. Because I think it’s important to try and make a difference, to do what you can and to do so with honesty and integrity. I am trying to do so, but I need your support. So here it is- Michael Gove has stolen our local primary school’s books. He has essentially taken away our book budget. He is destroying our education system one policy, free school and academy at a time and I need more book donations to stop him from squashing the future of the children at our school.

My daughter’s school has been put into Special Measures and treated appallingly and unfairly by the Local Authority and the Department for Education. Now we are Fighting Back. I want to support the school as best I can and the best way I know is through books. I want to help them get out of Special Measures by supporting their reading improvement, and to instill an ongoing culture of reading. I would love to flood the school with new reading books and books with messages of encouragement for the children. I want to show Gove that he can steal our books but he can’t steal our enthusiasm or our children’s future.

Special Measures was not a surprise to us, we knew that we needed to improve. We were, and still are, improving quickly and effectively despite the relentless changes in education policy making teaching an uphill battle. The current climate is not an easy one to teach in and staff turnover is high. It is impossibly hard to achieve consistently outstanding teaching when the budgets are continuously slashed, the rules keep changing and the teachers are burning out. But here’s the thing… We are so nearly there! Our school has fantastic teachers and support staff that are driven and passionate and capable and caring. They are working so very hard and they are making a huge difference to the lives of the children in the school. They understood and accepted the Special Measures Ofsted outcome, took it on the chin and carried on. Because they are teachers and they care more about the children they teach than labels. But Gove wasn’t finished yet.

At this point the Local Authority usually steps in to support the school’s improvement. They also usually provide the school with a much needed budget to support the improvement plan. In our case they thought the best way to do this would be to get rid of the school governors and to bring in their own team to oversee the school, as well as a team of advisors to help raise standards, rather than giving us the improvement budget we so desperately need. They couldn’t give us any reason for this, other than that it was the decision they had made. The cynical among us may look at the fact that the LA were criticised by Ofsted for not supporting the school enough and think that they are attempting to save face by Doing Something, whether it is the right Something or not. Michael Rosen’s recent revelation that Gove is pushing hard for schools in Special Measures to be turned into academies so that he can sell the land to his rich business friends has also aroused suspicion. Whatever their reasons, the Local Authority didn’t listen to what the school wanted or needed. We have been fighting them for months and now Gove has approved their plans.

So now the Local Authority is financially overseeing the school. But there is no additional budget for improvement because the LA has run out of money. Gove has spent it all. In fact, we have to pay them for the privilege of this unwanted team of advisors and, despite our Special Measures status, they require us to build a new classroom and take an extra reception class in September. We are in Special Measures with more need, more children, and less money. How can that possibly be fair? We are outraged and disappointed and let down by the system. But we are also looking forward. This whole process has galvanised the school and the parents. We are determined to come out of Special Measures quickly, with our heads held high and our children happy and learning.

And this is where you come in. The school staff are working incredibly hard to ensure every child achieves their potential. The parents are supporting them by setting up a parents’ volunteer team to help children across the school with their reading. Reading is the basic tool that everything else follows from. It is The Most Important Thing. We will be the crack team of helpers who go in to read stories to the children and enthuse them with the joy of reading, we will run book groups and support the school library. And we will provide reading support to the kids that need it most. Yes it would be better if we could employ a trained teacher to do this but hey, Gove took all our money and gave it to his mates, so we’ll have to do it ourselves. And we will – for free and with passion and care.

So I am being cheeky and asking for more books. Thanks to Gove, we now don’t have any money for new books, but we desperately need them to support these children. I will be throwing review copies at the school and expanding the Rainbow Library into the new reception classroom to support them, but we need quality reading scheme books, and books and messages to inspire and encourage the children and give the staff a morale boost.

We’ve started replacing all our old Biff and Chip books with quality, diverse and fun reading scheme books, like the Usborne Reading Programme, the Franklin Watts books, the Orchard Colour Crunchies, the Collins Big Cat scheme and the new Oxford Reading Tree books. The children really respond to these books and their reading is already improving. We can see it working but we need more of these books, particularly to support the older children in the school. We have a lot of children from deprived areas and a lot of children who don’t get support with learning from home, for a whole host of reasons. But with the right resources we can catch these kids, inspire them and help them succeed. We will work together to lift the school out of Special Measures- and it will be despite the LA and DfE, not thanks to them.

Michael Gove is a despicable human being. I’m sure most readers of this blog are passionate about the same things as me – the power and importance of books, education and equality. But I get the feeling that Gove doesn’t hold the same opinion. Let’s show him that he can steal the state’s property and money, he can take books and teachers away from children, he can destroy the national curriculum and impose tests on 4 year olds, but he can’t win against integrity and passion and honesty and a group of people who believe in the power of books.

The Easter holidays start tomorrow. I’m going to spend a little less money on chocolate this Easter, and buy the school some books instead. When the school opens again in two weeks, I will be delivering a box of books to the Head of Literacy. I’m hoping that you guys can help me make it a really big box.

If you can help, please give me a shout at or on twitter @carmenhaselup . Or pop a book in the post to
Carmen Haselup
19 Headland Way
East Sussex
BN10 8TF

Perhaps you have some reading scheme books at home that your child has outgrown. Or you are an author/illustrator/publisher of reading scheme books and could donate some our way? We particularly need the upper band colours, white and lime (2a/3c texts) -then the easier free readers in level 3. But any band/level would be gratefully received.

A morale boost would be gratefully received too. A book signed by the author/illustrator with a message of support is a hugely powerful thing. Imagine the children’s faces when the HeadTeacher stands in front of them all in assembly and says ‘this author knows who you are and has heard that you are trying really hard. This writer believes in you and your reading skills. This illustrator says Keep up the Good Work. This book is a gift from them to say Keep Going.’ A book for their classroom or library that will remind them that they can do it and that there are people out there who want to support and give rather than squash and steal- what a powerful, encouraging message for a young person.

I know I ask a lot, but I’ll pay you back – by supporting the school in educating a generation of children that will care about books and education and integrity, and who will never make the same mistakes that Gove is forcing upon us. That’s worth giving up an Easter egg for, surely!

Huge thanks to Clara Vulliamy, Caryl Hart and Anne Booth who have already donated their books and time to the school. You are AMAZING!

IBGD 2014

14 Feb

Happy International Book Giving Day 2014! And what a stunner it has been!

Today I have delivered books to 4 yr old superheroes…

I’ve had a load of delicious book post for The Rainbow Library, come to terms with book death, and watched a very small boy climb onto a table so he could get in The Rainbow Library book box. He wanted a proper good rummage. And hurrah for him!

It’s been a good one! A great one! Thank you for all the books, tweets, shares, blog posts and Facebook messages. I really appreciate your support and I hope that together we have managed to get books into hands and hearts of children. What better way to celebrate love day?

I’m hanging up my Rainbow Cape and putting my Rainbow Book Fairy Rosette back in its rainbow box for the night. Thanks for making it a very happy, friendly, chatty, sharey kind of day!

Book Death!

14 Feb

Earlier this week I experienced my first book death at The Rainbow Library – I had to withdraw a book for the first time in the year it’s been running. The poor book was waaaay beyond sticky tape or book-surgery. It was gone.

I’m sure books have been damaged or lost before, but this was the first time that the remains had been so obviously put back into the library for me to find. I’d almost rather they hadn’t done so, that I’d been allowed to think of it off travelling somewhere, being loved in a child’s home, or living on a farm perhaps.

I’ll be honest, it’s taken me a couple of days to get over it. That may sound silly to some. An overreaction. But it was a really beautiful book and it was very new. It had only been borrowed once before and had a long life of entertaining children ahead of it. I think I was just disappointed. I had gone to so much effort to set up The Rainbow Library and stock it with really amazing books and it felt like it wasn’t being cared for. I was also frustrated and disappointed with the parents/carers.

But when I really thought about it I realised that this is the very nature of The Rainbow Library. I’m trying to get books into the hands of children who don’t have them at home. Whose parents or carers don’t share books with them. And if they don’t have them at home and haven’t been read to, then how will they have learnt how to look after books? How will they know to be careful with them? Isn’t it better that a child had the opportunity to play with the book and it got ruined, than not have had the chance to play with it at all? YES!

So am I going to stop putting beautiful pop-up books in the library because they have a higher chance of getting ruined? NO! Because these kids deserve the opportunity to experience them. And if the books end up in book heaven then so be it. I will do my best to recycle the remains into something special, I will sit with the children and model good book behaviour and I will buy them another copy. And another. And another. And another.

Because how else will they learn?

RIP Playbook Pirates. May the lessons you taught us make us stronger and wiser. And gentler!

Happy Birthday Rainbow Library!!

14 Feb

Woooo! One year old! The Rainbow Library was created a year ago today for International Book Giving Day 2013. And now there are 4 of them!!!

Thank you for all the support and encouragement – and books – along the way. It means a huge amount to me. And most importantly, to the children who use the Rainbow Libraries.

For IBGD this year, Rainbow Library 1 has had a bit of a makeover and lots of new books.

I’m also releasing a secret weapon over there. More about that in a mo’.

The second Rainbow Library is still receiving parcels from you lovely lot, so didn’t need any extra books from me. Thank you everyone! But I’m not leaving Rainbow Library 2 out. For their IBGD celebrations I have finally finished some story sacks which will be going straight to Gem’s library for her children to enjoy when they get back from half term.

Rainbow Library 3 – the community library – has had a stack of new books delivered and I’ll be taking a big folder of colouring and activity sheets down there for half term.

The biggest project has been creating library number 4


In action for just over a week now, it is being used every day and by more and more families. I think it’s going to be a real success.

Thank you to @cjfriess, @chaletfan, @Claravulliamy, @patrickgeorge, @hodderchildrens, and Helen and Thomas Docherty for their generous donations for International Book Giving Day today. They are hugely appreciated and will make lots of children very happy!

What’s next?
I’ve been plotting. I’ve been looking at the existing libraries and figuring out how to improve them.

What I’ve learnt
(This is the bit where I bang on about books. Again.)
Books make a difference.
A massive difference. Children’s lives can genuinely be changed by having access to books. The research is indisputable. Children who have access to books have a better chance in life. It’s that simple.
Children NEED books.

But putting books in a box in a space where children can access them isn’t enough. No matter how beautiful the books are, the kids who really NEED those books need help getting to them. For all sorts of reasons. Their parents or carers. Their confidence. Their interest. Their knowledge. Their ability. Their concentration. Whether they had breakfast or not. Whether they’ve ever held a book before or not.

A library needs a librarian.
Someone who can take the kids by the hand, crouch down at their level and show them the books. Someone who can talk to the parents, take away any fear or resentment. Someone who can encourage. Support. Smile. Laugh.

The Rainbow Library that is flourishing is the library that has Gem at the helm. I want to learn from what she does so well and so naturally and share it out to the other libraries. So for IBGD this year I have been recruiting. And that’s where Lauren comes in. She is one of the superstars at the nursery where the first Rainbow Library is based. I’ve been talking to her about the library and I’m hoping that she can be the bridge between the books and the children/parents. I’ll be working with her to make sure that all the children are accessing the books and that I’m providing the books that the children want and need. Because what is the point of books in a box? Books in the hands and hearts of children is much more important!

So Rainbow Library 1 has Lauren, Rainbow Library 2 has Gem and Rainbow Libraries 3 and 4 are stuck with me. At least until the summer when I will be handing over Rainbow Library 4 to one of the staff at the school. I think it’s important that the libraries become self sufficient. I will always help with new books and resources but I can’t be there at every library every week to make sure the children are getting the most from it. I have learnt that it is only part of my role to get a library up and running. The much more important part is to help the staff there to support children’s access to it.

With that in mind, I want to build a network of Rainbow Librarians who can share ideas and resources with each other. Initially that might just look like me taking Gem and Lauren out to the pub and chatting about books for an evening. But I’m hoping that it will build to an email group and Dropbox account where resources can be stored and shared, where book requests can be managed, questions asked and problems shared.

What you can do
Join in! Celebrate International Book Giving Day. Give a book. Simple as.

It’s half term next week. Go and get a book for a child you know to help keep them entertained during a week that will probably be made entirely of rain and wind.

Maybe you have a stash of books that your children have grown out of, or could spare a few pounds spent on books at a charity shop. I bet there is a school or nursery near you that would chew your arm off for those books. Ask them. Perhaps you could help them start their own Rainbow Library!

Of course, you could always send a book to The Rainbow Libraries. Just give me a shout and I’ll let you know how.

Give a book. It’ll make you smile.