A guest blog by Georgina Atwell
I launched Toppsta in 2014 when, as a mum to two young children, I realised I wanted to know which books children were REALLY enjoying. Which were the books that they couldn’t put down? Which were the series they couldn’t get enough of? Who were the authors and illustrators they wanted to meet? Launched from my kitchen table, with little more than a laptop and a love of books, Toppsta is now the UK’s leading children’s book review and recommendation website with over 40,000 reviews.
I think part of the reason for Toppsta’s popularity, is because it isn’t driven by one person’s opinion, it’s a democratic community where everyone’s voice is heard. And despite being a website where people pass judgement on books, there’s no judgement of each other. More specifically, there are no photos, no real names, no forums and no “Like” button because I felt we could all do with an online space where children are free to speak their mind, without worrying about the number of likes they do or don’t get. For me, Toppsta is a party where the readers are the VIP guests.
And that means that it doesn’t matter what you’re reading, as long as you’re reading. I did some analysis at the end of last year and looked at our most popular books and pages and it was fascinating (well, maybe just for me…)! Yes, there were some obvious results like Roald Dahl and David Walliams books but there was also Where’s Wally, Mr Men and the new World Book Day books. It’s also brilliant to see picture books being reviewed by children of all ages. I was so thrilled to review Mixed by Arree Chung as part of the Blog Tour for the FCBG 2019 Children’s Book Awards and I hope it encourages other children and parents to continue reading picture books well beyond the early years.
We’ve been a popular resource for families for a number of years but last year we launched the Toppsta Reading Record for schools – a 24 page reading diary with book recommendations, a book review template and tips for writing a review – which we provided to primary schools across the UK, free of charge. Schools struggle with a lack of funding and resources and I really wanted to provide something which was bright, fun and designed to inspire a love of reading but was also a genuinely useful resource. Initially, I wasn’t sure how popular the Reading Records would be, so I was nervous when I first mentioned it to our community of reviewers but within 12 hours, all 10,000 copies were snapped up. This year, we decided to run it again but increase the print run to 30,000 and deliver them after February half term, just in time for World Book Day celebrations, when we knew that schools would be focused on books, reading and sharing stories.
It’s been amazing watching these boxes go out to schools across the country and we have already had such lovely feedback. We’ll be creating new Reading Records for September so if you’re interested in getting some for your school, make sure you’re signed up to our newsletter, as we’ll be opening up submissions in early summer.
And finally, if you love reading children’s books, we’re always looking for new reviewers and would love to hear your book recommendations. Anyone can register with Toppsta, and once you’re signed up you can write reviews and win free books to review. You can also find us on Facebook and if you’re on Twitter, you can join our popular monthly Twitter #ToppstaBookClub discussions over on our @Toppsta channel.
So I hope I’ve convinced you to come and join the party. As mentioned, there are no real names, no photos and no forums, just genuine, word-of-mouth recommendations from real readers, just like you.
This is a guest blog from Georgina Atwell and the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG.