Image of Eileen Finch and Chrissy standing side by side and holding up a copy of Up and Down written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, and a funding application Chrissy is about to send out.

30 Books to Give Away in Birmingham

Access2books, Children's Books, Picture Books

I have been granted funding from the Birmingham Bodenham Trust to distribute 30 books in Birmingham.

Picture of the front cover of Lost and Found written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. The picture shows a boy and a penguin on a small boat. The boy is wearing a striped top and hat, and holding a staff in his right hand and a suitcase in his left.

The funding is to benefit children who need accessible stories.

The books are beautiful popular children’s stories in dual format in 75 point print with Braille and improved illustrations.

Interior pages of A Squash and Squeeze. The page on the left hand has text which reads, "And flapped round the room knocking over the jug". In the footer is a Braille text of that sentence. On the opposite page is a picture of a white hen flying over the shelf and a spotted jug falling over the edge. In the footer of the text is Braille picture description of the picture.

An example of the interior pages of A Squash and a Squeeze written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. The pages illustrate the formatting: text appears on the left hand page and Braille in the footer; specially enhanced pictures are located on the right hand side with picture descriptions in Braille in the footer to make the books accessible to as many people as possible.

We work to distribute these books as far as possible to children and adults who need these formats to read or share with their disabled or non-disabled friends and families.

In return for some books, I need feedback on the benefits they bring to you or how we might improve them.

We would also ask you to show them to your local libraries and children’s settings as we want to influence mainstream provision so you can get more titles free of charge.

Image of a book cover showing a white cat sitting in a box. Only the head and the tail are visible. The box has the text my cat likes to hide in boxes written on its side. Underneath the the box is green rectangle which reads Eve Sutton and Lynley Dodd. There is another blue rectangle below it with the words Giant Print and Braille written in white.

If you live in Birmingham, and would like to have the books in your home library, and talk to me about the experience of their use, please email me at efinch@access2books.org.

Best wishes,

Eileen

Image of Eileen Finch and Chrissy standing side by side and holding up a copy of Up and Down written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, and a funding application Chrissy is about to send out.

How Stargardt’s turned grandmother into a book publisher

Access2books, Publishing, Stargardt's

Eileen Finch is a blind grandmother based in Leighton Buzzard. She was diagnosed with Stargardt’s at the age of 30.

A medium shot of Eileen Finch from Access 2 books chatting to Gwyneth Macormack the Director of the Positive Eye chatting at the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham

Eileen Finch team leader from Accesss2books sharing ideas with Gwyneth McCormack, the director of Positive Eye, at the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham.

Her central vision started disappearing along with her access to standard print but she still wanted to read to her grandchildren but there was nothing suitable on the market.

Eileen wanted to produce books of the same quality found in bookshops, the type of books children love.

Therefore, she set about starting Access2books and creating children’s books in a unique format.

They are in giant print [75 point] with Braille and specially adapted illustrations. All the books are individually handmade.

Interior pages of A Squash and Squeeze. The page on the left hand has text which reads,

An example of the interior pages of A Squash and a Squeeze written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. The pages illustrate the formatting: text appears on the left hand page and Braille in the footer; specially enhanced pictures are located on the right had side with picture descriptions in Braille embossed in the footer to make the books accessible to as many people as possible.

It took Eileen over a year to reach publishing status. During that time, she faced numerous challenges.

She painstakingly researched current provisions; obtained an IP Copyright License. She also had to obtain permission from the publishers of thirty of the most popular children’s books in the UK.

In addition, Eileen had to figure out her way to obtain ISBN numbers.

Apart from the legal technicalities of the publishing industry, she also had many other production challenges such as finding the right paper.

It was almost impossible binding books with a combination of Braille and print. She had to design and make her own binding equipment to ‘side-staple’ the spine.

She started off using a manual guillotine but it was heavy work and inaccurate. So, she changed to an electric one.

Her project stalled more than once because of mistakes and lack of funding.

Each time the project stalled, she got positive feedback about her work and prototype books.

She eventually launched the not-for-profit project ‘Access2books’. Her books are ordered by schools and community libraries, Special Educational Needs Settings, individual orders and charities.

Eileen is a graduate of the Lloyds sponsored programme at the London School for Social Entrepreneurs.

She has been invited to exhibit her work at the Lloyds’ Charity Event held in Loosely Park in Guildford, Surrey and other events such as the Imagine Children’s Festival in London.

Below are some photos taken at the Imagine Children’s Festival with Eileen and Lauren Childs, author and illustrator of the Charlie and Lola series of children’s books.

Image of Eileen Finch and Lauren Childs at the Imagine Festival. Eileen is showing Lauren a giant print and Braille version of Charlie and Lola. Lauren is flicking through the pages and gazing at the pages as if in a trance. Image of Eileen Finch and Lauren Childs at the Imagine Festival. They are holding a giant print and Braille version of Charlie and Lola between them. Lauren is staring at the page and running her finger over the Braille embossed in the footer of the  text page. Image of a closeup picture of Eileen Finch and Lauren Childs having a chat at the Imagine Children's Festival. They are holding a giant print and Braille version of Charlie and Lola between them.

She believes that ‘the social impact of getting the books widely available will benefit not only disabled children and adults, but could be educational for those who don’t yet understand accessible information and supportive of those professionals trying to make information available to more people.’

She aims ‘to increase the number of libraries stocking these books, make in-roads into education, expand into the retail industry and publish internationally.’

She has started making inroads into this arena by establishing partnerships and contacts like Paths to Literacy, WIPO and World Blind Union and many others.

Image of Sue Hendra at the Imagine Children's Festival. She is pictured holding up a copy of Norman the Silly Shell With the Silly Shell  in giant print and Braille.

Sue Hendra, author and illustrator of books like Supertato, pictured at the Imagine Children’s Festival earlier this year. She is holding up a copy of one of her books Norman the Slug With the Silly Shell which she saw for the first time in Giant Print and Braille.

Five Facts about Access2books

  1. In September 2014, Eileen celebrated 3 years as a publisher.
  2. Access2books has distributed over 5500 books in three years.
  3. Her vision is to publish 100 titles. She has published 68 books to date.
  4. These include The Gruffalo, Aliens Love Underpants, Giraffes Can’t Dance, Who’s in the Loo, A Squash and a Squeeze, Lost and Found, etc.
  5. She runs Access2books with her partner Mike O’Sullivan and a team of part timers and volunteers.

Watch out for an update about the developments that have occurred since Eileen started off on her journey as a publisher of the most popular children’s books in the UK.

Front cover of the accessible version of A Squash and a Squeeze which was written and illustrated by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and produced by Access2books in Giant Print and Braille. In the picture, the little old lady is wearing a blue dress which is covered by a white apron. She is surrounded by her hen, goat, pig and black and white cow.

Norfolk Libraries Takes on A Squash and a Squeeze for Record Breaking Readers Summer Challenge

A Squash and a Squeeze, Access2books, Axel Scheffler, Braille, Children's Books, children's laureate, Giant Print, Giant print and Braille, Guinness World Record Books, Guinness World Records, Julia Donaldson, Monkey Puzzle, Norfolk, Norfolk Libraries, Publishing, Record Breakers Summer Reading Challenge 2015, Record Breaking Readers Summer Challenge, Stick Man, The Gruffalo, The Highway Rat, The Reading Agency, The Smartest Giant in Town, The Snail and the Whale, UK, United Kingdom, Visual Impairment

Norfolk Libraries are conducting their summer challenge for the most readers at one time of the book A Squash and a Squeeze written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Norfolk Libraries picked this title because it fits in with their Summer Reading Challenge theme and it is a great story to read out aloud.

Their intention is to make A Squash and a Squeeze accessible to everybody and have it available in every format, including Access2books giant print [75 point], Braille and specially adapted pictures.

The Record Breakers is the theme initiated by The Reading Agency for their Summer 2015 challenge. They are challenging young readers to explore the records featured in the Guinness World Record Books.

The Reading Agency will be working with Guinness World Records on the 2015 Summer Reading Challenge.

A Squash and a Squeeze began life as a song on children’s television. Former children’s laureate, Donaldson admitted she was surprised when a publisher phoned and asked her if they could make the song into a book.
Front cover of the accessible version of A Squash and a Squeeze which was written and illustrated by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and produced by Access2books in Giant Print and Braille.
She had written it years before as a song but never imagined the words could exist without the tune but with pictures.
It was interesting for her to collaborate with Axel Scheffler who she had never met until after the book was published.
A Squash and a Squeeze centres on a little, old woman who is convinced that her home is too small for her and she wants something bigger.
She takes her complaint to a wise old man and enlists his help. He gives her some drastic advice to follow. She follows it to the tee but hardly solves her problem. In fact, it complicates matters further.
She keeps returning to the old man complaining that, “My house is a squash and a squeeze”.
Each time she returns, the old man recommends even more drastic action. His advice is both unhelpful and helpful.
It is unhelpful because it doesn’t provide her with the means to make her house bigger.
Interior pages of A Squash and Squeeze. The page on the left hand has text which reads,
However, it helps the woman finally realise the implications of the old man’s advice. She is then able to resolve her problem and realise the error of her ways.
Julia Donaldson admits in a video insert that A Squash and a Squeeze is probably the simplest of all the books she has ever written to act out.
The book is fairly easy and fun to read. It is suitable for both mainstream and Special Educational Needs [SEN] settings.
Publishing A Squash and a Squeeze in giant print and Braille makes this book accessible to an even wider audience who might not have been able to access it in normal print.
The large text and accessible pictures makes the book easier to read and share as a group or within one. This is one of the reasons why the Access2books format is so popular.
The recurring phrases, sentences and refrains combined with alliteration and other poetical devices create a musicality to the text of A Squash and a Squeeze. It is fun to read out aloud, or act, and makes it a memorable read.
The book and its characters will remain etched in your brains long after you have closed the pages of the book.
Julia Donaldson, an author and former children’s laureate, and illustrator Axel Scheffler have a close working relationship: it spans two decades. However, A Squash and a Squeeze was their first collaboration.
Their other works include The Gruffalo. Coincidentally, it is one of the first books we ever made into an accessible book with giant print, Braille and specially adapted pictures.
Picture of a front cover of The Gruffalo.  The Gruffalo is standing on the edge of a dust path, holding onto  a tree trunk as he  stares down at a small mouse standing on the gravel path.  Behind the Gruffalo are green fields and trees stretching into the distance.

An updated front cover of The Gruffalo. The pictures of this version were revamped to improve the picture quality and accessibility. Our Techniques and software have improved over time.

It was not the easiest of books to make at the time because of our inexperience.

However, we have recently reworked the book to improve the pictures because we have a lot more experience now, and we have a much better understanding of our software, plus we have honed our techniques.

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s other popular works include The Smartest Giant in Town, which we also made into an accessible book; Monkey Puzzle, Stick Man, The Highway Rat, The Snail and the Whale, etc.

Picture of the front cover of The Smartest Giant in Town  written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. In the picture, the rolled up hems and big, black shoes of the giant are just visible. A giraffe and mice are gathered at his feet and staring upwards, supposedly, to the face out of picture.

The front cover of the book The Smartest Giant in Town also written and illustrated by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

A Squash and a Squeeze is ready to order now if you want a copy. If you haven’t seen our books, you might want to see this one via the link to our website above. You can also have a look at the other titles such as The Gruffalo and The Smartest Giant in Town on our website.

If you are in Norfolk, check out Norfolk Libraries’ A Squash and a Squeeze initiative. If not, look on The Reading Agency’s website to see how you can take part in the Record Breakers Summer Reading Challenge 2015. Happy reading.