When selecting our books, we have 2 key aims. The first is to bring you the best in inclusive children's literature: books in which every child can find themselves and books which introduce children to new worlds. Secondly, we are passionate about resisting commercial trends. Instead, we want to offer children real choices in what they read and something quite different from what is available in the big chains and in high street bookstores.
All of this requires a great deal of research and meticulous selection. It is perhaps this more than anything which has created the Letterbox Library name. Our selection procedure is famous and we are often told by publishers/authors/illustrators that the inclusion of their book in our catalogue/website is acknowledged as a stamp of approval.
This is how we go about it:
Stage 1: Book Sourcing
Through constant research and attendance at publisher book fairs, we source potential titles from a vast range of UK and overseas publishers (eg: USA, Canada, India, Australia). This includes some of the big children's publishing houses but we are also strongly committed to sourcing from independent and charity sector publishers.
Stage 2: Initial Selection
Based on our sourcing, foraging and sorting, we request publisher samples. At this stage, our staff reject something like 60%-70% of samples. The remaining books then go on to...
Stage 3: Our Volunteer Review Team
We usually have a steady team of 25 volunteer readers who review our samples by post. Currently these include primary teachers, librarians, early years staff, social workers, childminders, parents, young people and, of course children themselves- including an entire classroom of children! For a book to be 'approved' for sale by letterbox Library, it needs to have at least 3 positive reviews. All of our readers are issued with clear guidelines. Meeting equality and diversity criteria is not enough for a positive review. Approved books must also demonstrate excellence in storyline, artwork and have genuine child-appeal. At this stage, at least a further 50% of books are rejected.
In addition to our long-distance volunteers, we also have a small volunteer advisory team who meet every 2-3 months at our office.
Stage 3: Choosing for our Catalogue/Website
All of the books approved by volunteers are neatly organized on our huge approved bookshelves so that when it is time to choose new titles for our catalogue/website, we have the genuine joy of picking out the very best of the best...and bringing these to your door!
PS: what happens to all of those 'rejected' books/samples? All of our rejects are donated to a select number of charities, such as Book Aid.