Watch out, we're on a mission...
Hello world! My name's Kristen "Kitty" Harrison and I'm a publisher, author and education advocate. I'm committed to helping children reach their creative potential which is why I founded The Curved House, an indie publishing house that explores the intersections between books, art and education.
Every child has the capacity to learn, create and communicate, but some kids face big barriers that can limit their progress. As grown-ups, it's our responsibility to recognise those barriers and either remove them, or build bridges for children to overcome them themselves.
Much of my work is dedicated to breaking down barriers to learning, especially literacy learning, and I do this through the power of creativity. Together with a brilliant team of authors and illustrators, I've developed a series of picture books that have stories but no pictures, so kids illustrate their very own book. By giving children ownership over their books, and making them part of the creative process, their own ideas and ingenuity become the bridge to important literacy milestones.
Let's empower a thousand children
To have a real impact, these books need to reach the kids who need them most. That's where you come in. With your support, I aim to gift a thousand books to children in the UK and Ireland. These will be distributed in two ways:
- Working with the brilliant team at Children's Books Ireland, hardback copies of our latest series will be distributed to Irish Traveller communities, families in Direct Provision (Ireland's asylum-seeker accommodation) and children experiencing homelessness.
- Working directly with my existing school network across the UK, copies of the paperback school edition will be sent to schools in areas of socio-economic deprivation or with high numbers of pupils from low-income families.
About the Books
To support this project you can make a straight-up donation or your can choose to get one of our latest books from our Illustrate This Book series. When you get a copy, so does Children's Books Ireland*, who will distribute it to a child who needs it.
*If we reach more than 70% funding by 15th November I will send 350 books to Children's Books Ireland before the campaign closes, enabling them to send books to kids who need them before Christmas. Help me achieve this goal by backing the project early and telling all your friends!
Four awesome books in the series:
- My Prehistoric Pet - Written by Lucie Stevens and featuring illustrator Rupert Meats
- One Brave Astronaut - Written by Kitty Harrison and featuring illustrator Ben Hawkes
- Monster Small, Monster Big - Written by Keith Tilbury and featuring illustrator Stephanie Belbin
- The Unicorn Party - Written by Kitty Harrison and featuring illustrator Cristina Martín
Each book is packed with creative, personalised activities (and stickers!):
And contains tips and prompts from four brilliant illustrators:
Here's one of our books (The Unicorn Party) before a kid got hold of it...
And here it is after, completed by Betty, aged 6 (just)!
I'm sure you'll agree that the books are greatly improved by the creative work of budding young artists!
Books for Schools
You can also support this campaign by sponsoring a class or a school. They will receive the paperback school editions, first published in 2013 to make this concept accessible to educators with limited resource budgets. These books offer creative in-road to literacy that engages all pupils. We have run workshops with the books in schools, at festivals, in libraries and in museums and no matter the setting, one thing is always the same: we always see a huge burst of pride when children find out they will be the illustrators. That kind of ownership encourages them to connect deeply and meaningfully with the task of finishing their books.
Illustrator Ben Hawkes working with kids in schools and local libraries
Creative kids hard at work at Southbank's Imagine Festival
What are the barriers to literacy?
Many children struggle with reading and writing, for a range of reasons. There are visible barriers, such as a child or family not being able to afford books*. And there are also invisible barriers – like reading difficulties associated with dyslexia or ADHD, low self-esteem or low confidence around books. Sometimes a child may simply display a strong preference for hands-on, interactive or visual learning that can't be nurtured with traditional text-based reading schemes.
*A National Literacy Trust study from 2019 showed that over 380,000 children in the UK do not own a single book of their own. Contrast this against the research that shows owning books in the home directly correlates to better academic outcomes with benefits long into adulthood.
Creative Pathways to Literacy
Our books harness the power of drawing as a pathway to literacy. Drawing allows children to build confidence, develop their visual vocabulary, practise pen skills and strengthen visual literacy as they work toward reading and writing milestones. The Illustrate This Book series, and all of my education work at The Curved House, draws on a large body of research exploring the links between drawing and literacy and, more broadly, art and education. If you're interested in discovering more, some of the academics and research that have influenced me include:
- Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences.
- Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen's extensive work on multimodality.
- Professor Louise Archer's work on Science Capital which, though STEM-focussed, inspired me to think about how we can build "creative capital" and "communication capital" as foundations for learning.
- This overview of Visual Literacy by Frank Serafini is the best broad intro to VL I've seen.
- Wendy Halperin's research into drawing and literacy is fascinating as is the research by Myra Fernandez and colleagues looking at the influence of drawing on memory.
- The UK's Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) recently released an evaluation of their Power of Pictures programme revealing the use of pictures in literacy learning modules not only increased confidence and outcomes for pupils, but also for teachers.
- And over in the US, Toledo Museum of Art have a world-class, community-facing visual literacy education portfolio largely thanks to its former Director Brian Kennedy.
Whether you're a teacher, parent, carer, aunty, uncle, grandparent or just a lifelong learner yourself, I hope this little list inspires you as much as it did me!
How to support this campaign
Support this campaign by choosing a reward on the right-hand side of the page (or click the "Rewards" tab on a phone). You can choose anything from a donation, to getting and/or gifting a book, to becoming a patron. Please note that physical rewards can only be shipped to the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. If you are outside these regions and would like to support us you can still chip in a friendly fiver or donate a book/books to a child or school. Thank you for your support, wherever you are!
Our track record
The Curved House has an impressive track record when it comes to making and gifting awesome books! As part of our STEM education work we collaborated with author Lucy Hawking, the UK Space Agency, the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the Welsh Government to design, print and distribute over 120,000 free books to schools across the UK (in English and Welsh!). You can see these at discoverydiaries.org. The majority of these free books went to schools in areas of socio-economic deprivation or with high numbers of children from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Kristen Harrison and her colleagues have consistently delivered everything they promised and more – as the project proved more popular than expected they took on additional work in their commitment to extract as much educational value as possible.” Jeremy Curtis, Head of Education and Skills, UK Space Agency
We have direct links to schools in the UK and in Ireland we are supported by the utterly brilliant team at Children’s Books Ireland. They already run fantastic book gifting programmes and will ensure your donated books reach children who need them most.
- December 5: Crowdfunder Complete!
- December 12: Send shipping questionnaire to backers who will receive books.
- December 12: Print posters and postcards.
- December 17: Finalise distribution list for free book donations.
- January 5th: Collate posters and postcards with books. Send donated books to Children's Books Ireland and nominated schools
- January 10: Finalise distribution list for backers and ship books.
Note that there is currently a global shipping that is impacting delivery times worldwide. This has been factored in to delivery times however there is always the possibility of further shipping problems outside of my control. I will update all backers on estimated delivery times as we go.
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments. And thank you for your support!