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BfK’s Brilliant Children’s Bookshops

The Barefoot Books Studio, Oxford

A grass-roots business with a global reach, Barefoot Books has at its heart a flagship bookshop in Summertown, North Oxford. ‘This is where the stories that we publish come to life’ says Barefoot Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief Tessa Strickland as she introduces Books for Keeps readers to the Barefoot Books Studio.


he Oxford studio opened its doors to the world in October 2011. This space has since blossomed into a community hub for families in Oxford and beyond. We are open seven days a week, offering a variety of different ways into the world of

Barefoot stories. The books we sell are the books we publish. These range from board books for the littlest readers up to sophisticated ‘Indie Readers’ and gift books for older children. Of course, we love them all, but our stars are The Barefoot Books World Atlas, by Nick Crane and David Dean; The Gift, by Carol Ann Duffy and Rob Ryan, and pretty much all of our Singalong Songs, but especially Port Side Pirates and The Animal Boogie. To complement our books, we buy in carefully chosen toys from selected partners, including Folkmanis Puppets from California; organic cotton toys made by women’s co-operatives in Sri Lanka from the aptly named Barefoot Sri Lanka; and fantastic quality Djeco Toys from France. All of these are selected for the way in which they expand on the themes in the books – pirates, animals, transport and many more.

‘Nestled within the Barefoot Books studio is The Storytellers’ Café, which won Junior Magazine’s Best Family Restaurant Award in 2012. The cafe is open for breakfast, lunch and tea, serving dishes such as ‘Goldilocks’ Porridge’, ‘Mama Panya’s Pancakes’ and ‘Herb, The Vegetarian Dragon’s Chilli con Carne’. It’s a relaxed and welcoming space where children are free to roam around and play with sample books and toys while parents sip the delicious teas and coffees that are on offer.

‘Adjacent to the café is the Storytelling Corner, where we run free storytelling sessions at 11.00am and 4.00pm every day. These are always packed with an engaged audience and many customers have become regulars and friends. We offer Busy Reader loyalty cards that allow children to collect stamps each time they attend a storytelling session and redeem a free book once they have attended 10 sessions. Some of our small customers have become so familiar with the routine that our staff often receive requests for favourite stories – usually our singalongs (these can command the attention of the whole store with the interaction that they require!). The Bear series is always popular too, along with The Gigantic Turnip, which has great scope for interaction! Upstairs there is

a large and airy events space, where birthday parties, pilates sessions, puppetry shows and much, much more add to the warm and welcoming atmosphere. ‘These events carry an entry fee which is supported by an alluring 20% discount voucher on everything in the shop and café.

‘The Barefoot Books studio has also become a base for community outreach – schools, charities and local businesses are able to use the shop, café and studio space to host fundraising events to raise money for causes dear to their hearts. The studio often has visits from schools and playgroups, both for storytelling sessions and arts and crafts activities. And there are other community-based groups that use the studio too: the Spanish Singalong choir, Baby Signing and MAD Academy (drama for children) to name just a few. Often, members of staff go out to local schools and nurseries – the events and crafts that are trialed within the studio are easily transferable for use in other contexts, supplementing the educational value found in our books with activities that teach and inform in a fun, interactive way. This outreach has also allowed us to build up stable relationships with local schools who trial projects that are under development – both engaging the children of the core customer base in a meaningful and fun activity and also ensuring that new books are of the very best quality and suitability for the audience intended.

‘A publishing house with many talented contributors, Barefoot Books prides itself on working with some of the most interesting artists, storytellers, writers and poets in the country – something which comes in very handy for events at the studio. Many popular events have been

hosted here – with talent such as geographer Nick Crane (The Barefoot Books World Atlas), performance poet Matt Harvey and illustrator Miriam Latimer (Shopping with Dad) and storytellers supreme Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden (The Adventures of Achilles; The Adventures of Odysseus and more). This has allowed the eager young customers of Barefoot Books to meet authors and illustrators who inspire them and offer a fantastic insight into the world of story.

‘This vibrant, colourful and lively YouTube link from the opening night of the Barefoot Books studio in Summertown, Oxford shows just a snippet of the fun and games to be had – do stop by!’n

Barefoot Books, 294 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 7ED

Books for Keeps No.199 March 2013 11

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