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Get into Primary English publishing

Many publishers start their journey with a love of reading, but few end up working on books that might be the very first book that a child reads for themselves. Editorial Manager Liz explains her love of Primary English publishing and shares what she’s learnt in ten years in the industry.

Liz is Editorial Manager at Oriel Square. She leads a number of complex print and digital projects, mostly in Primary English and Maths.

Where did your journey in publishing begin?

Similar to a lot of people who start out, my interest in publishing came from my love for reading. Luckily by the time I actually got into it and realised it wasn’t just all about reading every day, I still liked it! 

When you’re working on those stories editorially, you have to take it letter by letter, so it needs a lot of precision.

My very first job in publishing, working on academic journals, was a very long way from my love of reading. But through academic journals, I learnt about sociolinguistics, a subject I had no idea existed as a field of study until I started working on it! I was still able to indulge that geeky side when I got into primary reading because the science learning to read is really interesting while also being controversial.

What are the best things about working in primary English?

A love of reading has close ties to primary English publishing. Here are four things that I particularly love about working in Primary English:

Just because it’s a school book, it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t look great or be interesting and enjoyable to read.

  1. Being someone’s first book – It’s a huge privilege being able to work on a book that might be the very first book that a child reads for themselves. Just because it’s a school book, it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t look great or be interesting and enjoyable to read.
  2. The challenge of decodable readers – When you’re working on phonics there are incremental steps to add the sounds that children can read. You start off having to work out how to write a story with just four-letter sounds! When you’re working on those stories editorially, you have to take it letter by letter, so it needs a lot of precision.
  3. Making something beautiful – Other aspects of working on early readers can be incredibly creative. I always loved getting to work with creative designers and illustrators to come up with a book concept that’s going to look great.
  4. Repeat readers – The most rewarding thing is to have somebody who is reading a book that you worked on, enjoy it and want to read it again and again. That kind of feedback is amazing. 

Top tips for getting into Primary Literacy

  • Consider your audience: Thinking about those struggling readers and the kids who don’t enjoy reading will really make a difference. Talk to real learners and think about your own experiences to avoid defaulting to stereotypes.
  • Volunteering: I’d really recommend that anyone getting into primary literacy do some volunteering in primary schools where possible. It can be quite eye-opening to see how kids can struggle and where the books we produce can help.

Fun fact: I got my first library card when I was two years old when I was growing up the library was just across the road from my house and it was the first place I was ever allowed to go by myself, so to me, libraries represent freedom. One of the first things I always do now, whenever I move, is register for the library. Not enough people use libraries anymore but I still do and I take my kids there.

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