One of the most valuable things parents can do is read to their kids, but keeping a steady supply of quality books in the house is still a challenge. Today, a startup called The Little Book Club is launching to address that problem with a subscription-based service for kids’ books. The service, designed for busy parents who can’t stomach the idea of reading “Goodnight Moon” every night for the next five years, offers an age-appropriate selection of educational books shipped monthly, centered around different themes.
Targeted at parents with children under six years old, each package includes three books or two books and a related, educational activity, like a puzzle or workbook, for example. The cost is $24.95 per month and shipping is free. The books’ themes might be something like “colors” or “dinosaurs,” to give you an idea.
During its private friends and family beta test, the company had 50 users on the service, who each received a monthly selection from The Little Book Club’s over 200 books. The books aren’t chosen at random, but are picked based on the age of the child and the current theme. The selection includes books approved by the National Education Association, the American Library Association, those that have won the Caldecott Medal, those are popular best-sellers or new classics (like those on NYT’s best sellers list, for instance), and more.
The company was founded by Doug Ludlow, previously the CEO of Hipster, and now Aol Ventures’ first innovation partner (disclose: TechCrunch is owned by Aol), and his wife, Sara, an OBGYN. Their interest in creating The Little Book Club comes from their own experiences as parents to a four-year old girl and 15-month old boy, the founders tell me.
“What we enjoyed most as a family was sitting down and reading – doing story night,” says Ludlow. “We realized that’s something everyone likes to do, but it’s also something everyone has a problem with. Everyone wants to read their kids books, and expose their kids to literature, but it’s often hard to get a new supply of books coming in,” he explains.
As a parent myself, it’s easy to see the appeal in a set-it-and-forget type of service like this, but committing to spending hundreds of dollars per year for brand-new books is a challenge, especially when most of our book collection comes from gifts, hand-me-downs, and local second-hand stores like Goodwill. Plus, our school likes to send home those Scholastic flyers which has the benefit of giving back to the classroom with each purchase.
But Sara says that even Scholastic is often too time-consuming for parents. “You actually have to fill out that order form,” she notes. “The nice thing about The Little Book Club is it just shows up at your house. You don’t have to worry about turning stuff in or writing a check. There’s a convenience there.”
Besides, The Little Book Club makes a great gift (hint, hint grandparents). In fact, the founders tell me that a quarter of their beta testers are sending the books as gifts to someone else. (My own beta test went well, for what it’s worth).
The Little Book Club has another interesting aspect worth mentioning, too – it offers to handle book donations for those your kids have outgrown. You can contact the company and it will send you an envelope which you can use to donate your used books to foster children. It will also send you a tax-deductible receipt for those donations. You can’t beat that.
The Little Book Club is live now, and sign up is here.