Vanessa Jane Townsend is a New Zealand children’s book author. She was inspired to create Molly’s Bedtime Stories, based around her daughter’s everyday adventures as a toddler.
Written with preschool-aged children in mind, her beautiful series of picture books include vibrant illustrations and easy-to-read story lines, designed to encourage easy learning through repetition of words beginning with the same letter and sounds. Children will enjoy following Molly on her everyday life adventures by learning about the creatures or objects that she discovers and interacts with along the way.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
In an age where electronic devices are an easy distraction for children and parents, I wanted to be part of the community that supports good old-fashioned paperback books, where you can feel the pages turn, see the colourful characters close up, smell the newness of the book materials and speak each word with expression, to educate our young children in a fun and animated way.
Reading books to young children creates warm childhood memories. Benefits include reinforcing the basic sounds that form language as children listen to you read. Children develop better communication skills watching the interactions of characters in the stories that you read to them and gain special bonding time with family members, cuddling up to read their favourite books.
I first wanted to write and publish children’s picture books when I became a mum to my first-born child Molly. I find that inspiration and creative ideas come to me more easily when I am writing about something I love or someone I love. Molly’s Bedtime Stories was established with the idea of creating a beautiful series of pre-school aged children’s picture books based around Molly’s everyday life adventures when she was a toddler.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
I love the use of alliteration in writing, mainly because I feel the repetition of words beginning with the same letter and sounds is catchy and a great way to learn quickly, making the words more likely to stick in the reader’s mind. I drew up story boards combined with alliteration text for each book and initially approached a traditional book publisher. They suggested that I start by self-publishing, sell the books myself and form my own identity as an author first, then re-approach them down the track after that. So, I arranged to have my books professionally self-published and printed for distribution in New Zealand and Australia.
I then started my website Molly’s Bedtime Stories and proactively secured orders from bookstores and library/pre-school book buyers in New Zealand and Australia. I kept persevering despite the hard work of cold calling, telling myself, if it was easy everyone would be doing it. The book titles include: ‘What’s in Molly’s….Garden?’, ‘What’s in Molly’s….Bedroom?’, ‘What’s in Molly’s….Lunch Box?’, ‘What’s in Molly’s….Toy Box?’, ‘What’s in Molly’s….Suitcase?’.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
I received wonderful support from families, bookstores and book buyers with their orders and lots of positive feedback. I have donated a few hundred books to Starship Children’s Hospital, Ronald McDonald House and families in Fiji affected by Cyclone Winston in 2016. Through the pleasure of donating, I was truly grateful and proud that my books could play a small part in placing a smile on the faces of children who were currently experiencing tough and scary moments in their life.
I’m also very proud that my girls Molly (9) and Emma (7) naturally love reading their chapter books, whether it’s in the car on the way to school, weekends, or at bedtime. They get excited about buying the next chapter book in their favourite series. They were read lots of picture books when they were young and watch me reading my own novels all the time. It is just something they have naturally enjoyed doing without me having to encourage them and I guess that comes back to children learning by example.