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Current trends in SEN publishing and how print is faring in the digital age

Over the last ten years of writing book reviews for SEN Magazine, I have been fortunate to come into contact with some excellent companies and organisations who are passionate about producing top quality publications for schools, parents and clinics. In addition, the larger publishing houses offer many academic texts that specialise in more rarefied information that is of value when studying or working within a research field.

The world of SEN publishing is vast, spanning international borders and reflecting many different approaches to subjects from autism and play therapy to self-esteem and dyslexia. Each country interprets its attitudes to SEN through legal, cultural and institutional lenses and one of my roles is to ensure the books I review are relevant to the Magazine’s readers, who are predominantly UK based. For example, the US produces many books that contain elements that are applicable in the UK, but some readers may find the contextual information irrelevant.

When selecting books for SEN Magazine, I keep in mind the broad spectrum of readers, that includes school leaders, teachers, clinicians and parents. The world of publishing remains a vibrant and dynamic place despite the proliferation of digital technology; although some books are available in digital format, many people, including myself, like to have books in our hands. For me at least, this is partly because I like to mark up interesting points in the text that I can refer back to later.

Best of both worlds

Currently, there seems to be a trend towards books that provide structured programmes for the reader to implement, with links to further resources on-line. This offers the best of both worlds, as the physical book can be shorter, with more illustrations, for example, and appeal to both those who favour print and those who like digital formats. Another advantage of this approach is that the digital information can be updated, so the book is less likely to lose relevance over time.

I have also noted a trend towards engaging the reader in reflective activities: a more interactive approach that links the development of knowledge to current practice. Many of the best books I come across are written by authors who have strong practical and professional profiles, combined with the ability to write in a format that is inspiring and accessible. They write with the reader in mind and avoid obscure vocabulary.

Unfortunately, some of the most interesting books are also expensive, particularly the academic texts, and prices can reach over £100, making them inaccessible to most individuals. When selecting books, I aim to bear budgets in mind and select publications that represent good value. As a result, I often ask these questions: would this book be a useful addition to a setting’s CPD library? Will it date quickly or is the content too context specific?

I am also conscious of selecting books that I judge to be appropriate in terms of the quality of the writing, content and background research/practice. I therefore prefer to avoid controversial therapies or interventions, as a short review cannot provide a balanced analysis of this type of publication.

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to read a wide range of books from around the world and to share them with the readers of SEN Magazine. I am confident that the field of SEN publishing will continue to thrive.

Further information

In addition to being SEN Magazine’s book reviewer, Mary Mountstephen is a former headteacher and SENCO, now working internationally in the field of specific learning differences as a trainer, consultant and conference presenter. She is the founder of KidsCanSucceed:
www.kidscansucceed.com

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