100,000 copies off the shelves in six weeks

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The Independent Online
Susan Goodman and Sandy Hammer, two professional mothers in Oxford, had no idea what they were starting when they decided to produce their own books for Key Stage 2 children because they were so dissatisfied with what was available.

Susan is a science graduate with a passion for making her subject accessible. She has produced television programmes and taught in primary schools. Sandy is a designer, with three children under eight, who was persuaded to turn her talents to computer graphics. The result is Action Books, a home-learning series for 8- to 11-year-olds, produced on a home computer with all the colour and pizzazz that children are used to on television and video.

With the innocence of beginners, they decided that their books should be cheap and fun, and available in supermarkets rather than traditional bookshops. "We wanted to get to parents who would not go into a bookshop, and entice children into enjoyable learning," Susan says.

The formula was so successful that the first print run, all managed from Susan's home, where she set up an office in the sitting-room, sold 100,000 copies in six weeks.

As the series title indicates, the books are designed for active learning and are closely linked to the content of the national curriculum. There are lots of word games and quizzes, and facts likely to catch the attention of children in junior school.

The first four in the series offer a mixture of English and maths. The aim is to lure children into maths even if is the subject that they or their parents are most nervous about. The latest books in the series, out this month, concentrate on science.

"We were not professionals when we started, and we tried everything out on teachers, parents and children before we went ahead. We also went out marketing with our proofs, and found enormous interest in the mass market. Then we went to our bank manager," Susan says.

The aim now is to keep the prices low. "There is nothing wrong with parents helping children, but what they don't need is to grind through test papers or spend a lot of money. If it's going to be done at all it should be fun and make learning exciting," says Susann

Action Books are published by New Look Books, PO Box 864, Oxford OX3 9YD