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Sue and Peter - Salt 'n' Pepper Books article
Sue and Peter Rogers 

Reading with children is great, but don’t let the fun stop once the last page is turned … find out about how these free books can inspire some creative activities to further learning

Children can learn so much from books: how to focus and share the enjoyment of a story; how stories start and finish; how a plot unravels and is resolved; they may even be introduced to languages that they might not hear in ordinary conversation.

In 2019, Early Years Consultant Sue Rogers and Freelance Graphic Designer Peter Rogers began writing and illustrating their own children’s books for teachers and parents.

There are now nine books to date. They’re all free and available to download online at salt-n-pepper.org and are designed to be used on interactive boards but can also be printed. Ruby goes to Nursery and Teddy goes to School are about transitioning to nursery and reception. George, Pim, Teddy’s Birthday (for Foundation Stage) and Teddy’s Birthday (for Year One) explain Covid-19 and emotions children may have been feeling around not being able to go to school and losing loved ones. The Great Fire of Tooley Street and The Story of the Mayflower are about real people and events in history, and fall under the theme ‘Understanding the World: Past and Present’. There’s even a book about Sue’s Nan growing up in Walworth in the 1920s!

How the books came about

“Writing all these books almost came about by accident,” Sue laughs. “I was in a meeting with the Education team and they were talking about plans to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower because of its links with Southwark. They had commissioned someone to write teaching materials for KS1 and KS2 but because of the complexity of the story, there were no plans of anything being created for the Foundation Stage – my response was, leave that with me!”

“After doing a lot of research I came up with some activities teachers could do around the Mayflower but I couldn’t find a book to signpost them to. I wanted a book that focused on the ship travelling from England so I thought, ‘I’ll have to write one.’”

Sue had no intentions of creating an illustrated book. She was just going to write a narrative that teachers could read to children. When her husband, Peter, offered to create some illustrations, The Story of the Mayflower became the first of many books to be born!

“Now all the books grow around Pete's illustrations,” says Sue. “I think I know what I want to say but then he creates pictures it changes, which is really nice. It works really well!”

Delving into the illustrations

A page from The Story of the Mayflower - Salt 'n' Pepper Books article
A page from The Story of The Mayflower

Speaking about his creative process for all the books, Peter explains that he wanted to keep the illustrations simple.

“For the historical books in particular, I want to simplify things as much as possible because they need to be accessible. The illustrations are really colourful so young children can relate to them but are also historically correct, which is important”, says Peter.

“I rather like the idea of the interaction between illustrations and photographs, and this is such a great way to bring history alive for children.”

Peter says his hope is that the illustrations tell a story of their own.

“As the illustrator, I think your job is to not simply repeat the text. You have the opportunity to say something else, so hopefully that's what the illustrations do: they expand on or tell another little story. Actually, within Ada and Alfred, our latest book, there are lots of little stories going on in the illustrations themselves as well as little animations. That's the fun of a PDF over a printed book,” Peter enthuses.

The newest addition to the library

Ada and Alfred, will be published this month to coincide with this year’s 100th anniversary of the Salters’ electoral breakthrough in Bermondsey where Ada became mayor – the first woman mayor in London – and Alfred MP in 1922. The couple devoted their lives to the environment, housing and public health. Wanting to celebrate this Southwark story, Southwark Council’s lead archivist, Dr Patricia Dark, reached out to Sue and Peter to ask if they would consider writing a book. The duo quickly got to work, finding out lots of interesting information as they put the book together (including the fact that Peter is related to Alfred himself!).

Ada and Alfred front cover - Salt 'n' Pepper Books article
The front cover of Ada and Alfred

How teachers can use the books

All the books for teachers have notes and suggestions to help bring the stories to life. Sue says children need to see and touch things in order for them to become interesting and memorable. The Great Fire of Tooley Street suggests role playing ‘emergency situations’, using phones to dial the emergency services, and visiting the local fire station. While The story of The Mayflower encourages teachers to give children the opportunity to handle real telescopes, compasses, maps and charts.

Both Peter and Sue are keen for more people to know about the books and to use them. 

“It doesn’t matter how, we just want people to use the books,” enthuses Sue.

“One school I visited had a lovely display of work children had done about the Mayflower. They had painted their own pictures based on Pete's illustrations, which was really lovely to see. I was also interviewed by 60 reception children at Dulwich Wood Primary School who had tremendous knowledge of the story and their questions showed that they completely understood the story of the Mayflower.”

“For me, these books are about helping teachers to think through for themselves, ‘What can I do for the children in my class using some of the ideas in these books, that will open up things to them that maybe they wouldn't be opened up to otherwise?’,” adds Sue. “We really want these books to be a starting point for children to learn about and explore the past.”

  • All books can be downloaded at salt-n-pepper.org. You can follow Sue and Peter on Instagram at @saltnpepperorg
  • Ada and Alfred will also be available to download at saltercentenary.org.uk very soon!