Being big believers in books being for everyone, we’re big fans of Jessica Kingsley Publishers (JKP). Driven by a desire to publish books that “inspire readers to change society for the better”, they’ve been devoted to diversity and publishing life-changing books since 1987, with a notable dedication to neurodiversity publishing, and dyslexia-friendly books.

In the light of hearing about lots of brilliant JKP books publishing through 2024, now seemed the perfect time to find out more about them — their ethos, their books, their innovations, their achievements. Read on to be informed and inspired, and to discover some rather special books.

Describe Jessica Kingsley Publishers in three words.
Diverse, empowering, mission-driven

Can you tell us how — and why — Jessica Kingsley Publishers was founded? What’s your backstory?
JKP was founded by Jessica Kingsley in 1987 with a mission to publish ‘books that make a difference’. JKP quickly established itself as the recognised leader in autism, publishing seminal books for parents and professionals. Promoting diversity has been a cornerstone of our publishing ever since, on topics such as gender diversity, neurodiversity, social care, mental health, and arts therapies.

Our children’s publishing follows the same pattern as our adult publishing. We’ve been creating books for children and teens for over 20 years on parallel topics to our adult publishing. Over time, we branched out from exclusively professional titles to publishing authors with lived experience of the topics we cover. Our books are created for and written by members of our community because they are the experts.  

And what’s your overarching editorial ethos? How do you decide what to publish?
We want younger readers to be able to see themselves and their unique experiences reflected in the stories that they read. We publish books that explain complex or sensitive issues, like neurodiversity, gender, bereavement, emotions, and depression, while making them accessible for young readers. Alex, one of our commissioning editors, said we publish books that explain difficult concepts to both children and the adults reading to them – books that spread knowledge and understanding. This is our ethos in a nutshell!

We are committed to diversity across our kids’ books. They are illustrated with a range of clearly diverse characters as a matter of course. We believe that establishing positive narratives about difference from an early age can help shape confident and fulfilling lives.

What are you most proud of? Please could you share some notable JKP milestones and achievements?
What we love the most is feedback from our readers that a book has helped a child or young person see themselves within a story or has helped start conversations between children and adults about sensitive or important issues. That’s not to say we don’t also really like plaudits and industry recognition as well! Recent highlights include the selection of 8 JKP books for the ‘Reading Well for Teens’ collection. An expert panel selected books from across the industry that help teens better understand feelings and boost their confidence. These books are made available at libraries up and down the country. JKP books represented a quarter of all the books selected, and we had similar representation on the previous ‘Reading Well for Children’ collection.

Another highlight has been seeing brilliant new books on the gender list for children and teens, including The Every Body Book, one of the first LGBTQ+ inclusive books on the topic of sex, gender, bodies and families, for children 8-12. Other individual books on that list include Me and My Dysphoria Monster, a beautifully illustrated picture book, that was longlisted for the Diversity Awards and came second in the people’s choice award and The Autistic Guide to Adventure, longlisted for the Amazing Book Awards

A stand-out feature of some JKP books is the dyslexia-friendly badge that appears on back covers. Could you explain how this came about, and what the badge signifies in terms of how the books are written, produced and presented?
Amy Lankester-Owen, editorial director at JKP, developed guidelines on dyslexia friendly publishing in association with Hachette UK’s Accessibility network and in consultation with the British Dyslexia Association.

The guidelines were developed as research mounts on the emotional toll dyslexic children often have to bear. Their experience in school is often difficult with a world not set up for their needs. We have created industry-first guidelines that lay out changes we can make in children’s publishing to create books that can be enjoyed by dyslexic readers. The sorts of things we change are – sans serif fonts; cream paper; short and  to the point sentences; no italics.

We now add a ‘badge’ to the back of our kids’ books indicating when the contents are accessible and dyslexia friendly, stating ‘dyslexia friendly text and layout inside’. We are proud of being a trailblazer in this area and our intention is for all our kids’ and teens’ books to be dyslexia friendly in due course.

We’d also love to know more about your neurodiversity publishing. Could you share highlights from this area of your children’s and YA lists?
Kathy Hoopman’s wonderful series of picture books, All Cats are on the Autism Spectrum, All Dogs have ADHD, All Birds have Anxiety and All About Dyspraxia are brilliant visual distillations of neurodiversity and anxiety. She uses amazing animal photographs to demystify diagnoses, communicate nuances, and at the same time captures the individuality of people. They are touching, humorous, insightful, and instantly recognisable if you know someone with neurodiverse traits.

ADHD is our Superpower is a totally brilliant book that shows kids with ADHD how to view ADHD through a positive lens. It celebrates ADHDers for their many strengths and talents, while giving kids a way to recognise those same strengths within themselves. It’s clear eyed about the challenges of ADHD and shares tips for child readers to help themselves and shows ways in which adults and parents can help them too.

Give us an elevator pitch for some of your upcoming book for kids and young adults.
Dr. Dawn's Mini Books About Mighty Fears series by Dawn Huebner, designed to help children ages 6-10 tackle their fears and live happier lives, receives its latest entry, Facing Mighty Fears About Being Apart From Parents. It’s another great book in a series that helps kids from all walks of life be more independent and better manage apprehension and fear.

The ADHD Teen’s Toolkit publishes this year. It’s a survival guide for teenagers and young people with ADHD covering everything they might want to know about ADHD. It’s got a really cool visual/graphic style, it’s written in an ADHD and dyslexia friendly format, and the advice comes directly from real-life teen ADHDers who have collaborated with the author to share their experiences, struggles and top tips.

We are developing a personalised book for autistic children that will allow autistic kids to see themselves and their experiences on the page. The story takes a look at what it means to be autistic and explores personal and unique strength and weaknesses.

Who would you invite to your dream literary party?
Jane Austen, Philip Pullman, Zadie Smith, William Gibson, Garth Marenghi.

Tell us a secret about books…Read the last line first. Real ones know this is the only way to start a book.

Find out more and stay in touch:

Visit our dedicated JKP Kids page

@JKPBooks on X

jessicakingsleypublishers on Facebook

JKPbooks on Instagram

@jkpbooks on TikTok

To get an exclusive 20% discount for Jessica Kingsley Publishers books, please use the discount code: LOV20 when you purchase any book on the JKP website.