Photos from early 1990's

Beyond Words – Over 30 years of helping people communicate

Founded in 1989, the Books Beyond Words series of picture books grew out of research originating at St George's Hospital Medical School where Professor Sheila the Baroness Hollins worked as Professor of Psychiatry of Disability. She was looking for pictures to help people with learning disabilities to better understand their feelings and behaviour both before and after what were difficult events in their lives. Almost nothing was available. Children’s picture books were on offer, but they could not help people talk about or understand adult feelings and adult experiences.

Baroness Hollins had noticed how much pleasure her teenage son, who had a learning disability, got from silent movies and children's picture books. She  also found that by drawing pictures she could help him to understand and prepare for what was happening in his life and that this reduced his anxiety.  She decided that she would put picture books together and publish them herself, developing the story lines to illustrate good practice arising from her clinical research and practice. She worked with her son, illustrator Beth Webb, and psychiatrist Dr Lester Sireling on our first books, When Mum Died and When Dad Died. Published in 1989, both books are still going strong today.

Books Beyond Words is now an award-winning independent charitable publisher, with editorial content overseen by Baroness Hollins and an experienced publishing team, together with a wider team of authors, artists and readers who find pictures easier than words. Working with Baroness Hollins, each book is also co-authored by experts in the field. The number of titles continues to grow, with over 50 books having been or in the process of being published since 1989.

As well as picture books, Beyond Words also offers:

  • Regular workshops about how to use the books

  • Bespoke training for organisations on using the books

  • Help with setting up local book clubs and groups

  • An easy to use App available on both Android and IOS

  • eBooks and translations of our supporting text in several languages

Beyond Words is now based at City Lit College in London. We are proud of our roots as a 'spin out' social enterprise from St. George’s University of London and continue to maintain close links with both the St George's Hospital Charity and the University. 

Books Beyond Words gained official charity status in 2019 (Registered Number 1183942).