In a quest to satisfy young readers’ appetites for engaging, informative books, Random House Children’s Books has expanded its portfolio with an educational nonfiction imprint for ages three and up. Called Bright Matter Books, the new line will launch with nine titles, including reference books, study guides, workbooks and activity books. It was inspired by the pandemic-driven shift toward learning outside the classroom. “For parents and caregivers, there is a sense of being more aware and involved with their kids’ learning development,” said v-p and publisher Tom Russell, who will oversee the imprint. “We want to be at the forefront as a trusted source kids can turn to for both educational and enjoyable nonfiction.”

Russell points to the NPD Group’s 2020 market report that denotes 23% growth in nonfiction as the impetus for the new venture. Harnessing the company’s previous experience developing titles under the Princeton Review and Sylvan Learning, Bright Matter Books reflects a natural extension of RHCB’s existing educational content.

Lightbulb Moment

When considering possible names for the new imprint, Russell and his team zeroed in on choices that spoke to the excitement that comes from exploring one’s surroundings. “We were all talking about ‘dark matter’... and how mysterious and murky and kind of unknowable it is,” he recalled. “And then the opposite of that kind of just clicked in—this sense of openness and shedding light on the world around us. It felt like such a natural fit.”

According to Russell, Bright Matter’s editors will focus on titles that best fit their mission, paying close attention to marketplace trends and gathering input from readers, parents, educators, and librarians. While several titles previously published under the Random House for Young Readers imprint will now fall under Bright Matter Books, the imprint debuted earlier this month with the first two releases in a series of illustrated reference books, Totally Random Questions. Written by Melina Gerosa Bellows, the q&a-style series contains fun facts for ages eight to 12 to quiz their family and friends. Subsequent pairs will be rolled out in August (volumes 3 and 4), February 2023 (volumes 5 and 6), and August 2023 (volumes 7 and 8).

Another flagship collection for the imprint, due out in May, is the How to Survive Middle School series, which takes the study guide concept to new heights with subject-specific titles in math, science, U.S. history, world history, and English. “We worked with a variety of writers and teachers, as well as acclaimed illustrator-designer Tad Carpenter to create a package that has it all: informative and fun writing, beautiful art, and a solid curricular foundation,” Russell said, adding that equity and inclusivity consultants were on hand to validate the series’ authenticity.

Robust Rollouts

RHCB plans to publish 12–15 titles each year and keep watch on core readership demographics. “Our focus at the outset is definitely on the middle grade market, but certainly we will have a keen eye out for any projects that serve either the upper or lower tiers of our targeted age range,” Russell said. Parent and teacher advisory councils are in the works to help the team stay on top of trends and to ensure best practices.

Russell said he has adopted a go-with-the-flow mentality to help the Bright Matter Books brand flourish in the long term. “While there are fixed categories within which we want to acquire and grow, our plans are not rigid, and we will always strive to meet the market where it is, and wherever that leads,” he told PW. “Learning-focused publishing is an important category for RHCB, and I know we will be fully supported in our efforts to grow.”