When asked for advice on getting reluctant readers eager to stick with a book, I often suggest trying an “instruction book”, whether that be a cookery book, an activity guide, a craft book or indeed a genuine instruction manual. Instruction books have a inbuilt purpose; sometimes reluctant readers are just that because they can’t see the point in sitting down with a book, but instruction books make clear the reason for reading: you’ll end up with a cake, or a car that works, a game you can play or a trick you can wow people with.
Instruction books also often have sentences and chapters/sections which are shorter and broken up by more images than in than novels, where length and small type can be off-putting. Instruction books can be often be dipped in and out of, and encourage readers to make choices: Shall I find out how to make this toy or that one? Shall I learn how these parts fit together or why it works like that? And if kids can make choices themselves about what they read, they’re more likely to enjoy what they read.
So this half term (many UK schools are on holiday this week) why not encourage some reading for pleasure by sharing an instruction book of one sort of another. We’ve started our week with Donna Wilson‘s Creative Creatures.
This craft book contains over 15 different project to make, from sock monsters to mitten kittens, from key rings to phone cosies. What makes this project book different from many others is that the author, Designer of the Year at the British Design Awards in 2010, has interwoven stories about a series of characters in between the crafts. Your child can read about Charlie Monkey’s food party, and then make his banana bunting. You can read together about the day Big Ted and Wilbur decided to make a machine to tidy up after themselves, and then create your own robot to do that same job for you.
M was very excited when I gave her Donna Wilson‘s Creative Creatures. It’s a beautifully designed, glossy book and the characters are both cute and quirky. Very quickly she settled on making Mitten Kitten out of an odd glove. Unfortunately her eagerness soon turned into frustration with the practicalities. M is 8 and found the sewing and embroidery rather hard to complete to her satisfaction; of course I thought what she made was great, but she was very disappointed it didn’t look as neat and professional as the photograph.
Whilst a few projects in this book are suitable for younger children I’d say that most of the crafts are either for heavily involved parents or for kids older than M. Whilst I remain to be convinced of the use of photographs in children’s craft books, where stylists and designers can make everything look perfect, I really like the idea of a book which explicitly extends the crafting and making into storytelling, which is exactly what Donna Wilson‘s Creative Creatures does.
Disclosure: I received our copy of Donna Wilson‘s Creative Creatures for free from the publisher and today’s post is the first stop in a week long blog tour. I do hope you’ll be able to stop by the other blogs taking part this week.