Reluctant readers and creative creatures

posted in: Donna Wilson | 9

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.

creativecreaturesfrontcoverSo 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.



J (4) wanted to be just like her sister and also make a Mitten Kitten. She enjoyed being involved, but I have to admit I ended up doing most of the sewing at her request.
J (4) wanted to be just like her sister and also make a Mitten Kitten. She enjoyed being involved, but I have to admit I ended up doing most of the sewing at her request.


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.


9 Responses

  1. se7en

    Oh this book look fabulous… I have two boys that haven’t taken to reading like their older siblings did… they are getting there but it has been a slow journey!!! However they do love books and “How to Books” are very popular… short bits to read and something to do – a win/win!!! They consider themselves “beyond” easy readers, but they aren’t quite ready for chapter books: I wrote a post a while back on the kinds of books that I surround them with and that they love:
    se7en recently posted..Se7en’s Fabulous Friday Fun #158

  2. maggy, red ted art

    Very good point that instruction books are great for reluctant readers! Love the cats your girls made – I guess one way to make it easier for younger children would be to glue on, rather than sew, embellishments!!!

    We have our book review going up tomorrow… 🙂

    maggy, red ted art recently posted..Stone Craft Ideas!

  3. Zoe

    Hi Maggy,

    We did end up trying fabric glue, but the problem was the felt – it is so absorbent that the glue wasn’t very effective. Probably fine had we been gluing cotton on to cotton, but with the felt it just didn’t work. Maybe you know a good fabric glue brand that does work well with felt?
    Zoe recently posted..Reluctant readers and creative creatures

  4. Natasha

    This book looks great but I know what you mean about photos looking too professional. When I do photos for the instructions of even the cover photos of our kits I always either make them look as if they have been done by kids or photograph ones kids have done during testing.
    I’ve also found that there aren’t many short stories for readers as some kids find whole books a bit off putting. If you think back to Paddington and Winnie the Pooh each chapter is a short story in its own right.
    Re the fabric glue – gluing felt is the bane of my life, still trying to find something suitable that is not too toxic for kids. My only suggestion is using double sided sticky foam strip.

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