What the Grade R’s think of the first chapter.

Thanks very much to Taryn Pereria for test-driving our book with her class.

This is what she said…

Thank you so much for letting me have a sneak peak of your wonderful story. What a magical idea! 

My class is Grade R so their ages range from 5 to 7. Usually at this age, children enjoy short picture books with very little writing, so I was feeling a bit apprehensive about what their feedback would be, but I was pleasantly surprised. 

I told them that this was a special story written by one of my friends and that I wanted to them to tell me what they thought afterwards…they all felt very important! I also told them that there were no pictures yet but that they should use their imaginations to imagine the story. 

Story time lasts for about 25 minutes at this age, so I managed to get through the first chapter and then we chatted about it afterwards. They listened beautifully and were visibly enthralled by the characters. Their favourite parts were when Marigold grabs one of Bradley’s legs and yanks him back inside when he tries to escape, and also when they skip through the puddles and go home to enjoy a berry breakfast.

The story is so well written and lends itself to the reader being able to use a great variety of expression, which the children absolutely love. I honestly loved reading it to them because it was so easy to get totally involved and become each character. Well done Emma and Ginny, you’ve created something so special for our children! 

Taryn was also kind enough to give the following constructive criticism

  1. Use each chapter of the book to make a stand alone story picture book with big illustrations on each page (the series of stories could be called “Imaginaries”).
  2. Perhaps some of the more tricky vocabulary could be simplified for this age group (e.g. snit, glum, considering, pondered, alternate, fond, loathed, conned, myriad etc)
  3. A few of the more tricky expressions could also be simplified for this age group (e.g. “had a bash at cheering Bella Dew up” could simply be changed to “had tried their best to cheer Bella Dew up” and “you can’t order up life to please your own self” could be simplified to “you can’t always have everything exactly the way you like it” etc.).
  4. As an added bonus, to have a CD with the story being read by someone and with a few sounds effects and background music is always a HUGE attraction to parents and teachers who don’t always have the skill or energy to read stories with as much oomph. I know that our teachers at my school love a good audio book and so do the children.

It is lovely to have a few tricky words here and there, because the children will slowly be introduced to new vocabulary, but it can become a little distracting to have to stop the flow of the story too often to explain a word or phrase to them…the trick is to find a happy balance.

Before teaching Grade R, I spent 5 years as a Grade 3 teacher where the average age is 9. I feel that a chapter book with a few illustrations here and there would be perfect for this age group. I.e. keep the story as is with all the chapters in one book, and include a small black and white illustration on every few pages. The 9 year olds would also be more able to appreciate the humorous references like “inter web” and “sneakers” being quiet shoes etc.

As a side note, there is a gap in the market for good puppet shows for this age group (4-9). Pre Primary and Primary schools are always keen for a good quality puppet show. Our school tries to have at least 4 a year (usually on the last day of each term as a treat for the children…and teachers). But we so often struggle to find a good one and even if we do, they are most often fully booked. So… just an idea to use your wonderful story telling skills and creative doll making to fill a gap in the current market?  (This is a fabulous idea and we will certainly consider it.)

Originally my plan was to make each story a separate book with loads of pictures – but then it morphed into a proper book with chapters and we are actually aimed at slightly older than Grade R kids. Having said that, it’s great to see that they enjoyed the story and we might end up doing both.  We also definitely plan to do an audio book.

Again, thanks to Taryn for taking the time to read our book to her class.

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