Creating Kids’ Books: A Collaborative Effort

 

BY HANNAH KESTLY

 

During the 2014 spring semester, 29 SNC students in Dr. Bonnie Johnson’s EDUC 373: The Writing Process Socio/Psycholinguistic Elements class collaborated with 12 SNC students in Professor Katherine Ries’s ART 130: Introduction to Design class to write and illustrate their own children’s books.

This project was the first which was “a collaboration across disciplines,” as it required education students to create and write their own children’s stories and then work with a design student to plan illustrations.

“Real-world endeavors often involve collaborative efforts. The education students know how to write age-appropriate narratives, and they have learned about organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency and language conventions,” said Dr. Johnson when asked how she first came up with the idea for the project.

Commenting on the collaboration aspect of the project as well, Professor Ries said, “I think collaborative work is more challenging than working independently. You may be paired to work with someone who thinks and operates very differently and part of the creative process becomes figuring out how to communicate with one another.”

“Visual perception research has shown that children remember pictures better than text, so if the visuals are intended to support reading comprehension, they must visually reiterate the text,” said Johnson.

Dr. Johnson and Professor Ries were both new faculty members to St. Norbert College this year. In contacting the art department to get them involved, Johnson said “I approached Professor Ries, and she graciously agreed to the project.”

The project took place over the course of the 2014 spring semester and it was up to the education and design students to communicate and work with one another to create their final books.

Because there were more education students than design students, the majority of Dr. Johnson’s class worked in groups of two or three to create their stories and then were paired with an individual designer.

In discussing the overall result of this children’s book project, Johnson said, “Any multidisciplinary project has its bumps. The arrangement of schedules has been challenging, and artist and author don’t always agree, but the completed projects are impressive.  I would do the project again–perhaps next semester in my Fine Arts for Children course.”

“It’s been a great teaching challenge and, I hope, a good challenge for the design students,” said Ries. “It helps when we start breaking down that finished product into more manageable steps like thumbnail sketches, refined illustrations, and sample spreads. We build the book in stages and it’s great to see them come together.”

“There are some incredible children’s books out there and I think some students went into the project with ambitions of a professional-level product but without having experienced the time it takes to produce that kind of creative work. One class for one semester isn’t enough time for most people to turn around that kind of product. Instead what we’re doing is producing excellent prototypes.” continued Ries.

Madison Rankin ’15 and Taylor Seliger ’15, two education students from Dr. Johnson’s class, provided their thoughts on the project.

“I liked this class because it allowed us to do creative work with another class, it was a new experience” said Rankin.

“My favorite part was the entire process and putting everything together as a whole. From creating the text to collaborating with our artist to create our illustrations, I’m really happy with the final project.” said Seliger.

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