The Educational Publishing Awards are committed to rewarding excellence and innovation in the publishing industry at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. We have put together a series of interviews with the publishers, editors and authors involved in the creation and development of educational resources.
We caught up with Charles Hope from Wild Dog Books to talk about The Weird and Wonderful World of Books, a shortlisted entry for the Student Resource – English (Literacy, Literature, Language) award.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your shortlisted entry?
I’m the author of The Weird and Wonderful World of Words. I grew up on a farm outside the country town of Wagga Wagga and studied Arts and Screenwriting before delving headlong into the world of publishing educational non-fiction picture books. I’m currently living with my wife and infant daughter in Melbourne.
The Wild Dog motto is explaining the complex simply. From straightforward animal books to more difficult subjects like genetics or the human brain, our objective is to distill engaging information to its simplest essence.
This was somewhat challenging to implement with. As the English language is a potentially cavernous topic, our aim was to cover a broad range of topics that would appeal to variety of readers; especially those who may otherwise find English a dry and onerous subject.
We decided to further engage readers via puzzles and trivia questions, which immediately illustrated topics as they were being learnt. Examples of these include spoonerisms, mondegreens, oxymorons, kangaroo words and tongue-twisters.
Why do you think this resource will be appealing for students to engage with in their studies?
The Weird and Wonderful World of Words utilises a range of visual styles. Strongly composed photographs and illustrations are isolated on stark white backdrops, with these visual styles changing dramatically from page to page.
The disparate visuals are complimented by brief paragraphs of easy-to-read text, which in turn are broken up by enlarged, colourful fonts that further assist in capturing the students’ attention.
What challenges do you think teachers face and how can this resource solve these challenges?
An ongoing challenge that teachers face is being able to capture the attention of an entire classroom at the same time. Differing student abilities and interests make this a tricky problem to overcome.
The Weird and Wonderful World of Words aims to address this by stepping quickly and lightly from one topic to the next, all the while in a colourful, bright and visually engaging way. If a reader happens to baulk at a page of less-than-appealing subject matter, the clear and concise text allows them to move swiftly on to the next topic of interest.
Is there anyone you would like to acknowledge and thank for making this product the success it is?
We’d like to thank Lorna Hendry for her outstanding editorial work on this book. She was instrumental in tidying up the overall aesthetic of the book, which was no small feat given the multitude of visual elements being used. So to Lorna, a hearty thank you!
Good luck and all the best to the Wild Dog Books team!
The Educational Publishing Awards are held at The Pavilion, Arts Centre Melbourne on Wednesday, 20 September 2017.
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The Educational Publishing Awards are committed to rewarding excellence and innovation in the publishing industry at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. We have put together a series of interviews with the publishers, editors and individuals involved in the creation and development of educational resources.
We caught up with Lesley Englert (former ACARA board member and teacher) who has teamed up with Fireﬂy Education to create English Stars, a shortlisted entry for the Primary: Student Resource – English (Literacy, Literature, Language) award.
Why do you think English is such an important subject?
English is the foundation for all learning! We rely on literacy for nearly every aspect of life; it helps us develop our knowledge and potential; allows us to fully engage with our community and culture. Our ability to read, view, write, design, speak and listen means we can understand and communicate effectively in the world we live.
What challenges do you think teachers face when delivering a comprehensive English program?
Being a teacher is a lot harder than most people realise! I know ﬁrst-hand how much time it takes to put together a lesson. Teachers are expected to do so much more than just teaching: there’s also planning, ﬁnding quality resources, marking, and managing behaviour. Now, imagine this workload across ﬁve or more subjects! I wanted English Stars to include everything teachers need, so they can focus on what’s most important — their students.
What was your motivation for developing an English program?
The implementation of the Australian Curriculum for English was the subject of many discussions I had with Peter (Stannard) and Ann (Smales) – the Directors of Fireﬂy Education. All of us have been in the classroom and know the kind of pressures that teachers face.
We incorporate English learning into just about every subject, but until now there hasn’t been a comprehensive English program available to teachers.
We wanted to create a program that would be teacher-led… Something with all the lesson resources, planning and assessment tools that teachers could use to deliver an effective English program. After a lot of late nights and long phone calls, working through our shared vision, we decided the time was right to make it happen– and that’s how English Stars was born!
Why does your product deserve to win at this year’s EPAs? Is there anyone you would like to acknowledge and thank for making this product the success it is?
English Stars isn’t just the same old workbook exercises — we really wanted to make the most of all the new technology that has been making its way into classrooms. At the same time, we didn’t want to arbitrarily digitise everything, just for the sake of it. There are things that technology allows us to do that we could never do before. But sometimes, it’s better to have students writing things, or collaborating, or interacting with real, material objects.
So, we created a program that could have the best of both worlds. We use digital technology to save time on things like automatically marking activities, monitoring progress in real time, or capturing results and collating them in interesting and meaningful ways. That said, we haven’t thrown the baby out with the bathwater! There are still abundant opportunities for kids to engage in handwriting, and hone their listening and interaction skills. It’s all there!
I think the program’s innovation in seamlessly uniting curriculum and technology is a great representation of what the awards are all about. English Stars is certainly unique in the Australian education landscape.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention all of the talented people at Fireﬂy Education who helped create the amazing learning videos, and teaching slideshows and all of these clever interactive tools and activities that I believe are both delightful and useful.
Good luck and all the best Fireﬂy Education!
The Educational Publishing Awards are held on Thursday, 6 October at The Pavillion, Arts Centre Melbourne.