Back in April, I attended the London Book Fair. It was an amazing experience attending wearing two hats: blogger and aspiring writer. I spent most of my time in the Children’s Hub. I wanted to learn as much as I could about children’s publishing. While there I attended a seminar hosted by the Book Trust on ‘Meeting the challenges of publishing for children with additional needs’. The panellists were: Nicole Walker, Head of Early Years, Book Trust; Neil Burden, Managing Director, Child’s Play (International) Ltd; Alex Strick, Book Trust Consultant and Campaigner, Inclusive Minds. It was quite illuminating. The panel shared their experiences of bringing the book Off to the Park! to market. From initially establishing the idea gap for touch and feel books with a meaningful identifiable story suitable for 3+ age group, finding an appropriate illustrator, consulting with focus groups, factoring in safety testing, cost of production and so on. Child’s Play (International) Ltd sent me a reader’s copy of Off to the Park! for the purpose of this review. It was a hit with my children. I’m sure that any child who relishes being outdoors and exploring will thoroughly enjoy Off to the Park! it’s a journey with senses.
As a book lover and parent, I was moved by the story Off To The Park which is the first of its kinds to be inclusive of all children at the early years learning stage. It’s a collaboration between the Book Trust charity and Child’s Play (International) Ltd. I was curious to know how my children would respond to it.
Off to the Park! puts the child at the centre of the journey. It engages all the senses but crafted in such a way that a child with additional needs would enjoy it too. A visually impaired child would be stimulated buy the use of braille, different textures and movable pieces. The poetic rhyming speak may invite movement:
‘Don’t be late!
Can’t wait! Which shoes? You choose.
Tie Tight. Just right.
STAMP! STAMP! STAMP!’
Likewise a hearing impaired child could play with the laces of the shoes. Perhaps, the story would be told via signing. The action words could be tapped out for the child to feel the rhythm of ‘STAMP STAMP STAMP’.
I read Off to the Park! To Angelo and Valentina as I would any other book. However, on this occasion I read it to each child separately. Angelo aged 4, seemed have a delay in understanding what was going on, despite having illustrations. By page 4, he asked me “Are they at the park yet?” I suspect it was because he’s not used to books that rhymed in that way with limited pictures. He’s used to being bombarded with images that help him figure out what’s happening. He didn’t instantly recognise the yellow movable cut-out, as the park gate. He only worked out that the red soft squishy circular object on page 5 was a ball, after I asked him a few prompting questions such was “what would you play with at the park?” and “What would you kick about at the park?”
When I read the story to Valentina, whose age 2, I encouraged her to touch and feel all the pages. She has a much shorter attention span for books than Angelo did at her age. Images and objects fascinate her more than the story. In the case of Off to the Park! Being a girly girl the first thing that caught her attention was the sparkles along the yellow path. She also liked the stick. On our own walks she collects sticks for her magic wand. Seeing the illustration of the stick in the book and feeling its textured surface was special for her. However, I had to explain what the red soft squishy circular object was to her as well. When we arrived at the page with the slide she was attracted by the shiny surface. I encouraged her to feel the stairs. She used her fingers to walk up the stairs. Then, she said look mummy “whee!” and used her fingers to slide down.
Our Best Bits
Angelo’s best bits: the shoe laces, the bumpy surfaces and the scented page with ice cream
Valentina’s best bits: all the sparkly shiny illustrations, the stick and the scented page with the ice cream
My best bits: the traffic light. I learnt something new (I didn’t know about the cone that spins at the bottom of it!) the stick illustration, the use of rhyme and the scented page with the ice cream.
Title: Off to the Park
Illustrated by: Stephen Cheetham
Format: Board Book
Publisher: Child’s Play (International) Ltd
Dimensions: 8 x 8 x 0.7 inches
I absolutely adore Off to the Park! I would highly recommend it for all children ages 2+ It will draw them in. Older children can follow the rhythm and the rhyme on the excursion of the senses. Younger ones will be captivated by the textures and the actions words. Additional needs or not, this is a must have book for all children at the early years foundation stage. Rhyming is important at this stage, it aids language development, memory and stimulate creativity. Off to the Park! can be used in different ways to stimulate children based their specific need. It’s a board which make it quite durable. It can be purchased from the Child’s Play website or Amazon. You can follow Child’s Play via Facebook and Twitter.
Please note this is not a sponsored post. Although as stated above, I was given a copy of the book for the purpose of this review.