Making a School Storybook

I’ve almost completed the latest of the STORIES4SCHOOLS’ books and here you can see some of the process of taking it from the original work by the children to becoming their final book.

Before the work gets to me, the children and teachers have been working for weeks, putting their stories and illustrations together. Each class sought inspiration in different ways with some visiting local museums and places of interest and others researching local history, legends and stories. For the youngest children in Reception, many are at the very early stages of writing independently and capturing their very imaginative ideas into collaborative stories has its own unique challenges.

For this book the older children in Year 6 have created a series of poems and in the final book this provides a nice visual expression of the development of skills and approaches across the different year groups from the beautifully expressive drawings in Reception to the technically sophisticated poems in Year 6.

Once complete, the written stories are sent to me by email and the illustrations arrive like this:

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Before that lot can be dealt with the stories need to be ‘copy-edited’. This means checking for initial spellings, typos and punctuation inconsistencies and making some changes to the stories. Changes are kept to a minimum with an emphasis on staying true to the original work. Typically they include things like altering descriptions that may not be understood by children living in different parts of the world.

Once copy-edited the stories are stripped of all formatting and then placed onto the pages of the book. It’s at this stage that I begin looking for where to place page breaks and deciding which stories lend themselves to double-page spreads.

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With the stories in place I can now see how much room is available for the illustrations. I then need to start working through that big pile of drawings. Each illustration is scanned or photographed and placed into a folder attached to the relevant story. Once scanned, the illustrations are then edited. This typically involves digitally cutting images and combining them in ways that will allow for the text to appear alongside the illustrations in the book. It can also involve manipulating characters so they appear in different positions throughout the stories and altering their facial expressions to suit the mood of the text they will sit with.

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The next part can be tricky as it involves ensuring the text is as clear as possible while showing as much of the illustrations as possible. To achieve this the colours and sizes of the drawings are tweaked so too are the text and titles.

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When this has been completed for every story, we have our first draft and this is sent to the school to check for errors and changes.

When all changes are complete and everyone is happy, the next stage is to create a book cover. This is usually inspired by the title of the book and for this book a selection of work by children in every year group was combined to make the final cover image.

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Again this has to be checked and approved. Once done, the book can then be sent to print. Copies are then provided to the school who by now are busy organising their next challenge – their book launch event.

Meanwhile copies of their book are sent to schools in different parts of the world. These are selected at random and include schools in developing nations along with those closer to home with the aim of encouraging schools to make new links by exchanging stories.

You can find more details and get involved at www.stories4schools.com

Thank you once again to Knightlow School for their brilliant work.

Draw Your Reader

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This is a popular activity that helps students to consider the needs and interests of children who may read the stories they create and is a great way to introduce the skill of empathising.

The activity involves students imagining a child in another country and then drawing and naming that child. Completed drawings can be used to make a class display and then referred to as stories are developed to help students focus their efforts on creating stories for an audience with a different culture and a different understanding of the English language.

It is worth discussing how many different cultures can live in the same area and that even in areas that are very close there may be differences in culture that are not fully understood between different people. Things that are particular to a certain culture or part of the world can be described as ‘alien concepts’ – they are things that children in a different place may not understand. An example of this would be that children in tropical countries may not understand what a radiator is. Alien concepts are good to include in stories but they need to be carefully described or explained. Describing a radiator would probably be boring therefore in this case it could be changed for ‘heater’ which is more likely to be widely understood.

  • What makes your area interesting or different to other parts of the country?
  • How would you describe the place you live to somebody that had never been there?

Colour Theory

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A great deal of effort is placed into selecting colour schemes in the belief that certain colours invoke particular reactions. Sometimes this is used to influence us, for example in marketing campaigns and sometimes we attach a particular brand with a certain colour or colour scheme (for example Macdonalds, Cadbury).

Colours are also subject to fashions and tastes change over time.

This sheet includes information about colour wheels and the emotions said to be attached to different colour choices.

Story Structure

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The Beginning—Middle—End structure has been used effectively for hundreds of years however there are many ways of structuring a story. This sheet includes some simple examples of how a story may be structured and can be easily adapted for students to consider their own structures with the aim of helping them consider how they want to tell their story.

You may also find the Emotional Journey resource useful.

Story Techniques

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Story Techniques are writers tricks used to manipulate the reader throughout a story, for example to ‘keep them guessing’ as a mystery unravels.

Different techniques are best suited to certain styles of story and writing and it’s important to give consideration to using them carefully and deliberately. A good way of planning which techniques to use is to first consider the structure of a story and the emotional journey that you wish a reader to have as they read a story.

What is The Story?

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This reference sheet prompts writers to reflect on their initial story ideas and first drafts to determine the key question of ‘what is their story?’

This can be particularly useful for collaborative stories that can easily become complicated and diluted between many different ideas. By using this approach writers can ensure they have a clear storyline and then develop their story acordingly.

Page Layout and Space

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You don’t need to worry about page layout as this is done at the design stage and it will almost certainly be different to what you imagine.

However it can be useful to consider the space available and the relationship between text and illustrations, particularly for deciding how many words to write and how many pictures to draw. In most cases the rule is:

  • Don’t be too wordy (every word should count and every sentence should ‘move the story on’)
  • It’s better to do more pictures than less

The balance between the text and the illustrations should include consideration to your target audience. Stories aimed at younger children usually have less words and more pictures.

Text-heavy books can have 200 words to a page. A rough guide is that a book of stories for 7-10 year olds might have a total word count of 3,500 words and 22 full or half-page illustrations. A book for younger children should have a word count of no more than 1,000 words and 32 full page illustrations.

Download this sheet to see an example of a book layout with pages aimed at different age groups. But remember – you don’t need to worry about this!