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Skipping around the interwebs, I stumbled upon a magical discovery. Kate DePalma, Senior Editor at Barefoot Books, tweeted about their new Build-A-Story-Cards, and I gasped at the adorableness.

Always on the lookout for tools to create better stories, I immediately seized the opportunity to investigate.

I’m a fan of Rory’s Story Cubes and Storybird, as both improve literacy skills without children even realizing BECAUSE THEY’RE SO MUCH FUN. Barefoot’s Build-a-Story Cards snap right into this category, too.

Aimed at kids aged 3-10 (or, obviously, 48), Build-a-Story Cards help create an engaging story with all the essential elements—character, emotion, setting—and a little sprinkle of magic.

Kate put me in touch with the product team: Lisa Rosinsky, Senior Editor, and Stefanie Wieder, Senior Director of Product and in-house early childhood development expert.

Stefanie and Lisa, on my blog I talk a lot about how ideas originate. What was the genesis of the Build-a-Story-Cards?

Stef: Before we developed our own deck of story cards, we tested the existing cards on the market with kids of various ages, and we discovered something interesting. Whether they were 3 years old or 7, kids had trouble creating stories that made sense. This left kids frustrated and limited their attention span. We thought, how can we improve on this?

With our story cards, we wanted kids to have fun with storytelling, while also learning about the structure of stories because this was going to help them create stories that make sense and become better writers. So we asked the illustrator, Miriam Latimer, to create these adorable pictures of a magical world filled with unicorns, dragons, castles and potions. We divided the images into three categories: characters on red cards, objects on blue cards, and settings on yellow cards. We also created a robust instructions booklet full of activities for learning about and playing with these three key story elements.

Lisa: We knew we wanted to work with beloved Barefoot illustrator Miriam Latimer for this deck, so we could tie it in with two popular series Miriam also illustrated: our Ruby series (Ruby’s School Walk, Ruby’s Baby Brother, Ruby’s Sleepover) and the Prince books (The Prince’s Bedtime, The Prince’s Breakfast). We asked her to start with those characters, and then we added in lots of classic fantasy/fairy tale elements—witches, dragons, and unicorns, oh my—for extra storytelling potential!

  

Stef: At Barefoot Books we always like to have multiple layers of learning in our products, and so we also included a social-emotional element as well. Our Magical Castle Build-a-Story Cards includes character pairs. Each pair shows different emotions for kids to identify and build stories around. In the instructions we encourage kids to create stories about friendship and conflict resolution. So, in a nutshell, this product was born of us wanting to improve on existing story cards out there by creating a product that teaches early writing skills while also reinforcing social emotional learning. And, by the way, this is only the first in a series of these Build-a-Story Cards. Future decks will feature different imaginative themes and other key early learning skills.

That’s smart to include emotions—every writer knows it’s a required element for successful stories. Your audience must feel the character’s struggle and develop empathy for them.

What else (besides these cards) do children need to become successful storytellers?

Lisa: Story time! Reading to children helps them build early literacy skills, and when kids listen to stories, that helps them learn how to tell their own stories. Stefanie has created a series of story time videos for us that model engaging storytelling by asking questions, modeling predictions, and noticing elements of the artwork. You can check out a few of our most popular story time videos on our Facebook page.

Do you have any sneak peeks at images from future decks?

Lisa: Yes! We are working on two more decks right now, due out Spring 2019. Both will feature artwork by classic Barefoot illustrators, and both will follow the same basic setup as the first deck: 36 wordless story cards, including 12 characters, 12 objects, and 12 settings. One has an “Ocean Adventure” theme and includes ideas for lots of different math games, ranging from early counting and sorting skills to more advanced word problems. The oceans deck is illustrated by Debbie Harter.

Well, being that it’s Shark Week…let’s debut this guy’s sketches…

 

The other is titled “Community Helpers” and is illustrated by Sophie Fatus. The Community Helpers deck includes all sorts of community heroes, from service dogs and firefighters to teachers and janitors, plus games that help kids learn about people and places in a city.

      

I know these cards are aimed at kids, but how do you think they will be valuable for adults, too? 

Lisa: The cards are quite versatile! They’re great for engaging kids in solo play, whether at home, in a classroom, or traveling on a family trip. They’re also helpful tools for educators and curriculum creators, from preschool to upper elementary. Writers of any age, at any stage of their career, can use them as story starter prompts. And finally, in our experience, adults have a lot of fun with these cards, too. We even used them as an icebreaker at a company event recently, and everyone really got into it!

Ha, I’m going to try that at my next barbeque! “Pass the ketchup—and the message-in-a-bottle card.”

Plus, I can easily create additional cards using your red/blue/yellow model. (Did I say “I”? I meant “kids”.)

Thank you Kate, Lisa & Stefanie for introducing me to Barefoot’s Build-a-Story Cards. Learn more about them here.

And now let’s introduce my blog readers to them. Comment below to enter a giveaway for a pack of Magical Castle Cards. (One comment per person, please.)

A winner will be drawn at random next week.

Good luck!
 

7ate9
Winner of the 2018 Irma S. Black Award and the SCBWI Crystal Kite!
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As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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COMING SOON:

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Early 2019

YOUR FIRST DAY OF (CIRCUS) SCHOOL
illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
Summer 2019

THE UPPER CASE:
TROUBLE IN CAPITAL CITY
illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
Fall 2019

FOUR WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
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HarperCollins
Spring 2020

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