By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: February 20, 2010
Jane Hague home-schools her children. Her interactive series, Tilly’s Number Town Educational Children’s Books, was born after Hague discovered that there were very few resources that approached numbers, particularly multiplication, in a multi-sensory fashion. “The Great Snail Race” is the first in a series of ten fun children’s books for the iPhone and iPad.
TCBR: Can you tell us what inspired you to begin writing the 123 Number Fun series?
Jane Hague: In 1999, through a series of circumstances, I found myself homeschooling my two young daughters. My daughter Matilda (Tilly) was struggling to remember the multiplication tables. As I looked for resources, I was disappointed at the lack of multi-sensory products available. I decided to research memory techniques and became interested in mnemonics and went on to create twelve number characters and numerous mnemonic verses, resulting in a truly multi-sensory approach to learning and recalling the multiplication tables. Tilly’s Tables Flash Cards were born. We then started to look for ways to help younger children grasp numbers and counting more easily and adapted the number characters from Tilly’s Tables to create 123 Number Fun flash cards. Stories from Number Town expand on each individual number character.
TCBR: Which age group would enjoy reading the books?
JH: 123 Number Fun and Stories from Number Town are suitable for children age two and upwards. The iPhone / iPad e-books have a range of options to cater to all ages and abilities.
1: “Read to me”: an autoplay narrated version for non-readers
2: “Follow along”: narrated with highlighted text for those learning to read
3: “Silent”: for fluent readers who do not require the narration
TCBR: An iPad application seems like a good choice for creating a multi-sensory learning experience. Would you describe the learning opportunities that your e-books have to offer?
JH: The e-books running on iPhone and iPad allow the use of simple multimedia techniques to engage the child and to create interest and interaction with the application. Our e-books incorporate a professional narration by two artists using full character voices. The screen also moves around each page to focus attention on the subject, while touch sound effects create a degree of interaction. We are also working on a new app, “123 Count with Me”, a totally interactive educational number experience.
TCBR: There are ten titles in your series. Does each book present a new mathematical topic?
JH: Yes. Each book deals with a different math’s topic. The Great Snail Race forms a introduction to the number two and looks at number sequencing. A Very Busy Week forms a introduction to the number six and focuses on simple addition. The Camping Trip forms a introduction to the number four and investigates weights and measures. All of these mathematical topics and more are expanded on in the soon-to-be-released 123 Number Fun workbooks.
TCBR: How long did it take you to write each book?
JH: The writing and editing process takes about four weeks and the illustrations take another four to six weeks. We also finalise the process by creating digitally printed prototype books and we have found this particularly helpful for checking continuity.
TCBR: It takes a team to create an application. Was the creation of each e-book a lengthy process?
JH: Recording the narration and programming for The Great Snail Race e-book took our team of nine around four to five weeks to produce, although this first e-book also formed a template for the other nine titles. We are hoping all the hard work in the beginning will make subsequent titles easier and quicker to publish.
TCBR: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating the applications?
JH: The fact that we could do it at all without any direct knowledge of computer programming still surprises me when I think about it. The Internet helped tremendously in assembling our team. We have voice-over artists here in Melbourne, Australia, along with our packaging and book designer. Our illustrator is in the Philippines and our programmer is based in Portugal.
TCBR: Should we expect to see more e-books from you?
JH: Yes, most definitely. The next two books, The Harvest Festival: a story about Nun Nine, and A Very Busy Week: a story about Nurse Trixie Six, are due for release on iTunes before the end of March. Books four and five are also well underway, with the narration recorded and our illustrator busy creating the artwork.
TCBR: As an experienced homeschooling mom, what words of wisdom would you offer to parents that are considering homeschooling their children?
JH: Gather as many resources as you can, employ specialist teachers if you need to, but most important of all, make sure you have a strong social network, as home schooling can be lonely without contact with other children of the same age.
TCBR: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
JH: Thank you for showing an interest in the Tilly’s range of products.
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