Sunday, December 5, 2010

Where do we get our ideas?

Anne here. People sometimes ask us where do we get our ideas for the stories.
The truth is, they come from everywhere — from other people, from seeing something or hearing a snatch of conversation. Sometimes they come from a story a student tells us, sometimes they come from our own lives and sometimes we just make them up.

The Dentist came from my own experience. For instance, at the time when we were thinking up stories for series #4, I needed to go to the dentist.

I'd put it off, because I'd cracked a tooth, and the nerve was dead, so I was fairly sure the dentist would want to pull it out. And I didn't want that.

When I was a kid the dentist had taken out four teeth to make room for the others. It was awful. It really hurt and I felt bad for days.

So I put my visit to the dentist off. And off.
It was easy to put it off because my dentist had died, and I didn't have a new one yet.
But I knew the tooth was going to be a problem. Decay happens.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, after series #4 came out I made an appointment with a new dentist.
And last week I had the tooth out.  To my amazement, it didn't hurt a bit. I wondered why I'd taken so long to go. All the waiting and worrying was worse than the tooth extraction.

So now you know where at least one of the stories comes from.
And maybe now the story needs changing.
You can listen to The Dentist story here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

PageTurners Levels

Anne here. Recently we were asked how we come up with the various levels for our books.

We've been teaching ESL and adult literacy for many years and seen various schemes for measuring readability wax and wane in popularity. Additionally, PageTurners are sold internationally and different countries do things differently.  

We didn't want to tie ourselves to any particular scheme, so when we were working out our levels we made it really simple — the number of unique words in a text, and the length of the text.

Level 1 (yellow covers)
        — about 100 words long
        — up to 60 unique words

Level 2 (red covers)
        — about 200 words long
        — up to 150 unique words

Level 3 (blue covers)
        — around 300 words in total
        — about 200 unique words

Level 4 (green covers)
        — 400 - 600 words long
        — about 300 unique words

But it's a little more than that. Because we're experienced teachers we also go by instinct. We'll replace a difficult word with a simple one when we can. We hope the pictures will add to the ease of reading the text. We read the stories aloud and check that the sentences don't get too long or involved, especially at the lower levels. We usually trial them with adult learners as well.

First and foremost we want the books to be fun to read but we also want them to be useful and lead to good discussions.  We're always happy to consider suggestions and answer questions. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Moira Hanrahan, the cartoonist

All the drawings in our books are done by Moira Hanrahan, and we love them.

Moira's not a trained artist, but she's been drawing all her life. She started young by drawing unflattering cartoons of her brothers and sisters. She has nine of them so that gave her plenty of practice.

 She moved on to drawing pictures of the various people she worked with, especially school principals and other people who inspired her art to great heights.

The picture on the right is from a fun awards certificate she made. 

Moira's also a musician — she plays drums and the Irish tin whistle. She loves dogs and horses, but isn't very fond of cats. You can probably tell that from looking at her pictures of dogs and comparing them with the ones she does of cats.

In the PageTurner books, what cartoons of Moira's do you like the best?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

About Red Dog

Anne here. I've wanted to write the story of Red Dog for ages, ever since a writer friend of mine, Janet Woods, in Western Australia said she'd had a real life encounter with the famous dog. I asked her for a little info for this blog. 
This is what Janet said:

Red Dog was a familiar figure in the Port of Dampier in the 1970s, where my husband worked for a shipping company. Red was a familiar figure when he was in town, usually lying in the stream of air conditioning that flowed from the shopping centre doors as they opened and shut.

I came out from work one day to find Red waiting on the shady side of my car in the car park. I think he smelled my own two dogs, and realized I drove a dog friendly vehicle. I was about to head for home, but as soon as I reached the turnoff and took the right turn he began to bark. There was no mistaking what Red wanted. He was barking directions, and I was going the wrong way.

As soon as I changed direction and took the road out of town he settled down. Red agreed to get out at Karratha half an hour later, by which time the combination of hot car and ripe dog was a bit overpowering. I had no intention of driving any further, so pulled over and told him so. For a moment he ignored me, then we had a bit of a push and shove. He got out, peed on the tyre and trotted off in the direction of the main highway, where he could get a lift further north, or down south, whichever took his fancy.

A dog of great character, don't you think?
This picture shows a living kelpie with the statue of Red Dog.

The sculptor has shown Red Dog always on the move.
Red Dog covered a lot of territory. Below is a map showing the area he travelled in. It's all desert country.
You can listen to Chris reading the story of Red Dog here.

If you have any questions,  or have your own dog story to tell, you can post them in the comments section of this blog

Monday, May 17, 2010

PageTurners - Launching the blog

Hi everyone, Anne here, to tell you about PageTurners, our short, fun books for adults learning to read.

The latest series of the adult literacy readers, PageTurners Series 4, is now for sale. Series 4 contains  10 fun new titles, mostly at the easier reading end of the spectrum, with 4 titles at level 1 (Yellow) 4 titles at level 2 (Red) and one each at 3 (Blue)  and  4 (Green.)
It seems there's a real demand for readers for adults who are just learning to read. We're very happy about that, as that's why we started making books in the first place -- we were teaching people to read and the only books we could find for beginner readers were kids' books.

How PageTurners Started
I've been making books with students for years, making them by hand just for our own classes. Apart from being expensive, books for adults at absolute beginner level were hard to find. We built up quite a little home-made library. Then Libby, who was our boss at PRACE (Preston Reservoir Adult Community Education) suggested we make them for sale, and so, having Moira, the demon cartoonist, on our team, we did. That was 10 years ago, and since then we've published 37 books.

The first series was really an experiment and we had no real idea if they would sell or not.  We decided to focus on reading for fun and pleasure, as so many books focus on reading for practical purposes.  Since we have a youth program as well as general literacy and ESL programs, we made sure some of the stories would appeal to young people as well.
I remember the first day we got the  books back from the printers, and I took them into my class. Graeme, who'd never read any kind of book in his life, grabbed I Want a Holiday and started reading it aloud. In the end, he read the whole story to the class. Everyone clapped. Graeme was so thrilled when he realized he'd read it all the way through without help, he picked up another book straight away. It was a good omen, I thought.

The experiment worked, and since then, the books have pretty much sold by word of mouth, and by us sitting at a table, showing them at an occasional literacy/ESL conference. It's great fun doing that -- people are always coming up and saying, "Hey, I love those books" and then they grab a friend and tell  them all about the books and how they use them. Nice people also put reviews up and blog about them, which is fantastic, too.
It's wonderful to know that as well as being sold all over Australia, the books are used in other countries -- in Canada, the USA,  New Zealand and the UK. We're hoping to find more distributors, so if you read this and know of any, feel free to email us.

The purpose of this blog is to share some background information about the various stories, to make some suggestions for class activities and to open a channel for communication.  In future blogs I'll be telling you a little background about each book and also a bit about the people who produce the books. We've also updated our website with a cleaner look and more content, including audio readings of some of the books. We hope you like the new-look website. We're still tweaking it, so we welcome constructive comments and suggestions.