(Special thanks to Dawn Rundman for her contributions to this article.)
How do you pick out products for your home?
When we go to the grocery store, we all probably have a process we go through to make sure the fruit we select is ripe. Maybe we examine what color it is, how soft it feels when squeezed. Maybe some of us are even those hold-it-up-to-our-ear-and-let-it-talk-to-us types!
While we might not consciously think about it in as much detail, we all probably go through a similar process when we choose books, Bibles, and videos for our kids to use at home. We check out the cover, we read the product description, we turn it over to see which press published it. But it's sometimes hard to get the full story on a product via a quick flip-through.
That's why we wanted to use today's post to take you behind the scenes and show you some of the things we consider when we're developing products for our Spark brand. As is true with all of our brands, we want the content to go way beyond just fun characters or bright cover art! We are also intentional to weave in learning methods that are age-appropriate for the kids who will be using it, so that kids don't just watch the videos, but they interact with them in a way that encourages learning to stick!
A lot of careful thought and research went into making Spark work well for kids!
Our goal in developing the Spark Story Bible was to design a Bible that would accompany kids through many years of early childhood, with features that could appeal to the youngest listener who was sitting on the lap of a caregiver to children in the lower elementary grades who could begin reading the stories for themselves, with all the playful sound effects, lively dialogue, and action-packed text.
Every story includes three features that optimize the child's experience:
1. Captivating Illustrations:Don’t you want to have coffee with illustrator Peter Grosshauser and learn how his mind works? When we were selecting an illustrator for this Bible, it was immediately clear that Peter could offer something different than most children’s Bible illustrators. A bright colorful style of illustration. A deep understanding of the emotions felt by the people in the stories. A sense of humor! The results of his work? Hundreds of illustrations that invited kids into Bible stories without even needing to read a word. And Peter was also a terrific creative partner to work with when it came to ensuring that the skin tones and hair color of the characters were dark so that we were true to the features of middle eastern people in the stories. We think it’s really important that kids see and know that Jesus had brown skin and hair. (And so did others living in the Holy Land during Bible times.)
2. Powerful Storytelling:Our team of authors had quite a task. How do you tell Bible stories in a way that introduces children to the story of God and God’s people that is developmentally appropriate? This meant we tuned into vocabulary words, emotional tone, and underlying theological meanings of each story. We also made sure that story details matched the biblical texts and, when available, historical information. Throughout the development process, our team read every manuscript aloud several times to ensure the words sounded good to the listener and felt good to the reader.
3. Squiggles the Caterpillar: Squiggles is a favorite feature of the Spark Story Bible for many children. Squiggles was actually a way for us to execute an important strategy throughout the Spark Story Bible. Specifically, Squiggles gives visual cues to young children about the emotional tone of the story on a particular page or spread. If you look at the picture of anxious Daniel in the lions’ den, Squiggles looks pretty concerned too. When the man with leprosy returns to thank Jesus while the other nine rush away, Squiggles and Jesus are both smiling. And throughout the stories of Holy Week, Squiggles helps kids see these are somber stories. (A few pages later, you see Squiggles overjoyed at the feet of the risen Jesus.) We know kids connect with animal characters; Squiggles goes beyond cuteness to help kids make connections! (You can download a Squiggles coloring sheet here!)
Originally Published 9/22/2015