Friday, February 19, 2016

100 WRITERS _____ How four media students created a cool digital superhero picture book for kids

NOTE: This is an update for my 100 WRITERS project.

Last year, I heard from a group of final year students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, at the Nanyang Technological University. The four of them — Sivanangai, Esther Lam, Sri Divya and Zarifah — wanted to make a digital picture book. And they had an interesting concept.

As media undergraduates, they realised that young children are very influenced by mainstream entertainment, especially when it comes to body image. Children thought they had to look like the attractive characters they saw in the movies, books, YouTube videos, etc. This affected them in unhealthy ways.

I helped the four of them develop a story about this for their digital picture book. It was a lot of fun. And now they’re ready to launch it. The main character is a young boy named James, and he meets a famous TV superhero, the awesome Mr Might. The story contains a few cool learning lessons, great illustrations inspired by Quentin Blake, and digital features that make it easy for parents and children to enjoy the story together.

You’re all invited to the official Superhero Meet & Greet event at the end of this month! It's at the Woodlands Regional Library. Details in the flyer above. Enjoy this short interview with the team. Great work!

— D


What inspired you to start this?
We love working with children, with some of us having prior experience tutoring or teaching in specialised centres. We are also avid fans of books and movies. Hence, it seems natural to us to use an electronic storybook to reach out to our target audience.

Body dissatisfaction may lead to severe physical and mental problems, such as eating disorders and self-harm. Many previous body image campaigns have been executed, but most of these campaigns target teens and adults rather than younger children. Research suggests that children's exposure to the media, regardless of how young they are, influences their ideas of body image. We hope to impact their beliefs and attitudes regarding media portrayal of body image in the long run and help children recognise that they are special, unique and beautiful inside out.

How will you be sharing this with young readers?
To kickstart our campaign, we held a series of drama workshops called "Superhero Me!”, for children below the age of 10. There will be a huge scale event on the 27th of February at the Programme Zone at Woodlands Regional Library. During this event, we will be launching an electronic storybook "How To Be A Hero". After the launch, there will be a storytelling session for children and a talk for parents by school counsellor Paula Huggins. To end off, in collaboration with Skinned Knee Productions, a theatre performance will be staged, open for the public to attend.

What were your main creative challenges, and how did you solve them?
The main challenge was creating the storyline, such that our message is clear but it will still be engaging enough to young minds. We had little experience writing a full length book for children, hence some words we initially used may be difficult for a child aged 7 years old to understand. We replaced such words with easier terms.

What do you hope to achieve with this project?
Ultimately, we want to build the self esteem of children through education. As in the storybook, we want children to know that all it takes is a good heart to be a superhero.

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Join the fun!