Now that I am retired, I get to play and do things I couldn't do while I was raising a family and working. I guess it's not so much that I couldn't do them, but there never seemed to be enough time and I really wanted to concentrate on my children and my husband. I worked long hours and I spent most of my free time cooking and baking fresh food for the family.
Now that I have "all the time in the world," I wanted to explore my childhood love of reading and writing. Back then, I spent a lot of time with friends making up stories and games for our never-ending list of clubs. I don't remember why this was so important to us, but we always had a new club for some new adventure or hobby. We even made invitations for the new club and went through the neighborhood inviting other kids to join.
My second venture into writing for children came with a new series for pre-school children. I wanted to explore the use of interactive functions within digital books. I could just imagine the fun kids would have choosing the correct answer and clicking on a button. All I needed was bright, colorful pictures ad buttons. Starting from birth, these books could start out with just the pictures from which the kids would learn subliminally.
This would have been a nice series of books for each stage of learning up to kindergarten, but I thought it would be much more fun to have all the books in one volume. Each of my children had a favorite book during those years that they wanted to read all the time. As parents, we quickly become bored and tired of the favorite book, but they don't.
To take advantage of this favorite reading habit of young children, all I did was extend the early concepts to take advantage of the levels of learning from birth to age four. This meant children would have their favorite book with all their favorite pictures that grows with them.
There are two books in the series to learn the numbers and the alphabet. Each book has four levels of learning:
- Birth to age one: The goal is to respond to pictures by copying sounds and pointing and patting the pictures.
- Up to age three: Answer questions, identify pictures, and attempt to read with "pretend reading."
- At age three, children are ready to read by themselves, and perform activities for longer periods of time.
- Age four is when children begin to recognize familiar signs and labels, and make up silly phrases and rhymes. At this age, most children can count to ten.
Developing the Books
I don't use fancy software or tools when writing my books. All my books are written using Microsoft Word. In this series, the first two levels mainly use pictures and pointing to introduce children to the concept of numbers and the alphabet. In "Learn the Numbers," level 3 is used to teach children to point to each number in a collage of numbers and say the number.
In level 4, children are introduced to counting. They are presented with multiple pictures on a page and given a multiple choice answer. To answer the question, they press the correct button that corresponds to the number of pictures. If the correct button is pressed to answer the question, they proceed to the next question. If the answer is not correct, they are given the opportunity to answer the question again.
To create this type of book, it's easiest to create a data flow showing where you will take the reader when a button is used. You have two choices, a correct and an incorrect answer. These will be defined in the document with the Insert: Bookmark feature and the Insert: Hyperlink feature. These features are added after your book is completed. Whether you're creating an interactive fiction book or an interactive non-fiction book, create the appropriate headings for the functions. These headings will be used for linking.
The bookmark feature will be used as the target - it's where you want to link to. It's the destination for the reader after they click on a link in the book. The first step is to tag the chapter or section headings in the body as bookmarks. The links are added later.
In my "Learn the Numbers" book, each multiple choice answer must lead the reader to a function; either the answer is correct or it is not. One answer will take the reader to a new section for the next question; the other two buttons will take the reader to the error message section.
Go to each chapter or section in your document, highlight the title, and click on Insert: Bookmark. Give your chapter/section a name and click add. Bookmarks cannot have spaces or odd characters. As an example, if you are adding a bookmark for the title, "This is Question 3," you can create a bookmark for "ThisIsQuestion3," or "this_is_question_3."
Linking to Bookmarks
In my example above, I have a multiple choice answer with three buttons. For each button, highlight the button, right click and select Hyperlink. When a new box opens, click on "Place in Document" on the left menu. You will now see your bookmarks listed in the main window. Select the bookmark to be used and click OK. Repeat this process for all the bookmarked chapters/sections in the document.
Testing Your Links
This is the tedious part, but must be completed to ensure all the links work. Click on each link and make sure it goes to the correct location. If it jumps to the top of your document, it means you are not linking to a valid bookmark. Make sure you're not linking above or below the target destination.
The last step is to test for hidden bookmarks, which can corrupt your document. To locate them, click on Insert: Bookmark and click on the Hidden bookmarks option. Try turning it off and on look for any bookmarks that start with an underline, such as "_Hlt30xxxx" Click the name of the hidden bookmark, then click the delete button on the right to permanently delete it.
Interactive Fiction Books
My new series, "Nathan, Family & Friends" are fiction stories around 2K words. In 2014 I am going to explore the use of interaction to have the reader decide where the story should go. For example, what happens to a character when different choices are made? This simulates real life and will help children learn to think before taking actions which could negatively affect their life.
Sandra's blog: www.sandralportman.com
You can also find her on her social media sites at:
Here are images of Sandra's books. You can press on the images to see them listed on Amazon. You can read the reviews, read the descriptions, see the rankings, and even purchase your own copies.
Notes, Announcements, and Shout Outs
*I forgot to tell you, Clarinda Cloud has her own blog now! She is going to blog every Wednesday, just like me! Her blog is about feelings. Some of her blogs will be children's books promotions by talking about the character's feelings. If you are interested in having your children's book promoted, please contact me.
*I would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and a Happy Hanukkah this week!
*My friend, Virginia Wright, has a book titled, "The Chrismas Secret." It is a wonderful children's story with a great Christmas message. Press the link to see the book on Amazon. Maybe I can even get her to guest blog for me here, so you can get to know her better.
*This shout out is for someone who can greatly help authors. It goes out about Choice Social Media Management. Marie Anne is very helpful! She has helped me quite a bit this week!
*My friend, Joyce Van Kirk, has an adorable little book titled, "The Six Forest Friends." The little animals are so cute! And... the message of friendship is a breath of fresh air!