Saturday, February 13, 2010

Reading: Can it be fun and educational at the same time?" by Elysabeth Eldering


"Reading: Can it be fun and educational at the same time?"

by Elysabeth Eldering


Have you ever picked up a book that was said to be educational and found it to be boring? Have you ever read an educational book that you thought could be fun for the youngsters in the schools? If you've read an educational book that you thought was boring, what would make it more fun and still keep the educational component to it?

In my series, the Junior Geography Detective Squad (JGDS), 50-state, mystery, trivia series, I've found a way to appeal to both the fun and educational side of books. My goal was to be entertaining and informative without forcing the learning aspect.

How does one go about finding the happy median to be both educational and fun? Find a topic that interests you. Find the most appealing and fun, sometimes quirky, information about that topic. Educational does not have to mean boring. Write as if you are a child experiencing the material for the first time. What would your reaction be to a silly law clue like "In this state, it is illegal to give another citizen a box of candy weighing more than fifty pounds."?


After all your information is gathered, find a way to convey the topic in a less traditional way that is fun. My series uses a handheld game that is a cross between a PSP and Nintendo DS or any number of other devices like that. Taking all the facts that I've gathered, I made the game the star. The characters playing the game become the "geography squad" and they have to guess the state based on clues thrown out at them. As they discuss the clues, the readers are learning through the eyes of the characters. It's a balance of reaction and personalities coming through on the pages. Use your gut reactions and base your characters' reactions in a similar way. Dialogue will carry through in situations like this.


Educational topics do not have to be boring any more when you find the right balance of fun and out-of-the-ordinary topics to write about.


Elysabeth lives in upper state South Carolina and is the author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad, 50-state mystery trivia series. She enjoys reading, writing, cross stitching, crocheting and being a band mom. On weekends in the fall, she can be found at band competitions. If she's not working or writing, she's attending Sisters in Crime meetings or SCWW writing meetings.

Visit the authors' links at:

http://jgdsseries.blogspot.com
http://junior-geography-detective-squad.weebly.com/
http://elysabethsstories.blogspot.com/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jgdsseries/

www.tips-fb.com

24 comments:

elysabeth said...

Thanks for hosting me today, Mayra. I look forward to seeing how others have ideas for making reading fun and educational. Post your comments here. E :)

kathy stemke said...

I think your series is brilliant! I wish my teachers would have used it years ago. Bravo!

Mayra Calvani said...

It's a pleasure having you here, Elisabeth!

elysabeth said...

Thanks, Kathy. I hope we can get the word out to the schools. Remember there are study guides available that take the series from just supplementing social studies curricula to cross curricula (study guides offer research projects/discussion questions, which take a more in-depth look at some of the clues in the books; science projects or map/math skills (all based on a clue in the book), puzzles (cryptograms, fallen phrase puzzles, letter tiles, word searches, and double puzzles (an unscramble and numbered letter puzzle that is a secret message), and of course an end-of-book quiz, which can be used to supplement a grade or as extra credit or however the teacher feels it is necessary).

The more we get the word out (of course hoping that the more books in the series the are available the word will spread - lol) the better. I think being involved in some homeschool conferences this summer will also be a huge advantage to getting the word out beyond my little corner of the state of South Carolina - lol.

Anyone have any thoughts on books that are fun and educational at the same time? Kathy, I know your book is geared that way too, right? How about some thoughts on how to make reading fun and educational? E :)

Stephen Tremp said...

In today's world incorporating entertainment is vital to learning. I don't see anything wrong with that. Its just th reality of the situation.

Quick Question: Can guys join the sisters in crime?

Stephen Tremp

elysabeth said...

That's a great point, Stephen. and yes, men can join sisters in crime also. If you go to the national website - sistersincrime.org or google Sisters in Crime, you will find a place to join. Most states have some local chapters and they also may have local dues but you can check it out. and if men join, they are called brothers. E ;)

Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said...

It's so important to maintain and offer children not only 'fun' reads but educational ones in such a way that they don't realize they are being taught. GRIN And you've hit the perfect series. Kudos.

elysabeth said...

Thanks, Lea. That is very important. And after all, we are all teachers so as long as we can have fun, there is no reason the children can't have fun - lol - E :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Amazing how times have changed. We didn't need stuff like this when we were kids.

elysabeth said...

Are you sure, Diane? We always needed fun things when we were kids. Probably were getting some fun and educational books in our day too, just didn't realize it - lol. Thanks for stopping by. E :)

Karen Cioffi said...

This is a great article, Elysabeth. It think just about any topic if presented properly can be educational and fun. Like you say, it's finding just the right combination.

I think your series is such a useful tool in helping children learn about geography.

I agree with L. Diane, things have certainly changed. I think it's because of all the instant gratification (tv primarily) our society promotes causing much shorter attention spans.

Karen

elysabeth said...

I agree, Karen. Presenting any information in the right combination can turn a boring subject into something fun. I hated history in school but if the teacher made it fun, then it wasn't so bad. I'm not a geography buff either but have had my share of traveling and am at a point in my life that I kind of miss the days of old where we would move every couple of years or so when my father would be stationed to new place.

Thanks for stopping by everyone - the comments are really great and fun and interesting - lol - E :)

Katie Hines said...

Great post, Elysabeth. I think we all can learn from your points.

elysabeth said...

Thanks, Katie. I hope everyone learns something and still has fun. I once told someone years ago (I think it was a comment to my husband) the day I stop learning is the day he should bury me. I'm continuously learning something new all the time, so I believe that as the older generation we have something to teach the younger one, and therefore, they will need something fun to get the point across. That's why I'm thankful that this series did come to fruition when it did. Again, thanks for stopping by everyone. The comments are great and I'm enjoying hearing your input on the subject matter at hand. E :)

Vivian Zabel said...

I think everything written can be educational, especially if well-written.

Everything I write has something to learn included, even if not in plain sight.

Good article, Elysabeth.

Vivian

Dana Donovan said...

IDAHO, right? Sorry, I'm still hooked on the box of chocolates thing. Interesting interview...see I learned something already!

elysabeth said...

Dana, thanks for stopping by. You weren't supposed to guess the state - lol. I'm including a silly law in each of my books and all the laws are still on the books as far as my research says. The background on the first book is that the two boys are playing the game and they both like the same girl, Jolene, who shows up in future books, and their exchange goes something like this - Who would give someone a box of candy weighing fifty pounds?; I might give Jolene a box weighing one pound, but not fifty; Yeah, I'd just take your one pound box and tell her it was from me. Back and forth like that is what makes the reading fun.

I'm glad you all are learning something - thanks for stopping by everyone. I enjoyed sharing this article with you all. See you in the postings - E :)

Janet Ann Collins said...

Sounds like a great idea to me!

Accountant, Author & Freelance Writer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Accountant, Author & Freelance Writer said...

I agree, this is a great way to provide education with fun :)

Dallas said...

What a wonderful article! Your example of "In this state, it is illegal to give another citizen a box of candy weighing more than fifty pounds" is excellent -- I cannot imagine any young reader not being completely intrigued by that statement! Thanks, Mayra and Elysabeth!

elysabeth said...

Dallas, thanks for the encouragement. I thought it would be fun to include a silly law that is still on the books for each state. Kids seem to enjoy silly things like that and even though it is fun, it is also educational in that they are learning something about the state that they didn't know before. That was the first clue that came to my head when writing the article. It is an actual clue in book #1 - State of Wilderness.

Hopefully everyone who writes educationally geared material will incorporate some fun in their writing as well. If we can't have fun as a writer, how can we expect our readers to have fun? Again, thanks to everyone who stopped by and commented - E :)

Cheryl said...

Popping in to offer my support and encouragement. These are great books. I can't wait to read the latest one.

I do think you've achieved a great balance between education and fun with this series. I'm trying to do something similiar for my daughter with math. She's always bugging to work on a book with me, so I think if I can find a way to make the concepts she struggles with in math fun, we can put together a short series of books that she will enjoy. I don't think I would seek to get them published, as she's only 8 and she wants to act as the illustrator for these, but you never know. Even if I just used Lulu, it would be neat for her to see her name on a book.

Best of luck with these books, Elysabeth.

Cheryl

elysabeth said...

Cheryl, Guardian Angel Publishers publishes books by kids (Mayra is a testament to that as her daughter has a book published by them - check her sidebar for more info on that). Also, There is a lady who does have a math series published - but I'm at a loss for her name right now and maybe someone else will know who I'm talking about - but the series looks like something worth checking into if your daughter is struggling. From what I remember it makes learning math skills fun - I'll try to look her up and shoot you here website via email -

I'm anxiously awaiting third and fourth to get out (Aidana has been ill with the flu; her son has the swine flu so they've been fighting some ugliness there.) I'm trying to be patient but am so anxious to see the next two come available - Vivian said my fourth one is my best yet - so hopefully you will see a difference in the writing too. Will let you know when they are available for your review - E :)