The importance of reading

Reading offers one the opportunity to learn from the experiences that writers choose to share with their readers. Moreover, reading can be of great benefit for one’s health because it stimulates the brain and keeps Alzheimer’s disease and dementia at bay. It also improves memory and helps with concentration, which is a skill that is lacking today in the world of internet, Twitter and short online posts.

Both fiction and non-fiction texts can provide the reader with the necessary distraction from everyday life and problems that might crop up. Furthermore, reading reduces stress and provides some time for relaxation.

Above all, reading is an effective way of widening one’s knowledge and vocabulary. Reading also helps improve one’s writing skills, because one cannot be a good writer without reading other people’s work.

Octavo offers all of this, together with the convenience of having your library always with you, whether you’re at home, on the bus, abroad or by the sea. Octavo is the only digital reading platform that offers a wide selection of content in both Maltese and English.

Reading on Octavo is a different experience to reading a printed book, because you can change the font and the background to your liking. You can also buy books at any time wherever you may have access to the internet, straight from your smartphone, tablet or any other similar device that supports Android or through any Web browser. Octavo also offers an attractive interactive interface, which makes reading enjoyable.

Inspiration: Famous personalities who were/are dyslexic

I was dyslexic, I had no understanding of schoolwork whatsoever. I certainly would have failed IQ tests. And it was one of the reasons I left school when I was 15 years old. And if I – if I’m not interested in something, I don’t grasp it. -Richard Branson

For Muhammad Ali, it wasn’t easy getting in the ring with dyslexia but he came out as a champion. Sir Richard Branson says dyslexia came as an advantage to him. Steve Jobs & Bill Gates never graduated but created the globally recognisable companies in the world. Dyslexia is not a disability, it’s a different style of learning and understanding things.

Muhammad Ali

He never said that he was the smartest, but he said he was the greatest. Your weaknesses can never come in the way of your dreams if you are willing enough to do the best. Known for his exceptionally brilliant boxing career, Muhammad Ali barely graduated high school because of his struggle with reading. He was diagnosed with dyslexia but it never came in the way of his Olympic gold medal for which he’s renowned. He struggled and overcame the challenge of being dyslexic.

Sir Richard Branson

He was considered stupid and lazy when in school. He needed things to be simple for him be able to grasp them. He had a completely different way of managing and grasping things. In an interview with Fortune Magazine, Sir Branson said that Dyslexia made him a better businessman.

Dyslexia is a cognitive rather than an intellectual condition which causes difficulties with reading comprehension. Dyslexia came as an advantage to him as he learned the management of delegating things efficiently. Dyslexia made him a better delegator.

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg is an American actress, author, comedian and a television host. She is one among the ten people, who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award. Like most dyslexics, she was labelled dumb at school, but her mother made her believe that she was not dumb and could achieve great things. During her early years of dyslexia, she wasn’t diagnosed but she self-diagnosed her struggle as that of abnormally slow. In an article with Laura Randolph of Ebony magazine, she said: “You don’t want to be retarded all your life”. However, she was not retarded, she was extraordinarily gifted with an art of making people laugh with her acts and plays. Whoopi Goldberg is an another extraordinary story of dyslexics who raised above all because of their willpower and confidence.

Jamie Oliver

He is the world’s richest chef with the net worth of $400 million and counting. He has already written 20 cookbooks but he finished reading his first book at the age of 38. Jamie says that he gets bored very easily during reading because of his dyslexia and thus he could never finish reading a book. Jamie was born in the village of Clavering, Essex and he then moved to London for further education in cooking. His parents owned a pub/restaurant called The cricketers in the village where he practiced cooking with his parents. Not only this, in June 2003, Oliver was honored as a Member of the Order of the British Empire. Jamie says that his dyslexia is a very weird one, as sometimes he celebrates good days at reading and sometimes he read like a five-year-old. He calls Dyslexia a total bonus for him.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford needs no introduction today. However, most of us unaware to the fact that he was dyslexic. He spent his childhood struggling with reading but that did not stop him from excelling in engineering. He never gave up and ultimately became the father of the modern streamlined assembly line. He used dyslexia as a springboard to fine tune his other skills and not only he improved them, he mastered those.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, the man who is often referred to as legendary, visionary and futurist brought to us some of the finest computer and mobile devices available. However, you might not be aware of the fact that he had dyslexia but did it prove itself as a barrier for him? No. Dyslexia did make reading a slow process for him but it did not stop him from innovating the products. He gave as Apple & Pixar, both known famously for their range of products and class of movies respectively.

Tom Cruise

The way he delivers his lines, nobody would believe that he has dyslexia. Tom Cruise, the star actor was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of seven. However, he spent his childhood hiding this diagnosis with his peers. Tom could barely read in his high school and through his earliest roles, but he did not let his being dyslexic become a roadblock in his acting career. He had realized, that in order to further his acting career he had to overcome his reading challenge. He adopted the ‘Study Technology’ method of L. Ron Hubbard’s learning to overcome his challenge to read.

Conclusion

Life is not what happens to us but what we make out of it. Almost, everybody who is listed in this article saw dyslexia as a bonus for them. It was a challenge but not big enough to stop their growth. It deprived them of the fun of reading but also gave them a thinking of their own. Every weakness comes with a strength turned inside out. If you can uncover it and make the best out of it, it will help you achieve your dreams to the fullest.

Though, reading is difficult with dyslexia, if right typefaces and typesetting are used in designing books, reading can get easier. Visual learning is another factor which contributes to the growth. Octavo combines several alike factors to make the reading fun for everybody.

Consider these 5 writing tips before you start writing children’s books

I know what I liked as a child, and I don’t do any book that I, as a child, wouldn’t have liked.” -H.A. REY

Finally, you have made up your mind for writing children’s books and are now looking for courses, books or workshops which can help you in this adventure. This week, the Octavo team gathered to discuss how to write children’s books and with the help of collective researches done, we came up with five very important writing tips which you must follow for writing your children’s book.

1. Know your readers in and out

It is of utmost importance to decide who your readers would be and what they’re like. You need to decide for which age group you are going to write. Do they fall in 3-5 age group or 5-10 or above 10? Is this book only for girls or only for boys or both? Is it a storybook or a drawing book or a picture book? There are so many questions for which you need to sit down and brainstorm.

After you decide the age group and the type of the book, you need to sit and get into the mind and the heart of your reader. Imagine what would you have liked to read when you were a kid and decide the structure accordingly.

One important thing to note is that the intellectual levels of the different age-groups vary and you just can’t afford using the same type of language or terminology for all of them.

2. Keep your tone engaging but don’t force it: Balance is a must

Tone is how we use the voice in different situations. In real life, we adjust or manipulate our tone based on a number of factors like:

  • Who are we talking to?
  • What are we talking about?
  • What is the level of seriousness of the conversation?

In every situation, the voice can remain the same but the tone changes. When you separate the voice and tone, you bring the feeling of empathy into existence. That’s what creates the difference between meeting the needs of the user and actually engaging them.

However, you mustn’t try to force it. Excess of anything is harmful. Thus, get into the reader’s shoes, understand how would they empathize with the character and then write with that tone.

3. Choose your characters wisely

Every character should have strengths and weaknesses of their own. The main character should have some dream or goal in life which he achieves at the end of the story. All the characters should have their own tone and voice. Using fillers who don’t help the plot or the development of the story is not a good idea as that will just stretch the story.

Naming the characters is also a crucial task. Names which are not so common in real life sound good in stories. Use of the excess of adjectives or adverbs with names can be little tricky sometimes. For example, Peter Pan became a well-known character. His appearance was not fully described in the book, as the author wanted the users to imagine the character. Another example is from Harry Potter. Remember the names of the wizards and their owls? The crust of the story is that you need to have interesting characters with their own personality and good names.

4. Stay original

Copying won’t take you anywhere. Originality will take you to the places you wouldn’t have imagined. The uniqueness of story is very important. You can always go the mainstream way and write stories about fairies, kingdoms, prince charming etc. but if that’s not very unique and special in its way, it won’t have the desired effect. It is all about giving birth to a new character with your imagination and creativity. Think of a new plot which engages children, think of a new character which makes them laugh or makes them cry. It is about creating uniquely engaging stories. Stay original, that’s our advice to you.

5. Don’t forget images and illustrations

Images play a very important role in the success of any children’s book. Illustrations give a weight to your situation. They help you create the environment for the kids to imagine the plot. Let’s say in a scene, the sky gets darker and very scary. You writing that will have its bearing but you showing through illustrations or images will have a greater impact. Children just love creatively designed books. Also, it helps them visualize and remember things adding to their reading experience.

You can hire an experienced illustrator or designer to get the designs created. Focus on getting the most out of designs. Also, the illustrations and the story should be in synchronization with each other. An illustration which does not support the story is as useless as a story which does not match the illustration.

Conclusion

Writing children’s books requires simplicity. If you can’t explain it to a child, you have not certainly understood it enough. Thus, its very important to have a clarity of thought yourself and then write the manuscript of the book. Here are a few editing tips for the book after the first draft is ready:

  1. Avoid text which does not add to the development of the story or the plot.
  2. Keep the text minimal and meaningful.
  3. Readability of the text should be high.
  4. Introduce new words for the kids to improve their vocabulary.
  5. Keep the artwork very illustrative and neat in design.
  6. Think from a child’s point of view and then edit the story.

Are creatively designed books more attractive to kids?

Research shows that children are mentally stimulated by design elements, creative illustrations, and pictures used. You might also agree with the same if you recall your childhood days and the types of books you were most attracted to. The ones with pictures, illustrations, and nicely created environments! Thus, for the better benefit of the kids, the books should be designed in a very creative way so that the children find them attractive.

Our team did a comprehensive study of what makes a book creatively designed and we found that the pictures, environment, and words amplifying the images form the building blocks of the same. Let us understand them in detail.

  1. Pictures: Pictures help the kids get an interesting overview of the content they are reading. Images, illustrations, etc. make the kids feel more connected to the story. A wise use of images makes the book really interesting to read.
  2. Environment: The colours used in the background (of the images) say a lot about the story being conveyed.
  3. Words amplifying images: We found that when kids see images with the content, it helps them understand the complete scenario. How does the character look, how does he behave etc. when depicted in images, make the book even more interesting to read. Also, emotions, the most important of all, when shown in images, make the emotional skills of kids even stronger.

Although most of the books like picture books, comics and manga are creatively designed, we would explain the findings in detail taking the example of picture books here.

Picture books and reading skills

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a very popular saying and we agree with it. However, with children, it is not the case. Children judge a book by its cover only. Have you ever seen a child in a bookstore? If the cover is attractive enough, then they would like it and would want to explore it. Be it any children’s book, the first impression of the book is usually shaped by the images or pictures used in the book. Creatively designed books bring the stories to life and beg to be explored.

In the picture books, pictures convey the meaning well before the reader reads the text. It has been found that the picture books can help increase the vocabulary, which ultimately leads to improved reading skills.

Picture books and empathy

Apart from reading skills and visual literacy, the picture books also help in building emotional skills. Empathy is the only thing which differentiates humans from other organisms. The development of empathy starts from the age of 4 in kids but it might not work the same way with kids with autism and other variations of the disease. The kids with autism generally develop it very slowly.

When kids see pictures which are connected to an emotion, they generally feel attached to it. For example, kids smile when they see a smiling image or a smiling character, beautiful scenery or a cute animal. Similarly, they feel fear when they see a ferocious animal or a monster. They start feeling the emotions of the character in the story during the reading. This generally happens in the early phases that they literally get happy or scared as if the monster is coming after them but with time they start relating to the feelings of the character without feeling the same kind of fear. They can empathise with the emotions. Also, gradually with age, they start remembering the names of the characters and start using those in conversations as if they were real. Pictures help in building that connect and creating the impact.

Picture books and imagination

Ideas are all around, they just need to be triggered. Picture books help the kids question more. It can be small questions like why is the color of the sky dark blue here or why is the face of Roger red, and much more.

With the ability to question, comes the ability to imagine

You must understand this that picture books are a great source of imagination and creativity for kids. Books which bring out the creative ability of a kid, really attract the kids. Artistic books like “Ideas Are All Around” by Philip C. Stead, “What to Do With a Box” by Jane Yolen and Chris Sheban, “Frida and Bear Play the Shape Game” by Hanne Bartholin are some of the best picture books have proven to spark imagination in kids.

Conclusion

After doing an exhaustive research we found that creatively designed books do play a great role in leaving an impact on the readers. Also, books with nicely illustrated pictures catch the attention of kids more than the simple books with no or very fewer images.

Expert tips

Now when you know benefits of a creatively designed book, understand how to create one:

  1. Choose an inquisitive title for the book: Choose a title for your book which raises a question in the minds of the reader and excites them to read it.
  2. Design a relevant and very creative cover image: As said earlier, children judge a book by its cover. The more creativity you put in, the better it is.
  3. Keep the usage of words very simple: For children’s books, simplicity is the key while choosing the words for your sentences. Make the sentences very easy to comprehend and understand for them.
  4. Use images with great wisdom: Get the images designed very carefully. Pictures are very important for kids and thus, it is advisable to design and use very attractive images.
  5. Use easy to read typefaces and font sizes: Select a typeface in such a way that it is easy to read for all the children, even for those with reading disabilities. Also, it is advisable to use medium size or large size font for children’s books.