Saturday, January 16, 2010

Behold the Book Suit!

About a year and a half ago, I noticed some things:
  • A lot of the schools I visited had at least a few books aside from their government-issue textbooks. Some even had set up libraries.
  • Hardly anyone used them.
  • When they were used, it usually wasn't pretty. Books got torn; books got shelved backwards and upside down; books got lost.
  • I had a lot of time on my hands.
  • I also had a lot of art supplies.
Thus was born the Book Suit: a teaching tool *and* a fashion statement.

Made of stylish, easy-care poplin, the suit is nice because it's big and pink, and you can put a kid inside it - all good attention-getters when you're doing a training session.* It also helps to anthropomorphize the book - kids seem to remember better which parts are which, and which way is up. After all, you wouldn't want Lamin or Annie to end up on their heads, now would you?

So, it has most of the standard parts of a book:
a front cover
a back cover
and a spine. (Get it?)

The second edition of the Book Suit also has pages you can turn, which is good for modeling gentle reading.

Thanks to Mr. Samba Marong and his excellent mechanical snap-bedazzling machine, the pages stay put when the book is standing straight and tall...
as it always should be when you close it and shelve it.

I liked to have kids model with a real book too...
and practice themselves.

Then, it was time to sit back, reflect on how we'd helped build concepts of print, and fold up the suit for next time. (This is the main reason that poplin is better than paper or rice bags - it travels better. Plus, it comes in handy if you find yourself in need of a caftan.)
Next up: instructions on how to make your own!

*Some of these pictures are from a Peace Corps workshop, and feature volunteers; some of them are from a school training, and feature kids. Thanks to Ellie Adelman and the staff and students of Kerr Sait LBS, and to Annie Larson and Amanda Drapcho, models.