Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
We recently had the chance to speak with Jen Santoro, Program Manager at Lulu Jr., the creators of the award-winning IlluStory book making kit. We hope you’ll enjoy reading some of our conversation with Jen below as we discuss the cognitive and communication skills learned through their book making kits.
MCA: IlluStory is an educational tool that fuels children’s imagination and creativity by encouraging them to write, illustrate and publish their very own hardcover book. What was your inspiration for creating this kit?
Jen Santoro: IlluStory has actually been around since 1992 and has gone through many iterations. In 2016, we evaluated the kit and as great as it was, we wanted to make it better! We completely rebranded Lulu Jr. with a new logo, updated all of the box art and added an amazing guide book called “Just Imagine…A Guide to Writing and Illustrating Your Story”. Our inspiration for IlluStory comes from the desire to want to fuel children’s imagination and creativity through writing and illustrating their own book and give them the motivation and confidence to believe in themselves and their ability to become an author. We have seen so many different kinds of stories over the years, from fairy tales to biographies to stories that help kids get through bullying, IlluStory allows a child’s mind to explore amazing possibilities through their writing and drawing.
MCA: You are so right! There is just something amazing about the ability to get lost in a book and let your imagination take over. Children are even better at this than we are as adults because they have such an unbiased and fresh imagination. It is wonderful to see products out there that encourage this kind of creativity. Speaking of creativity, you also designed another kit specifically for creating comic books. Can you tell us a little bit more about that product?
Jen Santoro: Of course! Along with IlluStory, we also updated My Comic Book! This kit allows a child to create their very own published comic book! With so many super heroes and comic book stories coming to life on TV and the big screen, what better way to engage your child than with them creating their own comic book. This kit also comes with a Comics in Action Guide book (that is actually a comic book itself) that helps guide your child through creating their setting, panels & framing, dialogue, narration & sound effects, icons and artwork. We also include markers, a pencil, eraser, sharpener and artists pen to assist them with their comic.
MCA: Wow that is very thorough. Apparently, I have a lot to learn when it comes to creating a comic book! What type of skills can a child (or even me) expect to learn from each of your products?
Jen Santoro: A child can improve their cognitive and communication skills when they create books using our award-winning Lulu Jr. kits. Writing stories requires us to organize information and express thoughts clearly. By using our guide book, they will learn how to brainstorm for their story in order to find a topic for their book and they will be more motivated to create story pages with illustrations that express their thoughts more clearly. Continual support of these activities, especially in early childhood, leads to more literate, creative and socially adaptive teens and adults.
MCA: I love that they have the opportunity to create these books all the way from conception to final product. I think that really makes each individual book truly unique to the child creating it. What else would you say makes your kits different from others?
Jen Santoro: The most basic answer is that our kits contain everything that will allow your child to create and receive their professionally bound and printed book. Inside the box is a guide book to assist with the writing and illustrating of their store, all the pages needed to create their story, markers to illustrate with and a pre-paid self-addressed envelope. Once they are done writing and illustrating their story, they just place everything inside the envelope and in 2-3 weeks they have a finished book in their mailbox! It is just that easy! One of the other main things that sets us apart from other kits is that we are truly invested in this product and in giving a child the tools they need to create their book and become a published author. If anyone has trouble using their kit or has questions, we have a dedicated team to help guide and assist them with the process. We are also featuring our Lulu Jr. authors on our blog to show what amazing writers and illustrators our Lulu Jr. authors are. It is such an amazing feeling for a child to create a book on pages and then see it come to life in a physical product. This book will look and feel like every other book in their library but this one is special! This one has their photo on the back and they can share it with their family, friends, teachers….anyone!
MCA: I’m not sure I fall under the appropriate age requirement, but if I did, I would be one of your top customers! A professionally bound and printed book, customer service to help me along the way and my story featured on your blog. Sign me up!
Thanks to Jen Santoro for taking the time to chat with us! You can visit the Lulu Jr. website here.