Invitational Books – A Unique Concept

This line of exceptional books was designed and developed under the direction of Karen Sperling as the creator and author, along with three-time Caldecott award winning artist Gerald McDermott.  As is evident from the formatting and interaction between the child and the intellectual property, Karen has not only created an adventurous series of storylines that engage the child in many ways to encourage the development of their imagination, creativity, and social and emotional intelligence,  but has also created a new genre of books.

The interactive format of these books challenge and enhance the interaction required between the child/artist and the information provided in the context of the story. The format provides for developmental work and discussions between the parent/educator and the child on a wide variety of levels. The child/artist is provided with context clues and minimal environmental clues as a backdrop for the development of the main character as they move through the enchanted and transformational story together. In the end, the child/artist has the opportunity to reinvent the story using their own words and imagination.

The first four titles in this series of twelve books was privately published by Invitational Books and used in a variety of private and public schools and child development settings with youngsters ranging in age from six to sixteen. This provided the author with an opportunity to evaluate the strength of the format with children in these schools and after-school recreational settings.

These first titles were used as part of the Internationally recognized RKO Foundation Literacy Program–The Story Project.  It was used as a developmental arts, writing and reading course for the first through sixth grades at The River School in Florida, for third and fourth graders of Montessori, Los Angeles and Columbia Grammar, New York, as well as for after school arts program at The Boys and Girls Clubs, Santa Monica.

The applications for this format are virtually limitless. There are three primary markets for this program:

Educational Settings

A variety of educational applications exist beginning with the Writing and the Art classrooms. Research has pointed out the validity of bridging these two worlds as a means of enhancing the performance of child/artists in the area of reading, writing, vocabulary and social and emotional development. The development of reading skills through artistic applications and discussions enhances performance in all other areas of the school curricula. As one example, the development of skills in the area of analyzing context clues provides the reasoning skills required for advanced development in all areas of the general curriculum while meeting the ever-increasing call for arts infusion into the general curriculum. As a classroom application tool, this series will provide a variety of titles and pathways for development throughout the elementary career of most students.

A complete “Teachers Guide” will provide educators with the tools necessary to integrate this product into the writing and arts curriculum in most states. This mini-guide will list the skills and various applications for classroom use to enhance existing curriculum requirements without adding another layer of responsibility. Teachers are constantly looking for new, low tech – high touch applications that will provide evidence of student understanding and performance. This program offers both in one application.

After-School Arts Programs

The second major market for this type of creative self-teaching tool is in after school-care programs designed to enhance or extend the educational day in imaginative and developmental directions. For the same reason that this program works in the classroom, it will work in the after-school programs offered by many national organizations. The Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA’s and thousands of commercial after-school programs are constantly seeking ways to develop creative skills and talent in their participants, as well as assist them with their schoolwork in fun and creative ways. This program has been tested with a number of students at all stages of development, and it was able to provide a growth opportunity and sense of accomplishment for every participant in the group.

Note: There may be more at this point, as this was written more than 15 years ago. Need to check? It is estimated that there are seven to ten million students in after-school programs every school day, with an additional five million in summer programs designed to maintain skills taught during the regular academic season.

At-Home Schooling and Valued Gifts

Invitational Books have consistently appealed to parents and grandparents as ideal gifts for their children, grandchildren, and their children’s friends.  Because they actively involve the child in creating completed works of art, they become cherished keepsakes. They can also provide an all-encompassing product to the portion of the population that has a stay-at-home parent or home educator. The parent can give the child a hands-on activity and the child can proudly return a completed work of art that is a finished product of their individual efforts, skills and development.