A wonderful new book was brought to my attention and I believe it’s perfect for those who want to teach kids Czech. Not only is the story fun and the illustrations adorable, but there is an awesome science behind it that you”ll be happy to learn about today. This book a part of a groundbreaking new series to introduce Czech language to children, and to foster a love of languages. Aimed at children aged 2-7, The Fabulous Lost and Found is children’s language learning book like no other. It is the first in a series of books using the “Story-powered language learning” method.
Inspired by the latest research in children’s language acquisition, Author Mark Pallis believes that a child’s first steps in a new language should be a riotously fun experience. His charming story teaches children more than just words, it builds empathy and helps lay the foundation for a lifelong love of language. And it is all brought to life through beautiful illustrations by the award-winning animator Peter Baynton.
From the Book…
In the middle of the big city is a tiny yellow building. If anyone loses anything, this is where it ends up. It’s called the Lost and Found.
The owners, Mr and Mrs Frog, keep everything safe, hoping that some day eve-ry lost watch and bag and phone and toy and shoe and cheese grater will find its owner again. The shop is very small and there are so many lost things. It’s all quite a squeeze, but still, it’s fabulous.”
One sunny day, a mouse walked in. “Welcome,” said Mrs Frog. “What have you lost?” But the little mouse could only speak Czech. And Mr and Mrs Frog had no idea what she was saying.
Had she lost an umbrella…? Or a chunk of cheese? Or a coat… or a scarf? Maybe it was a banana? Or a computer? Or a bicycle? Or a wig, perhaps? Before long, Mr and Mrs Frog have rattled off half of their inventory – and translated it along the way – before they solve the riddle.
The author, Mark Pallis, is a lifelong lover of language. He was originally a lawyer but switched to the creative sector and devised the award winning BBC TV drama Garrow’s Law and served as Story Editor over its three series. Since then, Mark built up 15 years’ experience in communication, branding and storytelling, including as Creative Director of a busy London ad agency, writing episodes for the Daytime Emmy winning Tales of Peter Rabbit and sitting on the Executive Committee of the Children’s Media Foundation. His first children’s book Crab and Whale has been translated into five languages.
“The kids were so busy laughing, they didn’t realize they were learning.”Kyle Buchanan, Father of two, London.
Mark shared that publishers tend to concentrate their resources developing books for languages where there are lots of speakers, like Spanish or French. And that means that important, but less commonly spoken languages (like Czech), are not so well served. For those of us with a Czech connection, it’s a shame. Why shouldn’t everyone to be able to have an enjoyable way to introduce a child to their favorite language?
Until recently. it wouldn’t have been possible, simply because of the economics of printing and distributing the books. However, advances in technology mean that we can now print books for readers on demand and have them delivered the very next day!
Mark has many Czech speaking friends and he wanted to do something that they could share with their children. What we’re looking at today is among the first versions of the book. It’s important to Mark that every book to be authentic and genuine, and so the mouse’s simple sentences are first translated by one translator, then checked by another, and then finally workshopped by a native speaker just to make sure that everything is correct and feels very natural. It’s certainly a time intensive approach, but we agree that it’s worth it. He also wants each book (in the new series) to really stand on its own. This special little book focuses on those who want to teach kids Czech.
The current books on the market just don’t cut it. There are basically three options:
- Picture dictionaries (that often look wonderful but fail to provide any context or narrative and much as adults wouldn’t actually read a dictionary, kids don’t either!);
- Books that are 100% in the new language. This is OK for board books for the youngest kids, but when children get to two years old or more, they need story to keep them engaged. And when you’re introducing a new language to someone who doesn’t speak it at all, if that child has no points of reference the story, they can be overwhelmed and lose interest.
- Dual language stories, where the text is shown in two languages at once. These suffer because when you switch to the new language, you don’t take the child with you, you’re just talking ‘at’ them and it can be hard for them to follow.
There had to be a way to make it more fun, and more engaging.
So Mark reached out to language experts who helped him get up to speed with all the latest research. He used everything he knew from his time working in Kids TV and advertising, then work-shopped with parents and teachers until finally he had it just right: the Story-Powered Language Learning Method.
Story-Powered Language Learning Method
The Story-powered Language Learning Method taps into a child’s natural abilities and is an effective way to learn and build confidence. How does it work?
• They create an emotionally engaging and funny story for children and adults to enjoy together, just like any other picture book. Studies show that social interaction, like enjoying a book together, is critical in language learning.
• Through the story, they introduce a relatable character who speaks only in the new language. This helps build empathy and a positive attitude towards people who speak different languages. These are both important aspects in laying the foundations for lasting language acquisition in a child’s life.
• As the story progresses, the child naturally works with the characters to discover the meanings of a wide range of fun new words. Strategic use of humor ensures that this subconscious learning is rewarded with laughter; the child feels good and the first seeds of a lifelong love of language are sown.
It’s really a fantastic way of learning and there is proven science behind it.
Who Is The Book For?
All children who want to become familiar with and learn Czech and obviously for parents who want to teach kids Czech. The ideal audience for this particular story is aged 2 to 7 years old. Simply learning or having exposure to a second language, even if you are not yet bilingual, can:
• enhance children’s communication skills. (1)
• facilitate the development of perspective-taking tools that are critical for effective communication. (2)
• improve academic achievement in other subjects. (3)
Golden Period for Language Learning
Research has shown that the time between a child’s birth and their sixth or seventh birthday is a ‘golden period’ when they are most receptive to new languages. That’s because they have an in-built ability to distinguish the sounds they hear, and make sense of them. It’s also well known that children learn best when they feel secure, happy, valued and listened to.
As you can see, there are several benefits to starting them early and at a young age.
What’s the Story Behind the Book
What’s the story behind the book?
When he was 21, Mark set up a legal aid clinic for refugees. Sitting in his office in Cairo, he would meet people from Sierra Leone, Congo, Iraq and Sudan. They’d tell him why they’d fled and he would prepare their cases. But to get to a point where they were willing to share those painful stories, they had to build a relationship of trust. Mark asked himself, How do I do that: form a bond, show respect, and yet break the ice with a stranger? For him, it was to talk to them in their own language. ‘Aw Di bodi? he would ask clients from Sierra Leone. They’d smile, taken aback, and reply in Krio, ‘Di Bodi fayn.’ Then he would apologize for his language skills ‘Ah no sabi tok Krio fayn fayn.’ And they would share a chuckle. Somehow just that simple gesture of wanting to engage, of being seen to be making an effort to make them feel at home was enough to set them off.
Utterly charming story, making use of children’s natural approach to learning language.Madalena Xanthopoulou, Founder, The Alma Collective. Expert on raising multilingual children.
Mark has been this way his entire life. He now speaks Italian, French and German and can tell jokes or sing a little song in Tagalog, Greek, Dutch, Danish, Spanish, Krio and Kupsabiny (a Ugandan language). He can’t imagine his life without languages. Today, like never before, he feels we need more of that empathy between people from different countries.
This book is an engaging story to help teach kids Czech and Mark hopes children will love in its own right. But it’s also his way of helping the youngest children, his own included, engage with a foreign language, learn to empathize with strangers and ultimately build a love of languages. The possibility that after a few reads, kids will be able to go up to a native speaker and tell them in their own language: ‘I’ve lost my hat,’ fills him with joy. Imagine the reaction! Think of how proud the child will feel. So whether you come to the book because your family has a deliciously mixed international heritage, like Marks (and most of us reading this right now), or simply for the fun it it, the simple fact of engaging with another language is going to an enriching experience for everyone.
Message from the Author
“There is a special magic about learning words another language and using them: I truly think it warms the heart. I’ve learnt jokes or songs in ten languages so far and it’s brought me so much joy. This Czech book for children is first and foremost a really enjoyable story, but it’s also my way of helping little learners engage with a new language, empathize with strangers and ultimately build a love of languages. And it happens without them realizing. Any parent who has ever tried to smuggle vegetables into pasta sauce will know that you can get a lot of good stuff into things without kids realizing.”
“This book is the same! I want you all to have fun together and enjoy the story. All the learning is a bonus; the icing on the cake (or the extra veg in the sauce!). The idea that after a few reads, kids will be able to go up to a native speaker and tell them in their own language: ‘I’ve lost my hat’ fills me with joy. Imagine how proud the child will feel. And imagine how proud you’ll feel too! I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. With best wishes, Mark”
The illustrator of this beautiful work is Peter Baynton. Peter is an animator, director and illustrator based in London. He is the Animation Director of the UK’s Channel 4’s new 2019 Christmas film, The Tiger Who Came To Tea, adapted from Judith Kerr’s classic book. He has been directing short films, music videos and commercials for twelve years, picking up over 25 awards at film festivals around the world along the way. He has also worked as a storyboard artist on the BAFTA winning CBeebies show Sarah & Duck, and in 2017 was the 2D Animation Director for Paddington 2. This year he decided to pursue a long-held desire to illustrate a children’s book, and was enchanted by Mark’s manuscript for The Fabulous Lost and Found.
The Fabulous Lost and Found and the Little Czech Mouse by Mark Pallis and Peter Baynton. Published by Neu Westend Press, January 15th 2020, priced $9.99, paperback and $3.99 ebook (36 pages. ISBN: 978-1-9160801-4-0)
Notes & References:
- Liberman et al, Exposure to multiple languages enhances communication skills in infancy, Developmental Science 20(1) March 2016. “Early exposure to multiple languages can enhance children’s communication skills, even when children are effectively monolingual”
- Fan et al, ‘The exposure advantage: Early exposure to a multilingual environment promotes effective communication’ Psychol Sci. 2015 Jul; 26(7): 1090–1097. “For millennia, multilingual exposure has been the norm. Our study shows that such an environment may facilitate the development of perspective-taking tools that are critical for effective communication.”
- Supported by more than 30 studies listed on the American Council of Teaching Foreign Languages website.
We absolutely love the concept, the story and the illustrations and believe this will make a wonderful gift for those who want to teach kids Czech and introduce it into the lives of their littlest loved ones. Make sure to get your copy today and support the work of authors like Mark by leaving a positive response on the book’s Amazon page.
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