Introducing a groundbreaking new series to introduce German to children, and foster a love of languages The Fabulous Lost and Found and the little German mouse
Available at the end of February at this link:
The owners, Mr and Mrs Frog, keep everything safe, hoping that some day every 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 German. 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.
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.
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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. He is represented by the BKS Agency and his first children’s book ‘Crab and Whale’ has been translated into five languages. He lives with his wife and two young children.
An interview with Mark Palllis, author of The Fabulous Lost and Found
What’s the story behind the book?
When I was 21, I set up a legal aid clinic for refugees. Sitting in my office in Cairo, I’d meet people from Sierra Leone, Congo, Iraq and Sudan. They’d tell me why they’d fled and I would prepare their cases. But to get to a point where they were willing to share those painful stories, we had to build a relationship of trust. I asked my-self, How do I do that: form a bond, show respect, and yet break the ice with a stranger? For me, it was to talk to them in their own language. ‘Aw Di bodi? I would ask clients from Sierra Leone. They’d smile, taken aback, and reply in Krio, ‘Di Bodi fayn.’ Then I’d apologize for my language skills ‘Ah no sabi tok Krio fayn fayn.’ And we’d 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 us off. I’ve been like that my whole life. I now speak 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). I can’t imagine my life without it.
Today, like never before, I feel we need more of that empathy between people from different countries. This book is an engaging story that I hope kids will love in its own right. But it’s also my way of helping the youngest children, my 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 me 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 mine, or simply for the fun it it, the simple fact of engaging with another language is going to an enriching experience for everyone.
What is the German connection?
I’m from London but currently live in Berlin and both of my children are learning German. I learned German when I was at school but really wanted a way to bring German into my kids lives without it feeling like homework. I wanted it to be natural and fun. I am planning other languages in the series, but German was a great place to begin.
Why did you choose to approach language learning in this way?
The current books on the market don’t cut it. There’s basically three options: picture dictionaries, that often look wonderful but fail to provide any context or narrative (much as adults wouldn’t actually read a dictionary, kids don’t either!); second is 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 over-whelmed and lose interest. The final option is dual language stories, where the text is shown in two languages at once. For me, 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 I reached out to language experts who helped me get up to speed with all the latest research. I used everything I knew from my time working in Kids TV and advertising, then workshopped with parents and teachers until finally we had it just right: the Story-Powered Language Learning Method.
What is the Story-Powered Language Learning Method, exactly?
The Story-powered Language Learning Method taps into a child’s natural abilities and is an effective way to learn and build confidence.
How our learning method works:
•We 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, we 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 humour 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.
Who is the book aimed at?
Our audience is kids aged 2 to 7. 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 re-ceptive 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.
What are the benefits of learning a language at a young age? Simply learning or having exposure to a second language, even if you are not yet bilingual, can:
•enhance children’s communication skills.
•facilitate the development of perspective-taking tools that are critical for effective communication.
•improve academic achievement in other subjects
1) Lieberman 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” 2) 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.” 3) Supported by more than 30 studies listed on the American Council of Teaching Foreign Languages website https://www.actfl.org/advocacy/what-the-research-shows/studies-supporting
To find out more about how The Story Powered Language Learning Method works, visit www.neuwestendpress.com