managing director, sjm media
founding editor, curiocity
founding editor, curiocity
I have a lot of imaginary friends—and the best part is that everybody else can see them, too! Freda, Percy, Camille, Carlos, Emma, Ajay and that rascal of a green bulldog, Pickle, are all in Miss Cathy's class at Ready Set Pre-K. You can read all about their adventures in See-and-Learn City in Stuart J. Murphy's I See I Learn books. (Charlesbridge)
Then there's the crowd from the MathStart series: Hamster Champs, Leaping Lizards, Mighty Maddie, Jack the Builder, Kangaroo, Tally O'Malley, Zipping Zooming Zooey, those crazy lampshade-wearing lemonheads, a parade of banner-waving bugs and, of course, the one and only Perry the Penguin, just to name a few. (HarperCollins)
I am also an honorary member of an imaginary club: The Main Street Kids' Club, where kids love to do math, cool is the rule, every day is an adventure and bursting into song and dance is a regular occurrence.
Yet well before I began working with author and visual learning strategist Stuart J. Murphy—who imagined this imaginary crowd--I already had a some experience working in children's media: I developed and sold a nationally syndicated newspaper section called curiocity to Thomson Media.
Part of the inspiration for curiocity came from an exhibition I curated called The Art of the Message, which was based on an archive of Chicago Tribunes from the 1870s through WWII. Very early on, publishers figured out that features aimed at children could be a powerful sales draw for their parents. Newspapers pushed the edge of printing technologies to create engaging, imaginative content. There were cut-out paper dolls, paper soldiers, comics, maps, colorful science graphics, stories and drawing contests. The newspaper was a one-stop shop of interesting things to learn and fun things to do.
The business model for curiocity focused on a mix of national and local content designed to attract a mix of national and local advertisers. Our editorial team provided the kind of high quality feature content that local newspapers simplay are not able afford to produce themselves; they contributed local content. National advertisers were attracted by the aggregate circulation. I sold curiocity to Thomson Media.
From the start it was clear that working with Stuart J. Murphy would be an adventure. As part of the campaign to get me me say "yes," he surprised me with a dedication in Safari Park, a pre-algebra MathStart story on solving for unknowns: "To Janet Ginsburg—whose mind is like a safari of wild ideas."
Clearly, a kindred spirit.
At that point, the MathStart series was beginning to hit critical mass. A three-book deal had grown to six books, then 12 books, then 24. Eventually, the series would grow to 63 titles, split over three levels for children ages Pre-K to Grade 3. Each MathStart story focuses on a specific mathematical skill, reinforced by an array of visual learning strategies such as charts, graphs and models.
My challenge was to expand the audience, especially as the property matured into a backlist series.
Among my favorite projects in this effort was the development of a children's math musical called The Main Street Kids' Club. I played the role of impressario. Playwright Scott Ferguson, noted for his adaptation of the ever-popular Schoolhouse Rock Live! show, wove together an original story based on six MathStart books, which was workshopped at Northwestern University under the aegis of associate professor and noted children's storyteller Rives Collins. Stuart made sure the math was as spot-on as the toe-tappingly wonderful music composed by Jeff Award-winner Michael Mahler.
The show is available for licensing through Music Theatre International. Bring a production to your school or community today!
MathStart books have been translated into a half dozen languages and sales have topped 10 million.
I See I Learn books also combine simple stories and visual learning strategies to teach young children. The series "stars" the kids of Ready Set Pre-K and covers four domains: social, emotional, health and safety and cognitive skills. Each book includes a special section called A Closer Look that includes a visual review and a series of questions designed to help parents and teachers extend learning beyond the story (free posters!)
I See I Learn at School (Pearson Education) is a comprehensive Early Childhood Education program that includes a complete set of books, along with teacher guides, posters, videos, games and more.
In my role as Managing Director of SJM Media, I work with with Stuart on a variety of projects, including the development of websites, videos and other digital assets; and pursuing strategic partnerships in the early childhood education space.
Four properties, nearly 80 books in print, sales in the millions and a musical: With imaginary friends that can do that, imagine what the future holds!
Stuart J. Murphy's award-wining MathStart series (HarperCollins) use a combination of of simple stories and visual learning techniques to teach mathematical concepts to young children There are 63 books split over three levels for ages Pre-K through Grade 3. MathStart has been translated into a half dozen languages and sales have topped 10 million books.
The Main Street Kids' Club: A MathStart Musical, is based on six MathStart books. Playwright Scott (Schoolhouse Rock Live!) Ferguson crafted an original story of adventure, mystery, friendship and math. Jeff award-winner Michael Mahler composed the music. I played the role of impresario!
Stuart J. Murphy's I See I Learn series (Charlesbridge) builds on young children's natural ability as visual learners to teach social, emotional, health & safety and cognitive skills. I See I Learn at School (Pearson), a comprehensive early childhood program, includes a complete set of books, along with teacher guides, posters, videos and games.
I created curiocity, a nationally syndicated children's section that was sold to Thomson Media.