Workman Publishing is bringing the Force to education with the May launch of a series of Star Wars workbooks, in which children learn numbers by circling X-wing starfighters and select homophones from sentences such as “Luke is a Jedi knight/night.” The first 12 titles will cover mathematics, reading, and writing, or the grade-level equivalent, for pre-kindergarten through second grade.
“Our Brain Quest workbooks have been a great success,” said Raquel Jaramillo, editor of the Star Wars workbooks. “So we thought, can we use our relationship with Lucasfilm and develop a line of workbooks that uses Star Wars themes and also utilizes what we’ve learned about making a great workbook?” Workman’s past titles with Disney-owned Lucasfilm have included Star Wars Fandex, Star Wars Scanimation, and Star Wars Origami.
The Star Wars workbooks are aligned with the new Common Core State Standards. “It was important that this would not just be about Star Wars,” Jaramillo said. “These would have to be workbooks that provide educational instruction to children, using Star Wars characters and stories.”
In some cases, marrying the two proved a challenge. “There were a lot of people who had to look at these, and there was a lot of back-and-forthing,” explained Jaramillo, who noted that the Brain Quest editorial board vetted the educational accuracy while the team from Lucas reviewed the correctness of the Star Wars content. “It was a communal effort, even more than usual. We had to satisfy the die-hard Star Wars fan. We had to make sure we didn’t get anything wrong. But we also needed to get the educational curriculum right. It was a delicate balance.”
For example, the editorial team had to select characters, aliens, space vehicles, or other iconography that matched the educational concept, while not violating any rules of the Star Wars universe, such as putting characters from Episodes 1, 2, and 3 of the films together with characters from the separate timeline of Episodes 4, 5, and 6. In addition, some educational concepts do not fit as comfortably with the Star Wars universe as others. “In Star Wars, the concept of time and money are very different from here on Earth,” Jaramillo pointed out.
Workman also wanted to ensure that, as with the Brain Quest workbooks, the line’s look and feel would be attractive to kids. “There’s a tendency for workbooks to look a lot like textbooks,” Jaramillo said. “Visually, these are not textbook-y at all.
The first 12 Star Wars titles will hit store shelves next month. “We’ve had an incredibly enthusiastic response from bookstores and just about everybody,” Jaramillo said. Workman is supporting the introduction with a $500,000 promotional campaign, national advertising, a radio satellite tour, in-school posters, and a 48-copy mixed floor display, and the books will have a presence at Star Wars events and venues, including Star Wars Reads Day, Comic-Con, and Disney Parks. “We’re definitely launching big,” she said.