“A fun way to read together!” is the tag line for a new series from Scholastic’s Cartwheel Books, debuting in January with four titles. Aimed at children ages 3–5, StoryPlay books integrate questions and prompts within stories to further engage kids and the adults who are reading to, or with, them. Each storybook wraps up with activities tailored to the tale, with themes that include drawing, counting, search-and-find, riddles, and imaginative play.
Featuring paper-over-board books of varying lengths, the StoryPlay line is comprised of annotated versions of backlist picture books as well as all-new titles. The inaugural list includes three previously published books – Dinosaurumpus! by Tony Mitton, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees; Because You’re You by Liza Baker, illustrated by David McPhail; and Shoe-la-la! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by LeUyen Pham – as well as an original title, Kate Dopirak’s Snuggle Bunny, with art by Cori Doerrfeld.
Vetted by a rotating team of educators, StoryPlay books are curated to help young readers and listeners develop pre-reading skills, reading comprehension, problem-solving abilities, social skills, and memory strength. A burst on the back cover of each title specifies which thematic or developmental area (among them socialization, emotions, self-expression, and science) the book “shines a spotlight on.”
“StoryPlay started as a way to bridge the market gap between board and picture books, and as a way to gently guide parents whose children are ready to make that leap,” explained Scholastic senior editor Orli Zuravicky, who is spearheading the new venture.
“We wanted to think outside of the box, and make the series stand out from other storybook lines,” she added. “The real heart of StoryPlay is its focus on high-quality, full-length stories, with customized questions and prompts aimed at starting a dialogue between adults and children, and at reinforcing key literacy and developmental skills in an organic way. And the full spread of activities at the end of each story extends the storytelling experience and keeps the child entertained post-reading time, which enhances the book’s value.”
Another aspect of “value” was also a high priority for Zuravicky and her colleagues as they developed the StoryPlay’s model, which features a $5.99 price point. “The pricing was a very important item on our checklist,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that [the books are] affordable to all parents, guardians, and teachers.”
Moving forward, Cartwheel will add 12 titles annually to StoryPlay – four each in the summer, fall, and spring seasons. The publisher expects to maintain the inaugural list’s 4:1 ratio of backlist to original titles, said Zuravicky, who added that the original books, “like Snuggle Bunny, will likely have a nice seasonal hook.”
Scholastic is supporting StoryPlay’s debut with print and online consumer and trade advertising, a social media campaign, educational advertising and marketing outreach at conventions, and a retail counter display. Across the board, in-house enthusiasm for the new line runs high, Zuravicky said: “This has been a group effort from the start, and everyone – including editorial, design, marketing, and sales – weighed in and gave great feedback. We learned that it really does take a village to put together and to launch a program as extensive as this.”