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Barbara's Blog: Sound Waves to Sound Stories

Barbara Murray - Friday, September 06, 2019

When writing the third edition of the Sound Waves Program in 2010 and expanding the Foundation section, it occurred to me that teachers needed stories to introduce each of the 43 sounds, the basis for the whole Sound Waves Program, to beginning readers and writers.

This edition of the Sound Waves Program was to match the newly released National Curriculum. My planning involved composing a short story for each sound, which were in the Foundation Teacher Book for teachers to read to their students.

I really enjoyed thinking up plots for these short stories. I discovered that if I compiled a list of appropriate words containing the focus sound to be introduced, I had the basis on which to build a story. My creative juices were enthralled! I loved writing the stories and they just flowed as I typed.

However, a year or two later teachers were asking Firefly Education for a list of picture books with stories to introduce the individual sounds.

When I wrote the stories for the Teacher Book it did occur to me that illustrated stories would be better to engage those little beginning students. Firefly Education asked me to research the marketplace for picture books with stories suitable for introducing the 43 sounds.

While visiting libraries, bookstores and online catalogues I realised that only about half of the sounds were represented in picture books. The obvious ones such /a/ as in star, /ee/ as in bee, /b/ as in balloon were available but many were not. Since Sound Waves is based on all 43 sounds we needed 43 suitable, illustrated stories and that was not available.

I approached Firefly Education about publishing picture books. At that point I had 43 separate 32 page picture books in mind! I had no idea how massive a project that would be. Firefly Education declined as they are a text book publisher and besides, the project would have been massively expensive.
However, a phonemic approach to literacy was, and still is, my passion and I was driven to do what I saw as completing the final element of Sound Waves. I set about self-publishing the 43 picture books. I wrote the stories and approached well known publishers. They all declined because trying to get 43 books all done and into the market place at the one time was impossible.
I joined the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) which is a world-wide society based in the US and with a very active group in Perth where I now live, having left Queensland with my husband to follow our two children who both settled in Perth and began producing the all important grandchildren. I attended a SCBWI conference and met writers who gave me lots of information.
I started looking for illustrators but soon realised it would be impossible to publish 43 separate books with 43 different illustrators concurrently. I found a local lady who was perfect for my expectations and together we decided that 43 double page spreads in a set of 4 picture books could be manageable for just one illustrator.
This project required her to work non-stop to produce 43 double page spread illustrations for 43 different story lines. What a huge job! However, she was enthusiastic and set to work. Unfortunately after she had created artwork for the first five stories she realised she couldn't keep up the commitment. I was bitterly disappointed and decided to forget about the project.

Story to continue...

Cover of book 1, The Bolton Boys' Balloon Adventure and other stories; the story on pages 10-11, Carla Koala's Crazy Kite Ride, has the focus sound of /k/ as in kite

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