PROFILES IN EDUCATION
Alice Wilder: Publisher & Creator
of Think It Ink It
There are two problems that face every writer from the grade-school child to the professional author. First, you must have something to say. That means content. Second, you must find a way to say it. That means style. It goes without saying, that if you don’t solve the first problem, you can’t begin to address the second. You’re stopped before you even get started. Dr. Alice Wilder doesn’t want to see that happen to children. She believes that literacy means more than just reading. It means writing and writing means using the imagination.
“Imaginative” is the perfect word to describe the four new products to come from Dr. Wilder’s brand-new company Think It Ink It Publishing. Her mission is to have children write a book that has already been illustrated by a professional illustrator—a book that can end up as a beautifully produced hard cover complete with the child’s title, name as author, personal dedication and photo on the back with a bio. In the process of producing such a book, the child learns to write a draft, and rewrite it until satisfied, with lots of tips on how to think about language and create a story. The key products to make this happen are four wordless books, professionally illustrated in different styles, and designed so that children can write their own words. A high quality workbook in full color in each style comes with a pad of lined sticky notepaper and a pencil and sells for $12.95. The child can draft the story in the space under each picture on the notepaper, adhering it to the page with the appropriate drawing. (There is plenty of notepaper for rewrites.) When satisfied with the story the child can copy it (in ink) directly onto the workbook page or go on the website: www.thinkitinkitpublishing.com/, where the custom hardcover can be purchased, and type in the text for each picture. For $29.95 the child will receive a beautifully produced, full color, hardcover picture book, taking advantage of the relatively new print-on-demand technology.
It is important to Alice that, “the focus is on writing, not drawing. The art serves as “scaffolding” to give them something to think about, to spark their imagination and creativity. She says, “A lot of times the blank piece of paper is intimidating to children. I wanted to give them something that is both educational and empowering.” The project began about two years ago when a colleague, Frances Black, whose company Arts Counsel Inc. represents artists to publishers, approached her with a beautiful illustrated wordless picture book that told the story of Sleeping Beauty. Fran asked Alice how children reacted to wordless picture books. This is exactly the kind of question Alice loves to research. Why not ask kids? So they made several mock-ups of wordless picture books each from a different artist, including Sleeping Beauty, and went to a second grade class in Brooklyn. The kids could choose the book they wished to write about and work in groups or singly. After forty-five minutes, time was up and Alice asked to collect the work. Not so fast, the kids protested. Ideas and words were flowing. Writing was happening. When Alice finally read the results, she went back to the illustrators with suggestions for revisions. Sleeping Beauty didn’t make the cut because the kids already knew the story and that was the only story they told. Think It Ink It Publishing needed to offer art that encouraged a variety of interpretations. After much field-testing, the four different styles they ultimately produced are very different from each other, giving each budding author a real choice.
Think It Ink It Publishing is the latest step in Alice Wilder’s career. Since 1995, Alice has been the Director of Research and Development and Producer/Writer for Nick Jr.’s breakout preschool series Blue’s Clues. In this capacity, she ran the formative research process of working with the show’s audience (2-5 year olds), co-authored the curriculum on which Blue’s Clues and spin-off Blue’s Room were based, and wrote scripts, books, educational workbooks, and columns for the magazine and Nick Jr.’s website. She has been nominated for Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Preschool Children’s Series as well as Outstanding Writing in a Children’s Series. Wilder also served as the Director of Research and Development for Little Bill and Oswald, both animated series on Nick Jr.
A graduate of Columbia University Teachers College, Wilder earned her doctorate in Educational Psychology, where she was awarded the Miriam Goldberg Research Award for her dissertation and the Early Career Award.
What’s next for Think It Ink It Publishing? Alice would like to see it catch on in classrooms. She would like to create art to stimulate stories from different regions of the country starting with New Orleans. She has seen how a book signing for one ten-year-old was a transformative event for this inner-city child. Ultimately she would like Think It Ink It to create a foundation to support writing from kids. If Dr. Alice Wilder had her way “writer’s block” would be two words permanently eliminated from every potential writer’s vocabulary.#
Vicki Cobb is a well-known science author of more than 85 nonfiction books for children.All the products mentioned are available on the Think It Ink It Publishing website: www.thinkitinkitpublishing.com.