Russmedia book project teaches children about climate change

By Anke Hilger

Russmedia Verlag GmbH, VN

Schwarzach, Vorarlberg, Austria

It was the start of 2021. Lockdown! I was in my home office, trying to keep a bad mood at bay.

A colleague from our key account called and said, “Hi Anke, we’ve got an idea. We’d like to include a little children’s book about climate protection as part of our long-term Climate Protection Award project. We’ve already done one in this style, called ‘Hanna lacht, so wird die Zeitung gemacht’ (Translation: Hanna has fun, that’s how a newspaper’s run).”

As I listened, the gears started turning in my mind. Hanna, a confident preschool child and the topic of climate protection for children — yes, that really is a good project!  I knew that the illustrator had the time and my colleagues could help with the text.

All of a sudden, I was in a good mood. I assembled the team.

Looking through a child’s eyes

First, inspiration: what options are there that can be easily presented? What does a child encounter in their surroundings? How can this be explained in pictures? We had a brainstorming video call: an illustrator, two copywriters, and me as the project leader. All women of different ages, all with experience with children. We get each other.

Gathering topics was followed by discussions. We had debates about visualisation. Then the first pages were sketched, and we had to ask more questions: Is the tone right? Are we getting across what we want to say? Will a child understand it? At this point, the mothers involved their children as testers.

We’re talking about saving resources, but that’s a word no child understands. Water — children understand that. We reference food; and of course, what grows in your garden is better, you don’t need a car to go fetch it. Cars are smelly — but not if they use electricity to drive. Traffic situation — careful, cyclists should wear a helmet.

The book project was designed to teach children about climate change.
The book project was designed to teach children about climate change.

Everything in the picture needed to be carefully thought out. After all, that’s what the kids will be looking at. The litter lying around — children can do something about this. And perhaps a wind turbine — no, we’ll leave that out, because there aren’t any in Vorarlberg. You can’t have it all.

There need to be limits — but we need a common theme, too. We connect the topics to a child’s daily routine. Be careful not to use too many stereotypes. If the mother is baking with the child, then the father can unload the dishwasher. And right at the end, we still need to get around to the Climate Protection Award.

All the children on this page are blond; that won’t do. And we should include a couple of boys, too. The last page presents another challenge — how can we bundle 10 logos together in an appealing way? Ultimately, we found a solution for this, too.

Lasting effect

It was nice that we weren’t under huge time pressure. We were able to continue working on this project alongside our daily business. It took three months. And now it’s time to gift it, distribute it, raffle it. The booklet was given to first-year pupils in their school welcome bag, handed out at Vorarlberg fairs, and children receive it as a reward in drawing competitions and at lots of other opportunities so everyone does their bit for the climate.

About Anke Hilger

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