My job involves working on a one-to-one basis with children who have moderate learning difficulties. I’ve found that, as a general rule, children become reasonably competent readers long before they become competent writers. This can be for a variety of reasons, but chief amongst them tends to be a poor visual memory which hampers progress with spelling. By the time they get to me, they often get incredibly stressed the second they are asked to pick up a pencil, with some children point-blank refusing to write. Usually I can win them round with carefully structured work, cut and stick activities and using malleable materials like plasticine and pipe cleaners to produce writing. Last year, though, I taught a little boy called Mark who, whilst he made great progress in reading, calmly and cheerfully refused to write. In fairness to the child, he was very dyslexic and was offered no support in class, so he’d learned that it was easier to opt out than to put a lot of effort in only to have his teacher yell at him because his work wasn’t perfect. None of my usual strategies worked and I was starting to get a bit worried. Eventually, when browsing around in Snyth’s one day, I spotted this and thought it might work.
What is it?
If you’re a child of my generation or before, you might remember spending hours colouring in sheets of paper in rainbow hues, rubbing a wax candle over the top, plastering it with thick black crayon and then scraping through the crayon with a butter knife or chopstick to create multicoloured whorls and pictures that showed through the crayon. It was messy, time-consuming and the results were never that great.
Crayola have obviously realised that modern children have a plethora of gizmos to entertain them and so won’t be arsed to spend ages colouring, waxing and crayoning, so they have produced magic paper which does pretty much the same thing, albeit with the use of a marker rather than a butter knife. Given how pugilistic some of my children are, this is all to the good.
What do you get?
The booklet and two markers come in a sealed bag. It’s wise to try and keep this reasonably intact for storage, as the magic paper doesn’t work as well if it gets wet and the black coating goes a bit funny. Similarly, if the prospect of magic paper has made your little one a bit sweaty-pawed with anticipation, some of the black stuff will transfer onto their hands and get a wee bit sticky. In the booklet are 18 magic pages, plus a page of stencils which are hole-punched in such a way that you can take them out and slot them in front of any page. The stencils in my pack are pleasingly random: a monster face, a swirl, a moose head, a butterfly, a dog, a cat, a palm tree and, bizarrely, a CND symbol.
Is it any good?
The markers provided are nice and chunky and a good size for little hands. The nibs of the pens are thick and sturdy and don’t crush easily, although they will start to pick up the black coating from the pages after a while. I’m not sure what the fluid in them is, but there’s no solvent smell and nor does it irritate skin if you accidentally dab the pen on yourself.