Little Literature Co. Where storytelling meets STEM
12th November 2019
Words by Annabel Blake and Anna Whitaker
Ever looked for a science game for kids that didn’t bore their brains out? Meet Little Literature Co, the Australian company who recently launched Talu Tales. This beautifully-illustrated creative storytelling game has won international acclaim with its deck of gender-neutral story cards for STEM-based fun.
You play by picking cards and making up stories with the ones you get (a slightly more child-appropriate version of Cards Against Humanity, if you will). Scientifically accurate astrophysics and cool, quirky characters mean there are infinite ways for the stories to develop and embark on an educational adventure for the whole family.
Hello, Little Literature Co! We absolutely LOVE what you’re doing bringing storytelling and STEM together. It feels so refreshing to remind the world that people can actually enjoy creativity and science at the same time. What was it that led you to starting out?
Deb and I first met whilst working together in Google’s Creative Labs where we became good friends. After our time at Google, we were looking for a project to work on together, and realised we were both passionate about increasing female leadership, and representation – especially in STEM fields.
We also recognised that there was a lack of female leadership and diversity in stories and games for young children; and knew this is where we wanted to focus our project. We got together and started prototyping the very first version of Talu Tales – a period of designing and testing which would last almost two years!
What was your experience of growing up with a love of science and how do you think society’s approach to girls in STEM has changed over time?
This is a big question! Growing up, I didn’t just love science, I loved learning, art, history, sport, music- the list goes on. When I was in high school, and I had to choose which subjects to focus on. I dropped out of chemistry, physics and extension maths because I was the only girl, or one of two girls in my class. They talk about this being the ‘leaky pipeline’ and one of the critical points where girls disengage from STEM.
Now that I’m older, I’ve found myself back in a STEM job, which I love, however often wonder where I would be now if I hadn’t had to choose, or if there had of been more girls in my class.
As a society we’re engaging critically in discussions around diversity, which is fantastic to see and be a part of. There are so many positive initiatives, conversations and movements that are working to change the statistics and the experience of being a women in STEM.
Talu Tales is just brilliant. From the concept right through to the beautifully illustrated cards in the deck. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea and the process of getting it off the ground?
When Deb and I began researching gender representation in children’s stories and games we were stunned by some of the statistics. STEM toys are 3x more likely to be targeted at boys than girls, and while companies are starting to move away from blue/pink toys, the vast majority are still largely gendered. Our experience growing up was that we read stories or watched movies that lacked strong female characters or had no female characters at all!
We believe storytelling and play is so important, especially at a young age where we’re still figuring out who we are, what we’re good at, and where we fit in the world. So we began to build a storyworld which children (of all genders) could play in. We packed it with fantasy, diverse characters, educational facts, tricky problems and story plots. Our space themed pack is just one small corner of this world, with more themes being released next year.
Once we had the idea, we spent two years mapping out the world, user testing with kids and families and building prototypes with different manufacturers. Right before launch we entered two design competitions (Frankie Magazine good stuff design awards, and the Good Design awards). We won both, and took the leap! Pooling our savings for our first print run, then hit ‘publish’ on our website.
And how do you actually play it? Do you need many players or to be a specific age?
We love to play ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ and took inspiration from roleplay storytelling when building Talu Tales. Gameplay is open and flexible – we designed Talu Tales ‘ingredients’ to inspire your own stories, to be mixed and built in your own way, with your own voice. Inside each pack you’ll find a ‘ways to play’ manual with four different gameplay levels. At its simplest you take one card/scene with illustrations on the front + story plots on the back, and begin to verbally tell a short story out loud. As you progress you take it in turns to use the cards to build a story with other people. All of the instructions are included in the manual and include ideas for creative writing prompts, design thinking exercises and improvisation games.
The majority of our players are 4-10 (often playing with a parent) but we’ve had a lot of adults ask us if it’s a game they can play without kids (you can, by the way!).
What’s the best story you’ve heard from the deck so far?
Every story grows into a wacky place you can never predict. There are a few ideas that stand out though! There was a four-year-old who loved telling stories with the black hole card, which she called a ‘space window’, and a six-year-old who loved some of the space plants. He had picked up on a story prompt that suggested they might be singing, and told story after story that revolved around a forest of singing plants in space.
Talu Tales is just one of the amazing things you do. What else have you got going on or coming up in the not too distant future?
Talu Tales is a series, which is constantly growing! We have additional themes launching next year (think underwater, Egypt and dinosaurs). Each of the themes mix together and belong to the same universe! Kids are all so unique and often particular in their interests, so we wanted to create a universe sooooo big, that there was something for everyone.
And lastly, how do we get our hands on Talu Tales this side of the world?
We ship to the UK! As a new startup we’re still growing into new retailers. If you have a local children’s book or game store that you love, you can request they contact us and we can set something up!
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