One of the most challenging projects that I have done with in my business Ring Connection was editing and reworking a set of 12 workbooks that had been commissioned by CASM and the Fundación Pestalozzi in Honduras for the reintegration of migrant children into the school system. Studies had shown that children who were not quickly reintegrated into society, including into the school system, were more likely to try to migrate again.
The Honduran public school system faces a lot of challenges, and seasonal students is one of them. This is a problem for migrant children in particular because they often face stigma upon returning to school. These workbooks contain structured lessons that the student can work through independently or with guidance from their teacher, but in a way that allows them to still be a part of the classroom environment. It also eases the burden on the teacher to create extra lessons or materials for the children. And finally, some of the lessons directly relate to migration, human rights, and Honduras in particular.
The creator of these workbooks had clearly put a ton of effort into them, but there were some issues with typos, the design, and in some cases the content itself. CASM needed to clean up the final product and send it to the Ministry of Education as quickly as possible because the school year was about to end and they needed the education officials to review the books before they went on vacation. Since this project is going to be used throughout the entire country by all returned migrant children in the Honduran public school system, it needed some polishing.
As a former educator, this project was right up my alley. I love editing, I love creating educational materials, and I love making materials more culturally relevant to the kids’ lives. CASM made some changes, but I also added some of my own. In the example below from the 9th grade Spanish workbook, CASM wanted to change the author highlight from Alexandre Dumas to Lucila Gamero de Medina, a Honduran author. I selected and edited the excerpt from her novel, and I wrote the biographical description of her.
My job was to review every word for typos, change text according to the instructions of the professionals at CASM who were simultaneously reviewing the material, and also look for pictures that were more appropriate for this age range (7th – 9th grades). I edited the content itself to make sure it was complete, accurate, and age-appropriate, I made the font bigger and the content more concise, and I suggested different ways of making the material more inviting.
In the Math book below, you can see that it was difficult to differentiate a lesson from a practice activity. I conceptualized having sections more clearly delineated, and providing more space for answers in a way that visually breaks up the material on the page.
Another way that I made the text more inviting was to reduce the amount of text, increase the font size slightly for 7th grade books, and add pictures that were relevant to the material. Some of the text was also too advanced for the grade level, so I made reductions and simplifications where I could, with the green light from CASM. I also created more headings and other visual hooks.
I enlisted my friend Blanca from Vaya! Publicidad to work on the design aspects of the workbooks that CASM wanted to change: new covers and section dividers, a table of contents, a cleaner design overall, a more systematic color coding system, fixing some pagination issues, and adding images. She did a fabulous job:
CASM reviewed the books by hand and sent them to me. I edited the documents in InDesign and sent everything I could not do that was graphic-design related over to Blanca. Blanca made her edits and sent it back to me for another review. I then sent the PDF to CASM for another round of reviews. Some of the documents that needed extra help had around 8 or 9 versions, but a couple only had 4 or 5 versions. Since every document was 70+ pages of text, it really was necessary to have so many different rounds of revisions.
I enjoyed this project because it allowed me to use my skills as an educator and my love of editing, and being able to work with Adobe InDesign was a great experience. I am very thankful for the chance to work on something that will have a positive impact for returned migrant children.
*A note about the word “returned”: in the vast majority of cases, these are children who have been deported from Guatemala, Mexico, or the US. Some of them returned because of circumstances related to their journey, but most were deported. The word “returned” is a politically-neutral, passive term used by organizations and programs that work with migrants.