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A few weeks ago, I taught my first crochet class for a group of kids (as part of a series of classes) through the Queens Library. I’ve taught crochet classes with kids and adults combined before, and I’ve also taught one-on-one lessons for kids. In preparation for the class, I decided to check out Teach a Group of Kids to Crochet by Kay Meadors.
There are several nice things about the book. It is filled with great color pictures of multicultural girls and boys having fun while learning to crochet and wearing samples of simple crocheted projects. The book includes many close up, step-by-step hand photos of all of the basic stitches for both righties and lefties. The back cover has ruler marks on three edges so it doubles as a gauge ruler. And there are 15 projects that kids would definitely like to wear and use in vibrant (or camouflage, for the boys) colors.
I must say I was disappointed. This disappointment has little to do with Kay Meadors, or with Leisure Arts, and mostly stems from my own assumptions about what the book would include. (You know what they say about making assumptions!) Since I haven’t found many reviews of the book online, I thought I would write up something very detailed so that you will know what you are in for if you buy this book.
I was under the impression that Leisure Arts allowed teachers to make copies from any page this book. I thought that by purchasing it, I would save myself hours of recreating handouts I’ve made for adults to be more kid friendly. In reality, you are only authorized to make copies of 2 pages from the book. These 2 pages are a stitch guide including a single photo (one each for right- and left-handers) of each basic crochet stitch. I did attempt to copy these 2 pages, but the combination of the hand (a fair skinned flesh tone) and the font color (light blue) made it nearly impossible to make a legible black and white copy. I tried color copies, too, using my home four-in-one printer, but I wasn’t able to get much that was readable. (I ended up using my standard handouts for adults in the class. That worked out, since only the teenagers were interested in handouts anyway.)
Inside of the book, Kay says, “It would be helpful if each student purchased a copy of this book so that they have the written projects available outside of class. Projects may not be copied for students to take home.” At the same time, she suggests that prospective teachers approach schools, and children’s groups that are organized through churches, Scouting, and 4-H organizations. I may be biased since I live in New York City, and school and library programs here can’t charge students for materials, and many local Scouting groups frown upon additional costs being charged to families. Perhaps if you are teaching in a wealthier community, asking each student to purchase a $14.95 book would be a viable option.
On the other hand, asking students to buy this book would be akin to telling students to buy the instructor’s version of a textbook. The first 15 pages of introduction, FAQ, and tips are targeted at the teacher, and there are “Teacher’s Notes” on just about every other page thereafter. Without this teacher information, the book could be significantly shorter (and therefore, cheaper) for the student.
Now that we’ve established that unless you plan to have commercial color copies of the 2 page stitch guide made, or instruct each student to buy the book, Teach a Group of Kids to Crochet doesn’t have much value as a classroom teaching aid, let’s look at how it works as a stand alone teacher’s guide.
Kay does give some tips for first time teachers (such as reminders to start with hands-on demonstrations so the kids won’t get bored) but she doesn’t really address specifically the unique issues related to teaching children. I was hoping to find suggestions for dealing with the variable levels of motor skill development and reading skills at different ages, working with a mixed age group, and incorporating parents and helpers into the class. There wasn’t any such information, but I did get some of the general information on teaching that I previously learned when becoming a Craft Yarn Council certified crochet teacher and instructor.
The patterns section gave me some good ideas for simple projects for children. Kay has written the patterns in full words rather than using pattern abbreviations, which I think is appropriate for children. However, I think several of the patterns are too long and detailed for most children (e.g., a 3 page pattern for pillow covers).
Overall, the book suffers from a kind of identity crisis. It is written to look like a book for kids, with big pictures, vibrant colors, and wacky fonts. But about half of the content is intended for the teacher. It might have been better to write two shorter companion books – one for the teacher and one for students.
I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars. If you are a new teacher and will be working with kids, it has some helpful, general crochet teaching tips. The book has many simple and fun project ideas. The book is attractive looking and might be helpful to have in class. If you are teaching in a community where asking students to buy a book would be appropriate, you might find it a useful student workbook. (I would actually recommend having the students buy a book written for kids instead.) If you’ve been teaching for a while, you won’t find much new information here, and might be better off buying a book written for kids to share in class.
If you are shaky on your own crochet skills and plan to teach one or two younger relatives to crochet, I think this would be a 5 star book. It could remind you of all the basics (with plenty of full color photos) and give you both plenty of patterns to work on together.