HOW I MADE IT: Melissa Shepherd on Booster Book

Melissa Shepherd

By Melissa Shepherd

July 26th 2016 at 4:02PM
UPDATED July 27th 2016 at 3:40PM
HOW I MADE IT: Melissa Shepherd on Booster Book

When her younger brother was diagnosed with dyspraxia, design student Shepherd was inspired to create a learning toy to help children develop the skills most struggled with by kids in her brother's position. She talks ToyNews through the Booster Book product.

Booster Book is a larger than life interactive book aimed at pre-school children to help develop skills in relation with dyspraxia.

Each page deals with a different issue a child with dyspraxia would struggle with and aims at developing skills such as sequencing, organisation, dexterity and manipulation to name but a few.

The idea of the book is that it manages to do all this in a fun and imaginative way so that the child wants to play.

The concept stems from my own extensive and varied research in which I found five overlaps in the methods of resolving dyspraxia and the benefits and experiences of imaginative play. These are: exploring through beng physical through running, jumping etc, repeating movements and practicing skills, developing social skills through group or parent interaction, encouragement and enjoyment. If a child doesn’t enjoy what they are practising or playing, they will soon become disinterested.

From my research, my understanding of dyspraxia is that there isn’t one single solution, it is a varying and complex condition. I therefore wanted to create something which aided as many of the skills that someone with dyspraxia would struggle with as possible.

The narrative and story idea allows me to deal with a variety of issues and skills as the story is progressed. The book is based on the average height of a three to four year old, so that while the child is playing with the book, they can become completely immersed in the story and activity on the page spread.

The illustrations were developed to be as bright and colourful as possible while still complimenting the space theme. They were also drawn to be a little messy and not perfect, almost like a child of three or four could have drawn them.

My younger brother, Harris, is the inspiration and motive behind the product. We weren’t informed of Harris’ dyspraxia until he reached high school, by this time many of his coordination and dexterity skills were fully formed and much of the help and guidance he was given was directed around developing coping strategies and breaking some of his habits.

Watching my brother go through this inspired me to want to learn more about dyspraxia, develop some awareness about dyspraxia and hopefully aid in helping to develop the skills of people with dyspraxia.

The earlier we can develop the skills that people with dyspraxia struggle with the better, and by taking these skills and diluting them to something a pre-school child can achieve and enjoy taking part in then hopefully the traits of dyspraxia will be picked up earlier and they wouldn’t be in the position my brother is in.

Public reaction to Booster Book has already been very positive. Many teacher and nursery teachers visited the New Designers show in London and many of them remarked on how lovely it was to see this issue being tackled as they know of so many children this could help.

Many of them also commented on how they could see Booster Book in an area of their nursery and could think of specific children that would enjoy playing with it. I was also visited by two representatives of the dyspraxia foundation and they loved my research and Booster Book which was a great support and encouragement.

The future for Booster Book is therefore looking positive. My most immediate pan following New Designers is to develop the frames and binding of the book itself. Then, if the interest is still strong, I will develop new stories which tackle different, more advanced skills.

As for me, toy design feels like a natural path to take me into my future and is something I would like to pursue. In the meantime, you can check out my progress at my design website by clicking here.


This year’s Inventors Workshop will be at held at Whittlebury Hall in Northampton on Tuesday, September 20th, 2016. The event is set to bring together leading inventors, distributors, retailers, investors and design students, all of whom are looking to discover new ideas, make new connections and stay at the forefront of innovation in toys.

To book tickets to this year's event, click here.

For sponsorship opportunities, and to be pitched to by inventors at the Workshop, email or

For general information on the event, email or call 01992 515305.