Until recently, Dr Steven Howard hadn't heard of the humble Aussie quokka.
That was until he set out to write a children's book with co-author and illustrator Simon Chadwick, who suggested the unusual marsupial for the title character.
Together they created Quincey Quokka's Quest, an innovative new book designed to help kids develop the core abilities underlying self-control, school readiness and academic success.
Dr Howard, an expert on the cognitive development of children in preschool and primary school years, created the book to be used as a practical tool for parents and educators.
His earlier research focused on identifying a child's ability to self-regulate, leading him to then ask what could be done to help them improve.
While computer-based brain training programs did exist, they were typically expensive and rarely suitable for children, said Dr Howard, from the University of Wollongong's Early Start Research Institute.
"We wanted something that was more family-friendly, educator-friendly, parent-friendly, that they could do together but would have similar benefits to the other programs," he said.
He and Mr Chadwick set about developing a creative, colourful and fun picture book that would teach children about Australian animals, environments and rhyme in a vibrant and engaging way, while also promoting children's development.
"Young children can pick up very easily if it's something that feels like work," Dr Howard said.
"If it's not game-like, engaging or something they want to do, they can very quickly disengage."
When seeking out a main protagonist, Mr Chadwick suggested a quokka, a creature Canadian Dr Howard had never heard of.
"I looked up what a quokka was and the first image I had was this furry little creature smiling into the camera and I thought, oh that's perfect," he said.
The book is targeted at children aged three to seven, although other ages could also benefit. Click here for more information or to order the book, or go to UOW's Early Start gift shop.
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