It’s all about the Chapter Books!

Chapter Book

Have you ever noticed that as soon as a young child starts achieving success in reading, they desperately want to read chapter books?   Whilst this is an awesome goal, it has worried me for some time that it is really hard to match beginning chapter books with the children’s age and reading ability.

A few months ago, I had the following conversation with one of my students.  It went something like this.

“So Miss Katrina, I’m on Level 8 now. So will I be reading chapter books now?”

“Chapter books? Why do you want to read chapter books?”

“Don’t you know? All the smart kids in my class are reading chapter books – I want to read them too.”

“Are you sure they can actually read them?”

“Of course, that’s all they talk about!”

And then the penny dropped for me.  Through the eyes of this young child, chapter books were the coveted prize – to be heard discussing the latest chapter book that you were reading, proudly told the whole class, that you were a successful reader.  So what was I to do about a child on Level 8 and wanting to read chapter books?

Write some of course!!

So now I am really excited to introduce you to the first of the range of chapter books that I have created.  They are available on Amazon.  View the books here.

Chapter Books

Until next time,

Best wishes!

Until next time,
Best wishes,

Katrina
Teacher and Author of the BORN2READ Reading Program
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The Power of Practice!

Practice

You would think that after illustrating over 550 readers, 480 story cards, and soon to be released chapter books, that I would have the art of drawing covered, but sadly, no. You see after finishing the writing and illustrating, I have to admit that I have not had the time to revisit my drawing board for over six weeks!

I am in the process of rechecking every reader again and have discovered that a couple of the illustrations in one or two of the readers weren’t replaced by my drawings. What would have taken me a couple of minutes in the past, has now taken me over thirty minutes, and that was for just two tiny pictures!!

It made me stop and think about how important ‘practice’ is. Because I haven’t been drawing for weeks, I have lost the ability to draw anything with speed or accuracy – thank goodness those Kindy Kids weren’t around for the first drafts. It has made me realise that I really do need to keep working on these skills, even though at present, the pressure is off.

My need to continue to practise to refine and keep my drawing skills is like the need for young readers to continue to practise reading! This can be difficult at this time of year. Report cards are all but written, and holidays are foremost in mind. The hard work has been done. It would be so easy to forget about reading over the next few months, but please, please, please – don’t stop the reading!

Children learn all the skills at school that make great readers, but unless they engage and practise in the art of reading, these skills will be quickly forgotten. So whilst you are writing an endless ‘to do’ list for this time of year, could you please add to the top of your list:

listen to my child read!

I know you can do this, just prioritise it and it will happen! And just think, if you make this a practice over the holidays, how easy would to keep the practice happening next year!

Good luck and best wishes!

Until next time,
Best wishes,

Katrina
Teacher and Author of the BORN2READ Reading Program

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Hold on tight, the silly season is about to begin!

School

I absolutely love this time of year!  The weather is hotting up and it is getting closer and closer to Christmas.   Winter is a distant memory (thank goodness as it is my least favourite time of the year, and yes, it does get cold on the Gold Coast!)  It is the season for parties and it is the only time that exercising comes easily for me.  After all, I need to do something to work off the good cheer!

It is also a time for reflection.   I love thinking back to the time when my students first joined our BORN2READ® classes and how far they have come.   To watch them grow in confidence and ability in their reading and writing, is a privilege.  The children at BORN2READ® are amazing and their love of life and learning is infectious.

I also reflect on the work that I have done with teachers.   It is a fabulous part of my business, that I get to work together with highly skilled professionals who are passionate about what they do best – teaching your children!  To be a part of this, is both humbling and inspiring.

But this time of year needs to be tread with some caution.   It is the time of year where children become tired easily.   They have worked hard all year and there still seems to be so much to do to wrap up the school year in such a short time!   There is still – eight weeks of learning, last minute assessment items, Christmas concerts, end of year parties, classroom tidying – just to name a few!

Children are tired, parents are tired and teachers are tired – welcome to the silly season!  So to guide you through this perilous last term, I have just one tip:

Breathe – often and deeply, before you react to or act upon any stressful situation that may pop up in the midst of Term Four chaos.

And in case of emergencies, have a bottle of crushed grapes on ice, chilled to perfection – it helps with the breathing (or so I have been told!).

Until next time,
Best wishes,

Katrina
Teacher and Author of the BORN2READ Reading Program

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Thank you for your concerns – I appreciate your time!

BORN2READ

It has been an interesting month. I have always welcomed comments and critiques of the BORN2READ experience, but earlier this month I was floored, when I received a list of unfounded concerns about BORN2READ.

I have to say, my initial reaction was disbelief that someone could get the BORN2READ Experience so wrong. Then I decided that I should just let it go, and accept that it is just this one person’s opinion of which she is entitled. But then on reflection, I just couldn’t let it go. What if this person is telling others about her misconceptions?

You see, as of next month, BORN2READ is eleven years old – that’s right, ELEVEN YEARS OLD. BORN2READ is not just some hobby of mine, it has been an eleven year commitment, to unlocking the world of reading to young children, and I have only just begun! I also bring to the BORN2READ table, thirty years of experience in the educational sector, three university degrees and a background in curriculum writing of programs which have been submitted to the appropriate governing bodies. In short, I take the teaching of reading, very, very seriously. For this reason, I could not let the concerns go unanswered.

But besides this, I also thought that if this person was having these concerns, then maybe I haven’t articulated the BORN2READ Experience clearly enough. So on reflection, I want to say a big thank you to this person, for drawing my attention to your concerns, and providing me with the opportunity to bring some clarity.

Unfortunately I feel these concerns have come from someone who has only opened the front covers of the readers and viewed the five to ten focus words. They have wrongly assumed that these were the only words in the readers. This is simply not true. The BORN2READ Readers do include other high frequency words – it is not possible to write a story around five words – a story worth reading, that is!

The BORN2READ Experience is not, and should not be defined by the high frequency words listed inside the front cover. It is an experience – and you have to experience the whole of the readers, not just the words inside the cover. The BORN2READ Experience is about engaging stories that include rich vocabulary, that challenge young readers to comprehend as they read. They also include characters that young children can immediately connect with – they are naughty, sometimes defiant, but always real. Judging the BORN2READ Experience based on the words inside the front cover, is like judging a delicious meal by looking but not tasting.

BORN2READ is deliberately different from other commercial programs – I wouldn’t have written if it wasn’t. Each and every reader has been road-tested by its intended audience. And most of you know too, from previous blogs, that some readers had to have some major adjustments, whilst others have been unceremoniously dumped in the rubbish – these children are harsh critics, but they know what they want!

So thank you for your concerns. You have not only given me the opportunity to bring some clarity about the BORN2READ Experience, you have also given me a renewed confidence in the BORN2READ Experience as I worked my way through your concerns.
I know about teaching young children to read, and I know that the BORN2READ Experience unlocks the world of reading for young children, but if you don’t wish to take my word for it, that’s okay. There are hundreds and hundreds of parents who will tell you that the BORN2READ Experience has changed their lives. Why? Their children can now read!

Until next time,
Best wishes,

Katrina
Teacher and Author of the BORN2READ Reading Program

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I am done!

Done

Done

567 readers

176 rewrites

approximately 6000 illustrations

480 story cards

approximately 1500 activity sheets

three posters

26 alphabet cards,

and 2.5 years of my life!

Finally I have finished! What started off as a few readers for Prep children, has blossomed into a Reading Experience for Kindy Kids right through to Year Two. Of course there are still a few corrections to be made. For example, Brian in one of the Year Two readers had a sudden identity crisis and became Brain!  But as far as the writing and the drawing, I am finished!

And as most of you know, it definitely hasn’t been all smooth sailing. I would be lying if I said I have enjoyed every step of the way – there were times when I really wanted to walk away from this project. However, thanks to being born under the great sign of Taurus, my stubbornness kicked in, and I have finished. Besides, I have a very expensive bottle of wine in the fridge that I have been saving for when I had completely finished, taunting me every time I opened the fridge.

A friend dropped in the other day to see how I was going.  As she surveyed the boxes of paper and laminating pouches ready for the production of our printed material, she tentatively asked,

“So, have you finished?”

When I replied that I had, she said, “That’s fantastic!  How are you feeling?”

Good question, Jacinta, good question.  I replied,  “To be  honest, I am exhausted and feeling a little overwhelmed. I feel as though the hard part is about to begin – getting these readers out into schools and homes, and into the very hands that they were written for.”

To this, Jacinta gave one of her trademark laughs and said, “But Katrina, that’s the easy part!  I’ve read your books. They are hilarious. They are not sweet, or tidy, or neat.  They are a little bit naughty.  Kids love that, they love it when characters are a little bit naughty.  Besides, don’t we all love to be a little bit naughty every now and then?”

You are so right Jacinta!  I have decided to put the marketing issues to one side, and break out some naughtiness!  This weekend, that champagne is going to be history,  and guess what?   I might even open another!

Until next time,

Cheers and best wishes,

Katrina

Teacher and Author of the BORN2READ Reading Program

Teachers, take a bow and then put your feet up!

teachers

Ah, school holidays – it is still my favourite time of the year, even though I no longer have school-aged children or work in a traditional classroom.  I love seeing all of the posts on social media, of teachers sharing nature snaps, food snaps, holiday destination snaps, and dare I say, drinking snaps!   Teachers are more than deserving of these breaks because:

  1. They are exhausted – they have gone beyond and above their duty, not just for your one child, but for a class full of children – on average 30 children!! That’s right – thirty little humans that they nurture and teach, day in, day out, regardless of what is happening in their own personal world, and regardless of what some irate parent has barked at them, as they have walked in the room, and regardless of the curriculum reforms that needed to be implemented by 3pm, yesterday.
  2. They are multi-taskers. Not one day is the same in a busy classroom, and it does not matter how well you are planned for the day, it takes just one minor hiccup for the day to go quickly pear-shaped.  However, as a multi-tasker, teachers quickly steady the ship, head it in the right direction and serenity transcends again, and all the while that disturbing thought is running through their mind,  “Just how many days do I have left before parent-teacher interviews?”
  3. They are Teachers that want the best for their children. They want them to be engaged, happy and successful learners. Teachers know, that these little people before them now, grow-up to become the next generation of lawyers, doctors, builders, electricians, nurses and teachers (just to name a few).  There is no way, they want sub-standard professionals looking after them in their twilight years!
  4. They love what they do. For teachers, it is not a job.  It is a passion, a way of life.  They put every living, breathing moment into their profession (and there are the dreams!!) – they just can’t help it.   Even amongst all of the holiday-type shots and snaps on social media, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of teachers sharing about resources and ideas, that will make a child’s life just that little better, regardless  of time or expense.

So teachers, take a bow and then put your feet up.  But just before you do, I want you to multi-task some very special ‘me’ moments that bring you great joy and energy; perfect some amazing holiday memories – the ones that get you through the tougher days of teaching (like when you learn of another paper trail that is essential to complete); and take time to do what you love the best (besides teaching!)

Until next time,

Best wishes!

Katrina

Teacher and Author of the BORN2READ Reading Program

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It’s All In The Detail!

Readers

I have always said that my BORN2READ® readers have been road-tested by their intended audience. And I have always said, that not always is the feedback glowing. In fact, some characters have been shelved so quickly, it would make your head spin! I am still recovering from the shattering, overwhelming consensus that my dinosaurs looked like a cross between fat cows with long necks, and fat giraffes – harsh to say at the least!

Now that the readers have all been written and illustrated, I thought that the feedback would be mostly good, from any new student joining us on the BORN2READ journey.  How wrong could I be.  It seems everyone is a critic – especially if you are from three to eight years old.   For example, I had to make some rapid changes to the illustrations in the Ash and Sam series.  Some Year One students were outraged when the children in the boat were illustrated, less life jackets!!

And those Kindy Kids – wow, they are just brutal!   I was so excited to introduce the Rainbow Pigs to them: four pigs – one red, one blue, one green and one yellow. The  criticism I hear you ask? “Where are the rest of the colours of the rainbow? You need some more pigs!”  I know, I know! They are correct, but I am not adding any more pigs. Besides, if you mix those four colours in differing combinations, you will come pretty close to the other colours. (Oh how quickly you take on the persona of a kindy kid when under the pump!!)

But by far my harshest critic, is a newly enrolled student at BORN2READ, who I’m convinced is going to go on and work as a curator or head of forensics. I don’t think we have read a book together, where there isn’t the slightest imperfection that is suddenly brought to my attention – even the size of a character’s ears from one picture to the next has been questioned, although I swear it is the exact same picture of said character, with just the facial expression changed!

The other day, with my floundering artistic ability barely intact, I proudly and confidently (big mistake!) presented to her, one of the more recent series, Holly and Henry. I say proudly and confidently, because I knew this child loved the world of fantasy, especially with lots of fairies!  I was certain she would be captivated by the words and the storyline, and the beautiful elves and fairies, that there would be no harsh criticisms, at least not on the first day of reading them.

How wrong could I be! It seems I had forgotten one very, very crucial element – WINGS! That’s right – fairies have wings!!!  Even I know that, and as I scanned each and every one of those pictures, praying for a little glimpse of wings – there were absolutely no wings. Rather then admitting that yet again, I need to go back to the drawing board, literally, I had one last shot at redemption.

“Perhaps, their wings are tucked neatly behind their backs.  These special fairies only spread their wings when they fly,” I explained.

In the moment of silence that followed, I thought I just may have got away with the no wings. Alas no. After checking for any evidence of hidden wings, she looked at me and said, “That’s just silly.  Everyone knows fairies need wings.  Without wings, they are not fairies.”

So, it’s back to the drawing board I go!

Until next time, you’ll know where I’ll be!

Cheers!

Best wishes!

Katrina

Teacher and Author of the BORN2READ Reading Program

Commitment – what a wonderful concept!

Commitment

At the beginning of this year, I decided I would embrace the world of facials and skin care. I had never indulged in such ‘pampering’ before and foolishly thought, it would be just a matter of turning up once a month, enjoy the attention and relaxation, and then, a few months down the track, I would have youthful-looking skin! Boy was I wrong! It was far more complicated than that!!! I couldn’t believe how much time I had to commit and I was only thinking of knocking off about ten years of wear and tear!

It’s like anything though isn’t it? To get results, you have to commit to the cause, and do the work. I recently told you about my health kick. The one that I made my husband do with me. It has nearly been five months now, and we are doing okay. We are probably not as strict as when we first started, but hey, life gets in the way, and I am a big believer of enjoying life (especially when birthdays are of a significant number!)

It’s interesting to note, that when you excitedly sign up to a new gym, a new course, a new weight-loss program, a new partner – YOU AND ONLY YOU, can do the work to make this new relationship work! I think that this is written in the fine print. It is probably a long way into the contract, that you have given up on reading, as you quickly sign, in desperation to get on this new exciting path to improvement!

The BORN2READ® reading program is no different. For a young child to learn to read, they need to engage in the reading process, with someone by their side, at least five times a week. Simply becoming a member and doing nothing about it, will not achieve the results you need!

And just before you think that I am one of those annoying people, who when they commit to something, they never waiver, think again. Sadly, I have to admit, I really couldn’t be bothered following the lavish skin routine. I’ve just lowered my expectations of younger looking skin, and enjoy the monthly pampering. (Hopefully my therapist will never read this!)

After all, commitment is tough, and I believe it is only for the most absolute important things in your life – Gregory you are safe for now – I’m not going anywhere. (just in case you read that new partner bit!)

Until next time, commit to what is important to you, and enjoy the life-changing experience!

Best wishes!

Katrina

Teacher and Author of the BORN2READ Reading Program

50 – it’s just a number, right?

Number

I have spent the last week, okay month, celebrating my fiftieth birthday – and it has been so much fun!  It is funny though, before I actually turned 50, I had many pre-conceived ideas of what my life would look like at 50. I thought I would be:

  1. very mature,
  2. set in my ways,
  3. semi-retired, and
  4. old!

Now some may argue that is my exact life, but I do beg to differ (except for the first one – lol!)  I have always been a project girl – if I don’t have one, it’s best to steer clear, or you will soon be roped into one. The thought of being set in my ways, dare I say, a routine way of life, really does make me feel anxious. Heaven forbid, I might wake up old!!!

As for retirement, that is certainly not on my radar any time soon, and I doubt it ever will be. I need to be busy, to be all-consumed with something, and lately (the past ten years) it has been with BORN2READ. When I first started this venture, I must admit, I naively thought I’d be done with it, in five years. By then, I would have taught the world to read. But ten years on, there is still so much to do. You see, there are still far too many children who cannot read – this is just not acceptable!!

The biggest change for me from 40 to 50 is the good old ego. I really did think at 40, I could teach the world to read – all by myself. Thankfully, I have matured (see 1. and picture!!) and I know that I need your help to do this. I have also learnt that not everyone is a teacher – and I mean that in the professional sense.

Before I thought everyone could teach their child to read. Now I fully understand, that the technical teaching of phonics, sight words, comprehension, fluency and so on, is the art of a professionally-trained teacher.

But just before you think I have let you off the hook, think again.  If you can read, or know someone who can, than you are in the perfect position to nurture and develop your child’s reading journey:

READ WITH YOUR CHILD!!!!!!

And you know I have developed that perfect resource to assist.  This is not about my ego and about how good my program is, it is about reaching as many children I can with your assistance.   You can make a huge difference – don’t get caught up on the technicalities of reading, don’t overthink it, just do it.   Your teachers will deal with the rest!

After all, I haven’t committed 10 years to BORN2READ for nothing, or the next 50 years.  But then again, these are just numbers, aren’t they?

Until next time,

Cheers – I’m off to celebrate!

Katrina

Teacher and Author of the BORN2READ Reading Program

Where Does it Rain? On the plain, on the plain!

Practise

Recently, my father and I went to see the musical, ‘My Fair Lady’ and it was brilliant!!

We went to a matinee on a Sunday, after hosting a family reunion the night before, and so to say we were feeling a little bit tired, is a huge understatement. I was worried I wouldn’t stay awake!

But stay awake we did!  We were enthralled from the very beginning. The acting was magnificent and the singing was amazing. The production brought back so many childhood memories of watching the movie and singing the songs, endlessly for weeks later. I felt it was only appropriate that I carry on such a childhood tradition, and for days, broke into random songs from the stage show, just for my husband’s enjoyment!

But I was not only immersed in the show because of the singing and acting, I was immersed because of the underlying messages that resonated with me. Eliza Doolittle, was a poor flower girl, whose command of the English language was truly appalling. But as we know, under the tutelage of Professor Higgins, and the kindness of the Colonel Hugh Pickering, Eliza was transformed as a lady, due mostly to her new ability to articulate precisely and to dress appropriately.

Interestingly enough, such a transformation did not occur over night!  It took, wait for it, months and months of practice!!!  It also took someone by her side to consistently pronounce the words correctly, and to encourage her, all be it rather unkindly at times, to keep at it – to keep practising.

Professor Higgins had the knowledge. He knew what Eliza had to do and he showed her what she had to do. Higgins did not share his great wealth of phonetics with her, and painfully teach her the reasons behind the way words are pronounced in such a way.  It wasn’t necessary.  He just showed her!  Eliza for her part, had to practise, practise, practise.

So it is just like teaching a child to read with BORN2READ®. They don’t need to know all the rules of phonics or know how to read a list of random words, before they begin the reading process.  They need to be immersed in the process, and to practise, with someone by their side.   From this immersion, the rules of phonics can be taught, and the high frequency words will become familiar. They need someone who can read, to be with them on the journey, consistently, for ten minutes a day, five days a week.

This process may take months, for some, even years, but as Eliza Doolittle tells Henry Higgins,  ‘just you wait Henry Higgins, just you wait’.  The outcome is truly worth the work.

BORN2READ® is the culmination for research and experience. I have written the stories based on this knowledge and experience, so you can be assured that the readers will engage you and your child, making reading fun. You can also be assured, that with practice and support from you, your child will learn to read – just you wait!

Until next time,

Best wishes,

Katrina

PS For just $9.95 per month, you and your children can enjoy over 550 levelled reading books – far less than a bunch of flowers from Eliza.  And like Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering, we are here to help!  Email or phone or click here to sign up – we are on this journey with you!