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

Tuition Membership - Tutoring

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!

I Will Change the World – I Just Need Your Help!

Change the world

Quite a few years ago, I thought it would be a great idea to complete a Master Degree in Education.  I’d like to say, that my motivation for this decision was to increase my understanding of education and become a better teacher, but I would be lying.  All of my friends were studying, so rather than getting stuck proofreading everyone’s assignments, I decided to study with them.  Back then, a Master Degree took about five years part-time.  Unfortunately, at about the half way mark, I lost interest and stopped.

Fast forward a few years, now married with two very young children, my husband announced that he would begin and complete his Master Degree in Education. I decided I would recommence my Master Degree, and actually finish it. This time, I was motivated by two very good reasons. During my teaching, I was fascinated that some children found reading extremely easy, whilst most found it extremely challenging.   I was certain that through completing my Masters, I would find the answer and change the world.  Clearly, my ego was out of control!  My second reason?  There was no way my husband was going to beat me to get this illusive degree.

I met with my supervising lecturer and raved on and on, about my quest to understand why many children couldn’t read, and then proposed that I would write a program to address the problem.  Finally I came to a halt in my aspirations, and he just looked at me and said, “Katrina, we do not want you to save the world through this degree.  Rather, it is an academic exercise to prove you can choose a topic, research the topic and write a thesis.”  Wow, did my ego take a huge hit!!

Fast forward twenty years later, and my passion is still to unlock the key to reading for children everywhere.  This passion was especially heightened when our son struggled to read.  I knew that there had to be a better way to help parents, help teach their children to read.  For the past ten years, through BORN2READ, I have worked tirelessly with parents, teachers and most importantly, children, to find a solution.

The good news?  I have found the solution – TIME plus ENGAGING STORIES.  If your child is struggling to read, you (or someone else who can read), need to read with your child, for ten minutes, five days a week – consistently over a period of time.  BORN2READ can help you with the engaging stories and tips along the way.  The stories have been road-tested by children at our studios, and parents and teachers have also contributed to their development.

I have seen BORN2READ make a huge difference to the lives of children who have struggled to read.  I want to keep making this difference, but I can’t work with every child.  I need your help!  Get on-line, subscribe today, and together we can make that difference that I dreamed about, twenty years ago.

And just for the record – I did finally complete my Master Degree; so did my husband.  And guess what: I beat him to finish – nothing like competition to motivate!

Until next time,

Best wishes!

Katrina

Fitness or fatness – you choose!

Fitness

Recently I embarked on a health kick – one that was going to become my new way of life. I decided that I needed someone to support me, so I encouraged my husband to join me. And even though we have now been living this new way of life for nearly twelve weeks, I would be lying if I said it has been a ‘walk in the park’.

It has been tough. There were some days, where I was so over cutting up vegetables, that I really just wanted to throw some hot chips in the oven, and be done with dinner. But it was time for action:  now or never, or I would never do it!  I had been out, grazing in the long paddock for far too long, and I was committed to losing some weight and getting fitter. This declaration of commitment was the easiest step by far – the hard part? I actually had to do something.

So where to start?  On the exercise front, I knew that I had to choose something that I could do every day – so that ruled out cycling or running.  There was no way I could commit to either, on a long term basis!  So it was decided that walking would be my chosen sport – one foot after the other, how hard could that be?   Besides, I knew how to walk!

On the nutritional front, I have to say I struggled.  I googled and googled, and all I got was a lot of conflicting advice. There is far too much information out there!  So after days of frustration, I stumbled across a book that was to become my bible.  It was written by a highly respected doctor in conjunction with a highly respected dietician – and it was simple to understand! I knew I needed to get this part right, as everyone knows, good health is only 20% exercise and 80% of what goes into your mouth (or thereabouts, depending on who you google.)

My whole fitness/ health experience has so many parallels to young children learning to read.  Phonics and sight words are only 20% of the equation.  The other 80% is the actual engagement in reading.  As I have often said before, there is little or no point in having a child decode words successfully in isolation, and there is little or no point in having a child rattle off a list of words.  Unless they connect these skills to the actual practice of reading, and gain understanding and enjoyment – forget it!

And just as I needed my husband, to support me on this journey and help keep me motivated, a young child struggling to read, cannot teach themselves to read.  They need you or someone else who can read. As a parent, the easiest part is acknowledging that your child is struggling to learn to read. The hardest part, is making a real commitment to helping your child learn to read, by engaging in the reading process with your child, for ten minutes a day, five days a week.

And the good news?  BORN2READ has you covered as far as engaging in the process of reading. Our online program has over 550 readers, written especially for, and tested by children!

I am at long last starting to see some positive results – I am getting fitter and feel much healthier. I know the journey has just begun, but it is one that I know, I can live with!!  With holidays just around the corner, I challenge you to make the commitment to helping your child to read. Just as walking is one foot after the other, teaching your child to read, is one book after the other.

Until next time,

Cheers!

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR! WOOHOO!

New Year

I know, I know, I’m only a couple of months late, but as they say, better late than never.  I do have some very good reasons for my tardiness, which I really need to share.

To say it has been a challenging start to the year, would not even come close to describing the past three months!   Just as I was cruising into the New Year festive season, champagne at the ready, disaster struck – my website was suspended.

Now I realise for those in I.T. this is probably an everyday occurrence, no cause for alarm.  But to someone who has very little understanding of websites, servers, data limits, inodes (still have no idea what they are, other than it was their fault that my website was suspended), it was a major cause of concern, and the cause of a very near breakdown.

So after quite a number of phone calls and a hefty charge on my credit card, I was back in business, with my very own server – oh the smugness of thinking all my problems had been solved!   This was going to be a great year!

But no, problem number two comes blazing in. Just as 400 new users were about to sign up to begin the school year, reading with their children, there were problems with data transfers to the new server.  Instead of logging on and reading away, there was nothing!

Second problem solved, and I’m breathing – just.  And then, because everything happens in threes, my website was hacked!  Needless to say, I have just got up from the canvas!

So what have I learnt from all this pain and stress?  Just like the number of disasters, I have learnt three things:

  1. People in IT never stress. Every IT person I have spoken to in the past three months, always seem slightly amused or bemused at my very obvious, into over-drive level of stress that I convey, when trying to sort the website issues.  So I have learnt that no attempt to transfer my level of stress and anxiety, will get anyone in IT to match my sense of urgency!  They very calmly and smoothly sort the issues.  I’ve decided I’m coming back as one of them – ah the serenity!
  2. Back up the files!  To say I was a little lax in this department would again be a huge understatement.  However, I have since upped the ante, so much so, I did get a warning about disc space usage – it appears there are only so many backups that can be stored.  And no, I really do not need to keep backups from two weeks ago on the server, especially when daily backups of the website are in operation.   (I am working on this current obsession.)

The third lesson learnt, is not a new one.  Rather, the whole start to the year, has just reaffirmed this –

reading or sounding out words successfully,

does not equal reading.

I know this, because I can read most words or sound them out.  However, the amount of tech jargon that I was expected to read and understand to get my website back on track, was incredibly overwhelming.  Sure, I could read each and every word, but it made no sense!!!  I needed an interpreter.

Finally, after the tenth phone conversation with Victor, calmly telling me the instructions were in the email sent, or more details could be sourced from their website, but he would happily explain the contents, again, he finally got it!   His words were pure magic:  “So ma’am, would you like me to make amendments to your website from this end?”

This took my stress away, so much so, that when I calmly went back and thought about what he had explained, with the written instructions in hand, I could now understand what I had read.

My plight reminded me of so many little ones, when in their desperation to read, they ask for help only to be told really unhelpful things like:

‘sound it out’ or ‘you knew that word last week’ .

What these children desperately need is for you to tell them the word!!!!  Let’s not drag the agony out – tell them the word and move on – get reading. When you do this, you give children a life raft, and you alleviate some of their stress, so they can move forward. Reading is a verb, it is a doing word. To learn to read, children have to read! When they read, they need to make meaning, to make connections. Decode words and refresh these skills after they have read the text with you (joyfully assisting!), otherwise, the only connections with reading they will have, will be negative and painful.

This year, I want you to be like that wonderful IT guy who finally cracked and said, “Hey, would you like me to help you with this?  I can do this for you.”

Right on, Victor, right on!

How’s the serenity?

So, just last week I was paddling hard, and getting nowhere fast. With a deadline fast approaching, I was extremely concerned that this time, I may just not make it to the finish line. I had a vision of these professional days being a complete and utter waste of time for my colleagues.

I can happily report now, that the days were amazing – exhausting, but amazing. The group of teachers were so professional, that I left each day, feeling extremely confident, that the teaching of reading at this school, was in very capable hands. Their enthusiasm for teaching, their genuine desire to ensure that the children in their care, are nurtured, challenged and, most importantly, taught, was contagious.

The most humbling part of the days, was hearing how their children were engaging with, and learning to read, through the BORN2READ readers. It is quite amazing to think, that the characters that have been a major part of my life, and the lives of children who visit my learning studio, have now been embraced wholeheartedly, by another cohort of young readers.

We also shared strategies that we used, to best teach children how to read. The overwhelming consensus was that no matter what your style of teaching, or the time that you teach reading, or the strategies that you favoured, it was essential to engage the children in the process of reading, every single day, and the skills of reading had to be taught explicitly.

So now after the stress leading up to the event, I can breathe a long sigh of relief and feel the serenity that comes when things turn out just right. But have I finished the long list of things? Of course not, and guess what, the list has just gotten bigger as a result of these days. But you know what? Tonight, I am not thinking about what I need to do before my Christmas Eve deadline. I am taking a break, and appreciating the fact, that I am not alone in my quest to teach each and every child to read. I have a back-up team!

Until next time,

Best wishes,
Katrina