Gillian Lumby has been teaching for 17 years at nursery and infant level. One of her qualifications is an MPhil degree studying children’s language in the classroom.
She believes that it is very important for children to begin to read when they are ready to learn, and that a good reading ability teamed with understanding is the key to all other learning in general.
Her son Oliver, Year 13 pupil at Caxton College, has an amazing ability to create interesting applications from the raw materials of her books. He has lots of good ideas to make the applications easier to use and more efficient, so they offer free updates on a regular basis.
Where did the idea for the books come from?
My son and I were tidying out the garage and we came across some of my college files from one of my teaching qualifications. In them were two books that were written as part of the course. The books were phonic based and my son suggested that there was potential there to develop a business based on phonic books for children. We did some research and discovered that there were very few phonic reading books available for early readers. We felt that we could help to address this gap.
What are the books about and how are they structured?
There are currently two series of books written. There are six books in each series, an introductory book and five following books allowing children to grasp one vowel sound in each book. The first series of books is based on 3 letter phonic words and the second series is based on 4 letter phonic words. There will be a gradual progression with each series such that the phonic words will get longer and the sounds will become more complex.
I have written simple 10 page stories and hand drawn and painted the accompanying full-page pictures. Each book has a different character and a different adventure. The stories are written using phonic words with only the necessary high usage non-phonic linking words being used to complete short sentences. Simplicity and repetition is key to the stories and the pictures are simple and colourful.
The book package also contains phonic and non-phonic wordlists to help to demonstrate and consolidate the letter patterns and rhymes, comprehension work sheets to re-enforce the story and to give the children an opportunity to practise writing the phonic words within the context of the story, and colouring pages to offer greater understanding of the story. There is also a section targeted to help parents by suggesting questions they might ask their children in order to check their understanding of the text.
How are the books being distributed?
The completed books are available as an iPad application created by my son.
My son and I also intend to get onto the Apple’s iBookstore, Amazon’s Kindle and to produce hard copies of the books. We also intend to make audio versions of the iPad applications and to introduce interactive elements into the books.
Are you going to continue with the books?
Series 3, six more books, is already being developed. This will be based on 5 letter phonic words with more blends. Series 4 will be based on 4 and 5 letter phonic words incorporating double letters, including ‘ck’.
Future books might involve some of the same characters of the previous books, whilst others will involve new characters.
What are the benefits of this type of books for children?
Many children find it easier to begin to read by sounding out the letters, so if the words are mainly phonic then the sounds directly constitute the words. Also the books have only one sentence on each page along with a full-page picture describing the sentence. Repetition plays a large part in familiarising the child with words, both phonic and non-phonic. The books are intended to be interesting, fun and stimulating, motivating the child to want to read more.
Also, with the advent of the iPad, children can utilise the new technology in a manner enabling them to learn to read at the same time. This makes the books eminently portable for use in the house, the garden, in the car and on holiday!
Tell us more about the illustrations
I write the story first and then think of a picture to go with it. I make a storyboard to begin with to check that the story flows properly. After this I draw full sized pictures from the storyboard. I try to keep the pictures simple but interesting. Then I draw a copy from the original, which I paint in watercolour. I try to keep the colours realistic for the subjects and objects in the pictures, but at the same time I try to make them bright and eye catching.
My son scans the original pictures into the application to make the colouring sheets. He scans the painted pictures to make the storybook and then he superimposes the words at top of the pictures.
What are your future aims in the world of books?
My son and I hope to continue with the progressive series until we think we have covered all the stages of phonics to promote learning to read to a fairly advanced level. At the same time I am in contact with class teachers and I am open to suggestions where a teacher thinks there is a gap in the available book market or where children have a difficulty with certain sounds. I also intend to write some topic based books related to the British educational curriculum.
What benefits do you perceive in using new technologies and the Internet in the publishing sector?
Whilst we still believe that there is not yet reason to totally replace paper editions of books, it can often be more convenient to be able to read a book from a computer, an iPad or a Kindle.
I think the excitement of books is developed in children by visiting a library and being able to see a large array of book from which they can choose one or two to take home to read.
New technologies and the Internet can make books more accessible to more people. Books can be offered on a worldwide basis more easily, saving a great deal of travelling by authors to promote their work.
Potential customers can take a sample look at what they would like to buy.
Costs can be kept lower as there are fewer links in the production of the books.
To have a look go to http://sunshinestories.co/
To have a look go to http://sunshinestories.co/