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Brooklyn Educator, Teaming With Cousin, Creates Appealing Learn-to-Read Book

by Brooklyn Eagle (edit@brooklyneagle.net), published online 11-03-2006

Bay Ridge — When Ann Edwards, teacher, mother of six and licensed reading specialist, decided to write a book that would help children learn to read by incorporating sight, hearing, movement and touch, she knew she needed an illustrator who not only could relate easily to the very young, but someone she could count on. So she turned to her cousin.

The result is “bumpybooks” a delightful, 30 plus page children’s book that is as much fun to read as it is to touch.

“bumpybooks is the first book of its kind that allows parents and teachers to use the unique, multi-sensory approach to learning,” said Edwards, who lives in Brooklyn and has worked as an educational therapist and tutor for the last 15 years.

Edwards is a certified Orton-Gillingham practitioner and uses this multi-sensory reading approach based on the phonetic structure of the language. But what’s missing from the approach is an easy and attractive way for students to touch the letters they’re learning and a simple and concise set of instructions for parents to follow with their children.

“Until ‘bumpybooks’ was created, multi-sensory techniques were available only through expensive and cumbersome kits, or by hiring professional and expensive teachers,” said Edwards, who gives lectures, seminars and professional development on emerging literacy.

So Edwards called up her Jersey cousin Karen Goldberg, and asked for help. “She called me and she asked me what we could use so that the kids could feel the letters,’ said Goldberg, who has shown her paintings at the Montclair Art Museum and currently has her work on display at the Essex fine Art Gallery in Montclair. Goldberg said she thought of sandpaper, fur and rugs, but the materials were all too labor intensive and expensive. Then she thought of the sweatshirts she makes for her kids out of puff paint. And “bumpybooks” was born.

“This book really covers all the pathways, by linking sounds and symbols with how it feels to form letters,” said Goldberg, who was also able to help her cousin edit the parent instruction portion of the book. Each instructional page in “bumpybooks” includes a picture of the letter the child is learning, and a short set of instructions on how to teach the child to touch and say the letter.

“If I’m going to buy this book, it has to be as easy as can be, “ said Goldberg, who has three school-aged children. “I don’t want a lot of instructions or a million little pieces, I just want my kid in my lap and a book we can read together.”

“Although ‘bumpybooks’ offers much needed aid for students who are struggling to read, it’s not just for children who need help,” said Edwards.

“Studies have shown that many early learners have weak visual and or auditory- memories, and for them the sense of touch becomes necessary to their memory function,” “Research also suggest that repeated tactile sensations created by tracing on a textured surface produces impressions on the brain that never fully disappear,” said Edwards.

“We knew we had something good going,” said Goldberg, who added that “bumpybooks” received high praise from major publishing houses, including Harper-Collins and Scholastic.

“bumpybooks” even got the attention of Jed Mattes, the literary agent who represented the Madeline books by Luldwig Bemelmans and served as an agent for the works of Dr. Seuss. In a letter he wrote before he died in 2003, Mattes stated that “bumpybooks” “… is the first new product I’ve encountered that I think might have the capacity to be genuine, long term phenomenon in the children’s reading development world. I consider it to be an authentically revolutionary concept and that it has great value in the publishing, merchandising and education fields.”

In June, the cousins hired Ondemand Printing, a Long Island City, N.Y. company, to print the first run of “bumpybooks”.

In the meantime, Goldberg and Edwards aren’t resting. They’ve already started work on their next set of “bumpybooks” which will be “bumpybooks” for numbers.

After that they plan to keep developing reading skills by having books on digraphs, consonant blends and all the components necessary for reading success.

For more information on “bumpybooks” or to buy a copy, go to the company’s web site, www.bumpybooks.com.