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A New Chapter . . . children’s e-books

Educator Nancy Spencer ’78 released her first e-book in a series of 26 — one for each letter of the alphabet.

A New Chapter . . . children’s e-books

Educator Nancy Spencer ’78 released her first e-book in a series of 26 — one for each letter of the alphabet.

Turning pages taught Nancy Spencer ’78 how to read, but with her new Jamaroos e-books, children can learn to read by swiping screens.

The educator released her first e-book in a series of 26, one for each letter and each packaged as a separate app, last December.

Spencer has been teaching children to read for decades. Thirty years ago, she worked with Dr. Luke Waites, a pioneer in the field of dyslexia, to adapt the phonics-based Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction for the preschool level. Their work informed the curriculum at Reading Friends, the preschool she started in North Texas in 1980. Reading Friends later created, in old-fashioned paper form, the “jungle friends” stories — memorable, kid-friendly books for introducing the lowercase letters and sounds. Each story features an animal who learns a moral lesson.

Thousands of children who attended the school read the jungle friends stories, but Spencer wanted to bring them to a wider audience.

“We talked for years about how we can only reach a certain number of children through the school,” she says, “but we know all children need to learn.”

Reading Friends decided last year that e-books would be the perfect way to spread the stories.

“Books are what we’re all about,” Spencer says.

Now the e-books are being downloaded worldwide, and almost every day the support team receives blank emails from children who have found extra buttons to tap.

Z Is For Zap, the first ebook published, features Zap the zebra, who is plagued by pesky flies. As readers follow Zap asking his friends for advice, they can interact with items on every page. They can make Zap swish his tail at the flies or growl in frustration.

Zap finally learns to get along peacefully with the flies by offering them honey.

“It’s very important to learn to read,” Spencer says, “but it’s also important to teach children how to be good citizens. How to take responsibility for their actions, love and respect their friends, how to share.”

After publishing an e-book for every letter, Reading Friends plans to publish e-books for vowel-consonant patterns and other elements of reading.

“I love being a part of something that is a new way of doing something that’s been around forever,” she says.

On the Web:
For more information, go to facebook.com/jamaroos.