x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Abu Dhabi based Jan Kittby’s e-books help problem readers

An Abu-Dhabi based early learning educator, who has come up with a set of 68 e-books that teach preschoolers how to read, offers tips on introducing young children to reading.

Jamie French gets a little help from his father Neil French as he reads one of a series of e-books designed to help children improve their literacy. Silvia Razgova /The National
Jamie French gets a little help from his father Neil French as he reads one of a series of e-books designed to help children improve their literacy. Silvia Razgova /The National

Four-year-old Jamie French would always rather play with his Lego than try reading a book. He was struggling with his reading and his mum Caron Fitzpatrick didn’t know what to do. Luckily for Jamie, Fitzpatrick’s friend Jan Harriskitt had been experimenting with new ways of helping children learn to read and passed on some homemade learning materials for the boy to practise with.

After a month, Jamie was already showing big improvement, and six months later, Fitzpatrick can’t stop him from reading.

“It’s amazing,” she says. “Before, Jamie was very reluctant but since he realised he could read Jan’s books, he built up some confidence and now – newspapers, signs, books, magazines – he wants to read everything.”

Encouraged by her success with Jamie, Harriskitt developed a set of 68 e-books with accompanying activities for young readers and since May, has been selling them online to parents. What makes the books unusual is that the only words featured are “high-frequency” words, and pictures are used to replace other trickier words.

Jan Harriskitt, whose pen name is Jan Kittby, was born on the Caribbean Island of St Kitts and moved to Abu Dhabi 16 years ago. Her inspiration for helping young readers comes from teaching FS1 and FS2 children at Al Khubairat School for 11 years, then at Al Muna School for three years.

“As a teacher, I could see some children were struggling with their reading so I thought I would make up a few little cards with pictures and words to help me with my teaching. What I found was they were being used so quickly that I was forever making the next set. I knew if it helped these children, it could help others,” she says.

Two years ago, Harriskitt developed a serious illness which made her give up teaching. “It made me rethink my life. When you think you only have a short time left in this world, you need to make the most of it and I decided to look after myself and do what I want to do, so I decided to write some books for young children. It was a little project that turned into a mega project.”

• Harriskitt’s e-books can be purchased at www.myfirstreaders.com. A set of eight costs Dh25 and you can buy all 68 for Dh250