Sharona Edwards is a primary school teacher and a parent of four young children. She has a passion for teaching children how to read and write because she believes these skills are the gateway to confidence and success. She recognised a need for a “homework” resource that is effective and fun to use, so she created School Start. School Start provides information, activities and resources to help anyone (particularly parents/caregivers) teach a child to read and write. We spoke to Sharona to learn more about how she got started.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
I’ve always been deeply interested in the best way to teach young children how to read, write and spell; which is probably why I’m now a primary school teacher and literacy coordinator. I think this passion originated from my own primary school experiences as a child, where I struggled with literacy skills due to not receiving the support I needed to improve during my early years of school. Like many other adults my age (37 years), the style of education I received in primary school meant that I was never explicitly taught phonics or spelling rules, but rather expected to develop literacy skills by simply being immersed in books and the written language.
Fortunately, our education system now recognises that there are essential literacy skills that children must achieve during their first year/s of school so that they can develop into confident readers and writers. I aspire for every child to have the opportunity to achieve these skills, which led to my first creation, the School Start Buddy – a resource for anyone (parents, teachers, tutors, etc) who want to teach a young child how to read and write, particularly a child in their first year of school. Everything just snowballed from here.
I wanted to create a product for parents with children in their first year of school that not only educated them about how children learn to read and write, but to also provide them with the resources to impart these skills.
The Launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
It’s very rare that I stop and look back at where I started, but when I do, I must confess that I feel a little proud of what I have accomplished. I started designing the concept of the School Start Buddy five years ago when my son started school. I wanted to create a product for parents with children in their first year of school that not only educated them about how children learn to read and write, but to also provide them with the resources to impart these skills. The School Start Buddy started as a shoe box filled with resources and activity ideas, and then gradually evolved into a gorgeous wooden “suitcase” that opens up to reveal everything needed to teach a child foundational reading and writing skills.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
After completing the creation of the School Start Buddy, I spent the next few years developing the Spelling Rules Program, which is a hands-on program that helps children to understand why words are spelled the way they are. It is a particularly good for anyone (children or adult) who struggles with spelling because it gives meaning to our spelling system. The Spelling Rules Program has been a huge success because it has given me recognition from well-respected organisations, like SPELD SA (Specific Learning Difficulties Association of South Australia), who now invite me to do workshops with teachers, tutors and parents twice a year.