Local author, podcaster and mom Bonnie Wallace launches her new app based made-to-order phonics book program “We Can Books” on Oct. 15. Inspired by her father’s idea to pair a familiar image from a photo with a simple key word in order to help teach Bonnie’s first daughter Claire how to read, “We Can Books” allows families to create their own personalized phonics reading books for their children. We chatted with Bonnie about the importance of physical books over digital, parenting advice and the lasting impacts of learning how to read.
Please tell us a little about “We Can Books.“
“We Can Books” is a fun, intimate way to teach your child how to read, and create a family heirloom. In many ways, it’s also a return to the non-digital age.
Basically, “We Can Books” uses the power of association plus phonics to help your child learn to read. It’s an intuitive way to connect letters, sounds and meaning. And it combines the best of proven phonics teaching methods made possibly by 21st Century app technology, and quality print-on-demand bookmaking, to give your child a unique learn-to-read book they’ll want to open again and again. It’s based on an idea my father had when my own kids were ready to learn how to read, so it’s also a wonderful legacy project to honor my dad.
Learning to read early and well is one of the keys to a successful life. It’s literally the key to doing well in school, which in turn affects self-esteem, and a whole host of other foundational aspects of a child’s life. It’s one of the most important things you can do for a child.
What benefits do tangible books have over e-books or online learning?
There are increasing numbers of studies that demonstrate some alarming things about screens and children. Children 3-5 years old who use screens more than the recommended one hour a day without parental involvement have lower levels of development in the brain’s white matter, which is associated with language, literacy and cognitive skills.
Other studies show that comprehension and learning is greater when kids read on paper rather than on a screen. Why this happens isn’t well understood, but some experts think that screens may tax the brain more than paper. Additionally, enhanced eBooks with sounds, animations, etc. can reduce learning because of the distractions.
How can parents find time to bond with their kids in our fast-paced world?
I think creating a ritual where you sit down with your child and read with them every night before bed is a beautiful way to share special time and bond, as well as strengthening positive associations with reading. It’s a chance to step away from the screens, and just be present to each other. By the time your child is old enough to begin making the connection between letters and sounds and meaning, you can make some of that special time include helping them learn how to read themselves, which is one of the most beautiful and exciting things a parent and child can share, I think.
What is the best advice on parenting you’ve received?
Trust your instincts. It’s easy to feel anxious and overthink parenting because it’s such an overwhelming responsibility. But if you slow down and listen to your inner voice, you usually know what to do.
What is the best life advice you received growing up?
You must be true to yourself. This will attract your people to you and keep the people who are wrong for you away. It’s also the only way to really be happy. I’ve instilled this in my own kids, Claire Hosterman, who’s a top vocal coach, and Dove Cameron, who’s a successful actor and musical artist—and it took them a while to believe me, but now they see the wisdom in it!
When not working, where will we find you?
You’ll probably find me with my husband Simon or with our kids. They’re my favorite people. I’m happiest when we’re just spending time together at home here in L.A.