Jami Ouellette and her partner, Jeffrey Morse, have raised five children between them. With the oldest in college, the youngest in first grade and one with special needs, they’ve gained some perspective when it comes to parenting.
Now, they’re sharing these experiences in a series of six children’s books called “I Read and Write.”
“We often found ourselves wishing for books that are more focused, but still visually engaging, and that offer reader participation without being ‘throwaways,’” said Ouellette. “‘I Read and Write’ books are not your average children’s books. They are stunning but simple. They are fun but educational. Kids can write or draw in them but want to keep them.”
Originally from Johnston, Oullette has lived around the state, including in Warwick and summers spent at her grandmother’s house in Cranston. She currently lives in Richmond with Morse, owner of Jeffrey A. Morse Photography.
Together, the couple has 25 years of professional experience in photography, writing and graphic design.
“We decided to create something that works for all of our children, and apparently they work for others too,” said Morse.
Morse and Ouellette started by pulling images from their own photography collection, which is made up of about 10,000 stock-quality photos. With a foundation of images, they incorporated basic reading, spelling and math principles that engage the young reader.
For example, one book, “Animals Big and Small,” displays striking photos of animals with catchy poems next to them. The last word in the poem is missing. The child can guess the rhyming word and write it into the book itself.
“I always felt guilty letting my children write in their books – especially since the ones we really wanted to keep are just so beautiful. But the typical ‘activity books’ seem like throwaways,” said Ouellette. “While our books incorporate beautiful images, they also encourage the child to write answers, rhyme a word or draw a picture. They feel more ownership and are more likely to show their friends or read it over and over.”
The books are short, with only 20 pages each and about half the size of a letter sheet.
Ouellette explained that several teachers advised them to keep the size manageable to continue with the concept of creating books that can keep the child’s attention, without feeling overwhelming.
“We use topics that help children generate new interest in the world around them – what they see in the garden, at the zoo, their backyard, etcetera. We have found that there are times when our children focus better and learn more when we use fewer, visually stimulating, real images,” said Ouellette.
Ouellette and Morse have been taking their books to the source: children. They have already visited several schools and plan to do the same at schools throughout New England. They already have three more school visits scheduled. In each case, if people associated with the school end up buying any of the books, 10 percent of the proceeds are donated back to the school.
The books are affordable at $8.95 each with discounts for sets, and Facebook friends receive coupon codes for special discounts. There are currently six books available but Ouellette says they already have six more in the works that use the same principles, focusing on topics like healthy eating, diversity and other languages. The books are on sale at www.ireadandwrite.com.