Borneo Adventure “Early learning reader” eBook celebrates first year

19 10 2010


-Early learning eBook review
-Boys falling behind in reading?
-Radio Ron’s adventures good for bilingual children!
-Phonics Versus whole word
-Highlights of the year:
Fund raising: Meeting Lone Droscher Nielsen: Orang utan adoption:Next steps

Early Learning eBook Review

It’s one year since I launched my series of early learning eBook on YouTube and other environmentally educational websites for kids. The mission I set to myself was to (a) help provide a new and fun way for young children to learn to read (b) highlight the plight of the orang tans in Borneo/Indonesia (c) Use my material as a way to stimulate donations to key charities. The fact is Orang utans are on the verge of extinction (50% of its’ populations have been lost in the last 35 years). As part of a complex ecosystem of which the species forms an integral part, we cannot let the Orang utan become extinct in the wild. Its’ habitat is being destroyed by a global demand for wood and palm oil as well as illegal logging, forest fires and land encroachment. Through education and support we can hopefully make a difference.

Now is a good time to reflect on feedback, comment and determine next steps.

In case you missed the announcement, I launched in November 2009 Radio Ron’s Rainforest Adventure series – one of the first early reader books, with narration and music to be placed on YouTube. Set in the rainforest, it highlights the threat of orangutan extinction. The idea behind this is to provide young children with a fun reading tool and at the same time introduce them to environmental education, in particular, the Borneo rainforest and orangutans.

In addition to being accessible via YouTube, these eBooks are also posted on Orangutan Charity websites such as Australian Orangutan Project (AOP), Sepilok Orangutan appeal UK’s and Sumatra’s Orangutan Society(SOS) within their own kid’s education web pages. The idea being that as the material is supplied free, viewers may wish to make a donation to their charity of choice and thus serve as a fund raising vehicle as well as educational tool.

Orang utan to the rescue

Crocodile Attack

“Radio Ron’s Rainforest Adventures ” have been a true family effort with illustration and voice over contributions by my then, young 6 year old twin sons; plus voice over, music composition “Save the Orang utans” and performance and video creation by my husband, Richard Arthur.

Translation of the text into Italian has been undertaken by my mother and some friends have assisted with the French translation and general review.

Boys falling behind in reading?

Thirty eight percent of 4th graders (in USA) cannot read a simple poem – according to a US Dept of Education, National Center for Educational Statistic.

Furthermore, one comment I had received online during the year, from a Canadian teacher, was the point that generally it is boys who are falling behind in reading skills. She believed this could be in part due to the fact there are is not a lot of good stories for boys. She backed up her argument by advising that many educational experts confirm the reason why boys do not read as well as girls, in childhood, is due to the current content that is available appealing more to girls. I wonder how many other agree?

Motivated to research this issue, I had to generally concur with this teacher’s findings. Currently boys face an unprecedented literary crisis that limits their future opportunities. Recent educational studies do show that the gap between the sexes – dating back to the 19th Century – “has increased markedly”. What is known is that boys generally take longer to learn to read than girls; they read less and are less enthusiastic about it; and they have more trouble understanding narrative texts yet are better at absorbing informational texts. As reading is the key ingredient in all learning, if a child is weak in reading, then this sadly will be reflected throughout all their education. When a child is struggling with reading then he or she will struggle with all subjects.

I had not written the Radio Ron’ Rainforest Adventure series strictly for boys – although, I do have two sons which I used to test the storyline, and yes, they both love the story! I’m hoping this e-book will appeal to all as it presents reading in a fun manner. Kids can listen to the narration, mute the sound and try and read and repeat. Moving away from the classroom teaching of simple looking at books – these simple ebooks take that experience one more step to engage more of a child’s senses. Children have the opportunity to be stimulated visually by the delightfully, child-like illustrations created by 6 year kids. At the same time they can hear the narrative – read by two adults who have injected clarity of reading with humour via the dialogue and delivery. There is also the addition of background music and sound effects to add additionl stimulation, reality and interest.

Children love new things, and boys in particular are stimulated by adventure, animals and learning “how things works”. Furthermore, the parent or teacher can use the story as a basis to trigger other activities using the storyline as a theme. An example could be creating Rainforest animal (or objects such as canoes) (creating puppets, models, drawings) or physically acting out their own rainforest play. Learning about geography – finding out where Borneo is located in the world. Understanding the role of the rainforest and discovering what trees and animals live there. Likewise, getting the children to sing “rowing songs” or play instruments and “making forest noises “could be another way to engage children’s imaginations. As most classroom teaching is a visual and hearing based system- boys in particular tend to enjoy movement/touch, especially at young ages. I’m hopeful that parents and teachers will use this material to trigger a series of additional activities that includes learning through movement (read the story and then move like an orang utan, for example).

I hope that when kids read these short ebook stories they will ignite their interest to learn more about the unique island of Borneo. Not only are regions like Borneo impacting global climate change but their people, animals and plants are battling with a multitude of issues, not least extinction.

I know my boys had dozens of questions the first few times they heard the story. I’ve developed some educator notes that provide suggestions and ideas and these can be supplied – send your requests via email.

By offering a fun approach to early reading practice, I hope my work may encourage a life long love affair with reading and books (whether on an electronic screen or paper). And, at the same time, also trigger an interest in environmental issues.

Radio Ron’s adventures also good for bilingual children!

As a mother of bilingual children, I was happy to receive an email from one happy YouTube viewer in Norway, who confirmed that the multi-media ebook functioned well and served as an easy reading book for his son, non-native English speaker in their 4th class primary school.

Other feedback I received included Denise Gilby, teacher at an International school called Victoria School, in Tequisquiapan, Mexico added “This is a very good presentation – the narration and voices bring the story to life well. I enjoyed it and will forward it to our yr 2 teacher who will be doing a rainforest topic later in the year”.

Other groups and schools from around the world (including Australia, France, and US) have pledged their interest in this project and support to use this material. Some classes in France have already used early versions of this work in their 6-7 year old classes. In the last few years, many schools around the world have added rainforest projects to their curricula and I’m happy to report some are using Radio Ron’s Adventures (both the early learning ebook and the longer story for over 8 years old) as part of their school projects.

Phonics Versus whole word

As the arguments and debate rages on between educators on what is the best approach to teaching reading English to children, here’s some food for thought.

About 50% of the English language cannot be read by applying phonetics. There are simply too many exceptions due to the history of our rich language. Ultimately certain words have to learnt. Certainly the latest phonic-based teaching has attracted much merit with the ease that children can develop reading. It has also been reported that this style of teaching also helps children who are dyslectic. However, in reality, almost all children learn to read by a combination of the whole word and phonics-based approaches – especially it they have had mum or dad (who were taught that way – as in my case!). Whole word reading is easier, so most children learn their first words by this method, before they know the sounds that the letters make. Many kindergarten teachers teach some words by sight before starting on phonics.

No matter what reading system you use, at the end of the day it is essential that learning to read is made fun in the early years of learning. Whether this be via the material that is used or the information obtained from the reading material. As today’s generation will be a truly pc literate group, I hope that my eBook demonstrates the fun that children can derive for engaging in early multi-media experience.

Highlights of the year

Fund raising
I managed a variety of fund raising events in aid of various orang utan charities at my home. A very simple concept: I invited home sellers/party organisers for jewellery, cosmetics, cards, toys, underwear and gift sellers to set up their stalls in my house and asked that 10% of their sales be donated. A number of friends also followed suit to increase contributions.

Meeting Lone Droscher Nielsen/Borneo Orangutan Survivial group

I met the wonderful Lone Droscher Nielsen, founder and manager of the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Reintroduction Project in Central Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) at the BOS 10th anniversary celebrations in London, UK. Here Lone described the desperate plight of the organ utans in Indonesia and unveiled her plans to release 30 apes back into the wild during 2010.

The BOSF proposed allocating 200,000 hectares – possibly including rehabilitated timber forests – to release orangutans in Nyaru Menteng. If all plans work out, the first release back into the wild for these beautiful great apes could be next month November 2010.

Working with Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS), Lone began this project in 1999 with help from Willie Smits. Nyaru Menteng is now the largest primate rescue project in the world, with more than 600 orangutans in its care. The project rescues and rehabilitates hundreds of orphaned orangutan infants with the goal of a return to some sort of wild life. It has also rescued hundreds of adult wild orangutans from oil-palm plantations which have been planted after their natural forest habitat has been cleared.
Lone’s project is the only orangutan project actively rescuing wild orangutans from certain death in the oil-palm plantations of Central Kalimantan. These orangutans are treated for wounds inflicted by loggers and starvation, and when healthy, eventually returned to safe forests, which have been secured by Lone.

By piecing together a complex ecological puzzle, biologist Willie Smits has found a way to re-grow clearcut rainforest in Borneo, saving local orangutans — and creating a thrilling blueprint for restoring fragile ecosystems.

Hear Willie Smit talking about saving rainforests:

and an extremely informative and essential viewing video – How Willie Smits worked to re-grow a rainforest:

Orang utan adoptions
Our family adopted apes from WWF and two orang utans at Sepilok (via the Orangutan Appeal UK) all based in Sabah, Eastern Borneo – part of Malaysia. My children have been excited to learn of their adopted orang utans’s progress. Learn more about the land from where they live and best still have encouraged their class mates to take an interest to also adopt. Their teacher has been supportive and used the Radio Ron adventure material for class readings and discussion. Better still is our plan to visit the famous orang utan rehabiliation park – Sepilok later this year so that we can understand more clearly what additional help these wonderful animals require.

Next steps:

A longer children’s adventure story “Cpl Ron’s Rainforest Adventure “ (suitable for 8 years +) is currently available as a free pdf file. This document includes “Facts and Stats” on the Borneo rainforest and other educational guidance including teacher notes. I will be working to update content, as necessary, and distributing widely electronically.
I also plan to have a limited print run as a magazine to supply to key libraries at schools/zoos and educational facilities.

It is hoped that parents and educators will use the material to assist young child to read and at the same time consider sharing this important environmental message.

Link to pdf file: If file does not open, please send post message below and I will forward (your contacts will not be shown). Click link below:

Cpl Ron’s Borneo Jungle Adventure

Helpful links:-

Sepilok Orangutan Appeal
Sumatra Orangutan Society (SOS)
Australian Orangutan Project
Borneo Orangutan Survial
World Wildlife Fund


9th Trans Ethnik Music Festival Review – Valbonne 2010

3 10 2010

The 9th Trans Ethnik world music festival, Valbonne village, France

Unless you live in the small rural village of Valbonne, near the European equivalent, of “Silicon valley”, known as Sophia Antipolis, is it unlikely that you have heard of the Trans Ethnik Festival. Technology has been a good friend to this event, whose website and social media messaging has garnered support over the past decade. The event was publicised via traditional posters around the region, yet they had good publicity on the net. Via their website you could find out about the bus service that would be in place (pretty rare in this area during the evening – but great news for kids without cars, those wanting to drink or simply wanting to live more green), book online, receive a personal phone call back to confirm your ticket reservations (a nice touch), find travel info and learn that kids under 10 could attend for free.

The origins of this event hark back to 1993 when the Valbonne Association for travel decided to help a variety of environmental projects around the world and use this work to discover and share other cultures. During the early years members contributed to projects in Shetlands/Northern Scotland, raised funds to assist a school in Senegal and colleges in Romania and Morocco. The development of this work expanded into an idea to host a festival that would embrace music as well as a cultural exchange. So back in 2002, 11 October, saw the launch of the Trans Ethnik Music Festival in Valbonne. The project was led by Thierry Lespinasse (and others) who undertook the huge organisation to select, recruit and present the world class musicians – not bad for a small French village! The idea was to present information, education, offer debate and music from around the world. This would take the shape over a long weekend via film (at the local cinema), exhibitions (from African charities, Fair Trade, music shops, North African food/drink, as well as jewellery/clothes, local music clubs as well as music performances culminating in a Saturday music festival with a side Expo.

Having been a regular attendee since its inception I was interested to learn if the original spirit to attract an interesting mix of musicians had been sustained – I was not disappointed.

First up, was Haute Couture – who commenced their performance with an acoustic set with Djeep on guitare and vocalist Laurence, singing in a style reminiscent of Heather Nova. A warm reception was given to this duo. Laurence, wearing a contrasting image of folky white lace dress but rock chic red stilettos and black stockings gave a strong performance up front. The rest of the group were talented musicians who played more upbeat jazz/rock/electric numbers as their performance unfolded. Other band members included guitar player – Piew and Greg and Chill on laptop/electronic machines. Djeep also added gnarly jazz tones with his Sax playing and showed off his rapping singing skills during their number “What I got!”. I especially enjoyed their number “On Fire” – slow acoustic start that builds into a feisty rock number. Check out their video on myspace – great to see a young band NOT going down formulaic sexy dance route but rather developing and exploring a more innovative use of film and music. An additional focal point of interest was the inclusion of a local dancer who joined the band to share her ballet/jazz dance skills.

During the intermission band change, there was a chance to visit the outside information tents. The professional large white tent was missing this year – no doubt budget cuts – and so the gathered group of make-shift stalls looked like a refugee camp. Nevertheless, here we grabbed a welcoming hot mint tea served with Moroccan cakes, learnt about the local ukulele group’s jamming meeting ( ), picked up a nifty percussion tool for guitar players (from, reviewed the range of goods from Freetrade and admired the African art, clothing and paintings from local French/African artists.

Next up was the inventive Nu K – visual art meets music! A projected film was shown on the back wall of a guy performing amazing somersaults as he jumped up, over and around walls, houses and streets. The band were joined by their own dancers – one wearing a fencing mask and the another clad in a gas mask – clearly some link with their name *Nu K (English Nukes???).

As the two dances gyrated and slithered around the stage the band broke into electronic style jazz numbers. Each composition was led by Cederic Lauer (composer) who played trumpet, keyboard as well as managing the electronic loops. Eric Bruno (on Bass) and Seb Hamard kept things in rhythm on drums whilst Greg Lampis energised the proceedings with his samples and mixes. Nu K blended a fusion of electric fuelled rhythms with undertones of jazz beats with a dash of artistry that delivered a pretty funky end result.

The headliner was Rona Hartner with DJ Tacada. Rona has 10 years experience working in cinema, theatre as well as music. Her latest project includes dance, video and mixing music using influences from Romania.

Her melodic voice and range paid service to the gypsy sound with added Balkan electro touches!
If you missed these performances you can hear each group’s music on their links below.

Otherwise, mark your calendar for 2011 and enjoy the spirit of this now much loved annual MusicFest.

Your comments are most welcome – whilst the system asks for your contact info, this information will remain private and will not be featured online.