Early Learner Picture book to help make reading fun and assist Orangutan Charities

9 09 2012

8 September 2012.  In the week that will celebrate International Literacy Week and also see the British royal couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visit the largest remaining rainforest in Borneo, children’s author, Sandra Arthur will release her latest early learner picture book, Crocodile Attack, from her series: Radio Ron’s Postcards from Borneo.

Crocodile Attack features Borneo’s rainforest as its backdrop for the curious story of “Radio Ron” (a Royal Air Force Radio Technician) who takes a journey with Dayak tribes-people.  This is a vivid, fun and thought-provoking adventure book for children under nine years that is also proving popular with children who are learning English as a second language.  The story is a work of fiction, but was written as a tribute to the author’s father, who was with the British Royal Air Force in Borneo during the mid 1960’s.

This humorous picture book, illustrated by British artist Lisa Williams, will appeal to all children, young and old.  At the same time, readers will learn interesting facts about the endangered orang utans (orang-utans) of Borneo.  The book is completed with environmental information and parent and educator notes, for a lively reading and educational experience.   Whilst the story is fiction, the background to the light-hearted story is based on historical events.

As children develop their own reading skills they can catch up on the adventures of “Radio Ron” in a junior fiction book, Cpl Ron’s Borneo Warrior Rescue, that has received accolades worldwide.

Sandra commented, “As book lovers around the world celebrate International Literacy Day I hope that my book will be picked up by parents and educators in their quest to help children develop a passion for books.  Learning to read is one of the biggest milestones young children face.  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).   I’m delighted to say that my Radio Ron stories are already known around the globe via a great project called Educate Earth (see note below).

My book may be a young child’s first introduction to environmental issues.  I believe that children who learn about environmental issues will become more conservation-conscious, develop empathy for such issues, and grow up to become informed adults.”

This book also includes games, puzzles and suggested classroom activities. The story offers many of the high frequency words children learn between ages five to nine. There are also a number of “word builders” to help children increase their vocabulary.

Lisa Williams remarked, “I think this book offers young children a great way to discover a little about the oldest rainforest in the world.  I had great fun drawing the images and developing the games.  I have learnt so much about orang-utans and hope teachers and parents will use this material to engage and inform their children whilst having fun learning to read.”

This new book is now available on lulu.com as a paperback, hardcover, ebook (pdf) and later on iTunes as a special ebook with voice-over and music for an upbeat reading experience.

Sales of this book will also support Orang-utan Charities

Why help the orang-utans?

Due entirely to human activity, the population of orang-utans in  Borneo is now only 12% of what it was less than a century ago.  Due to logging and palm oil production these great apes are losing their natural habitat and could face extinction in the wild by 2022.

Orang-utans are known as keystone species and extremely important in retaining the biodiversity within the Borneo rainforest.

When a keystone species decline or they completely disappear, the survival and abundance of many other species in that ecosystem are negatively impacted.  Their protection is vital to the overall health of the lowland forest ecosystem in which they thrive. In contrast, the vitality of the orang-utan population will only flourish if their forest home is kept undisturbed and intact.

How is Sandra Arthur’s Radio Ron Postcards from Borneo helping to educate people who can’t normally afford to buy their own books?

An Australian entrepreneur selected Radio Ron’s Postcard from Borneo to be part of a new educational DVD for distribution to families around the globe.

Called “Educate Earth” a group of education clips from YouTube (with author permission) and other sources was compiled onto a DVD that was supplied to impoverished communities in Kisii in Kenya, Adum-Kumasi in Ghana and Vanuatu, an island is the South Pacific. Other locations will be added over time.

The hope of this project is that wherever there is access to a portable dvd player, laptop or TV (such as in a school, hospital, health centre, doctors waiting rooms etc) individuals can watch and secure an education without even attending school. Many poor people in these regions cannot afford an education.

Educate Earth DVDs were shared with parents to help them educate their children, if they cannot afford to send them to school.  At the same time, the range of stories included on the DVD are equally entertaining for adults who may have missed out on schooling and thus can learn by watching them with their children.

How will Literacy Week will be supported by Sandra Arthur?

Sandra Arthur has planned a series themed readings at local schools, bookshops and kids clubs in the south of France, Kingston ON, Canada and potentially UK (to be announced) not only in during literacy week but throughout the fall period.

Where can you preview the Radio Ron’s series of books?

Link to lulu’s website here – the title is available as paperback, hard cover, ebook and epub with audio.



What is International Literacy Week

International Literacy Day, traditionally observed annually on September 8, focuses attention on worldwide literacy needs.  More than 780 million of the world’s adults (nearly two-thirds of whom are women) do not know how to read or write, and between 94 and 115 million children lack access to education.

Why 8 September?

In September 1966 the World Conference of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy was held in Tehran, Iran. September 8, the opening date of the conference, was proclaimed International Literacy Day. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inaugurated its official observance of International Literacy Day in 1967.

Coinciding with the beginning of a new school year in many countries, International Literacy Day is an ideal time to recognize the role literacy plays in everyone’s life. A growing number of International Reading Association Honour Councils involve their members and communities in activities at the state and provincial levels. Many national affiliates celebrate the day by presenting awards or organizing events. Classroom teachers, librarians, clubs, and communities use this unique day to create and further literacy action and partnerships

To find out more about International Literacy Day, visit UNESCO at www.unesco.organd the International Reading Association at http://www.reading.org.

For materials to help you celebrate International Literacy Day, visit the

International Literacy Day page at http://www.reading.org.


Supporting Orangutan Charities via book sales

5 08 2012

Supporting Orangutan charities

My family travelled to East Malayisa (Sabah), one the third largest islands in the world, Borneo back in 2010.  We are all orangutan crazy, and were keen to see these amazing primates, in their habitat, before it was too late.

We took a cruise along the Sungai Kinabatangan river – the longest river in Sabah. We were rewarded by being able to see crocodiles, various snakes, many proboscis monkeys, long tailed and pig tailed macaques, wild pigs, and a wide range of birds including hornbill, storks, snake birds and eagles. We marvelled at the colourful butterflies that fluttered around but sadly no orang utans were spotted in the tree tops. Certainly elusive and difficult to observe in the wild, but becoming a rare treat as they systemically lose their habitat each year.  We therefore headed to a special Orangutan Centre called Sepilok, to learn more about their important work.  As my sons had adopted two of the Sepilok babies: Michelle and Ceria we had an added incentive to visit.

You might be surprised to learn that the second most popular tourist spot in Malaysia is the Sepilok Rehabiliation Centre For Orangutans – and yet few European (and no north Americans) are seen wandering around the centre.   I did note that people from Australia/Korea/Japan and other asian locations, formed the majority of visitors.   The plight of the orangutans is thankfully becoming known around the world, due in part to a wonderful BBC series called Orangutan Diaries and work led by many UK charities.

Still a relatively poor country (Sabah) tourism is slowly taking off and some wonderful 5 star hotels can be found on the west coast of KK and luxury eco cabins are being built, to attract the more discerning eco traveller.

I wrote the following blog report in 2011, that covers my experience of visiting the Orangutans at Sepilok.   The information is still valid and makes interesting reading if you wish to learn more about this unique land and primate.

In my small way, I am trying to help the plight of the orangutans (facing lose of habitat etc) by raising funds for charity via sales of my books.  I currently have the following books available on lulu.com:

Early Learning Reader:-

Short stories/Illustrated books for 4-9 years
-Orang Utan to the Rescue
-Crocodile Attack (due September 2012)

Jungle adventure for Boys and Eco-Warriors
-Cpl Ron’s Borneo Warrior Rescue


The Road to Literacy: Strategies for Parents and the Pre Reader

20 09 2011

Sandra Arthur warmly welcomes this viewpoint from teacher, Angela Jackson (originally featured at www.SandraArthurBooks.com)

“So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray,

Go throw your TV set away,

And in its place you can install

A lovely bookshelf on the wall.”

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by
Roald Dahl

Learning to read is the most important skill any child will acquire during primary education; if a child can’t read, he can’t do anything. He can’t read text books; he can’t read the instructions in a maths exercise: he can’t read a book for pleasure. His or her progress is compromised from the very beginning of his school life. As parents there are many, many strategies we can adopt in our daily lives that will ease the transformation from a non reader to a competent reader. Think caterpillars and butterflies!

1. The first tip is a no-brainer really. Talk to the baby; talk to the small child. I used to feel an idiot chattering away to my baby as we tackled the weekly shop but naming objects helps the baby and later the small child to acquire a large and rich vocabulary. Being familiar with lots of words on starting school, will give the child a great advantage.

2. From the age of 6 months, look at books with the baby. Point out objects; talk about what’s happening in the pictures. Babies enjoy bright colours and simple drawings and the warm, cosy parent-child moment will create the right associations in the child’s mind.

3. Think about singing songs and rhymes to increase a child’s vocabulary. Remember that children need to hear language from people. To a baby, television is just noise.

4. Point out written signs. Stress the importance of the written word

5. Another no brainer: show your child that you value reading, that books are important to you. Have books and magazines around the house. Let your child see you reading books, newspapers and magazines.

6. Treat books respectfully, reverently. Don’t allow the child to draw on reading books. Teach him to turn the pages carefully. Encourage him/her to keep the books and, later, drawing materials in a special place.

7. If there’s a library near you then it’s a good idea to join it. Many libraries and some book shops hold regular story hours and staff are often trained to advise readers on ways to use books creatively.

8. Find time to read a bedtime story every night. Apart from encouraging a love of books, it also sets the scene for a calm bedtime.

While committed, conscientious parents do all this on a regular basis, it’s also worth mentioning not to push too hard and to enjoy the voyage of discovery.

Do as I say, not what I do! – how to encourage kids to read.

20 09 2011

“Do as I say, not what I do” does not work when it comes to encouraging kids to read. If you NEVER read anything, how do you expect your own children to become avid book lovers?? Trying to get your kids to read from an early age should be something that not only you encourage, but also lead by example.

As a young girl, I can never remember my father without at least a book or newspaper – often both – in his hands. He encouraged my brother and I to visit the library each week, and we were given a free reign to choose any book to take home to read. He allowed us to select our favourite comics at the newsagent, and set up a regular home delivery each week, so that we did not miss out on our favourite stories or pop-world gossip.

From those early days, I recall my primary school headmaster also taking special interest in each child in our class. He would come into our classroom and chat with each child, to learn more about their interests in life. He would then disappear to the library and return with a selection of books, that he would encourage different children to read. I have him to thank for introducing me to The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien and The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis. From that moment I was hooked on reading and couldn’t find enough adventure, travel fantasy stories and later enjoyed all the detective stories by Agatha Christie.

By the time I reached high school I was required to read the books defined by the school education board: To Kill a Mocking Bird, To Sir with Love, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, Wuthering Heights and so on. I loved them all. I do recall being asked to read “Shane” and it was the first time I actually hated to read a book. Hard to recall why, but I remember my English teacher reflecting “perhaps it is a book for boys…”

By now, I was reading a wider scope of books from historical fiction, to love stories, adventure and spy and crime thrillers. The books I loved the most were the one’s that created many twists and turns and also offered adventure away from England!

What made them magical was the ability to close your eyes and imagine the face of the heroine. I found that if a book I had read was turned into a movie or television show, it ruined the experience if one re-read the book – all the magic was taken away as you could then draw on film images and ignore your own imagination.

That’s why I believe the experience to allow people to develop and come up with their own ideas when reading is so important. For those reluctant readers in our high school class, I recall one year we had a student teacher visit who arrived with some new ideas. This may amuse those younger readers, but I recall this student teacher bringing in a stack of 45 rpm records and playing David Bowie and other current music of the mid 1970’s to the class. We had to listen to the song, study the lyrics and then write an essay on what we thought the singer or songwriter was trying to say! It was a lot of fun and a new approach to getting kids to read, listen and provide review and feedback. That interaction was so important as it helped turn around some kids who had turned their back on reading.

That’s why I was so keen that I would follow my father’s example and ensure my kids took up his love – to read books. As soon as they could hold anything, I thrust black and white board books into their hands. I followed this up with the full range of wonderful look and feel books that exist, and ensured that they were read to each night. Now to my delight, they love books as much as my husband and I and of course, their Grandad.

A love of reading is one of the greatest gifts you can give to any child – take a moment to determine how you can pass on this wonderful gift to children in your life.

For more viewpoints on how to get kids to read visit SandraArthurBooks.com

New Reading Approaches to Appeal to the 2.0 Generation

19 09 2011

With so much of our lives now being shared online, it is no surprise that the young children of today need to be technically savvy and adapt at using the web. We are all being bombarded with more information, in one week, let alone one year, than our forefathers would have perhaps been exposed to in their LIFETIME. For an average person on an ordinary day, it amounts to 34 gigabytes of data or 100,500 words.

Input comes from a variety of sources unrelated to work/school, including movies, mobile phones, television, the Internet, video games, newspapers, magazines, books and music.

This to some degree is driving children to have a very short attention span. Thirty minutes of TV, ten minutes with DS Games, another twenty minutes with X-Box, fifteen minutes on social media sites, 5 minutes to catch the latest music online or on iPods or more!

You may be surprised to learn only 14 percent of people on the planet have access to the Internet (source: United News Center). The majority of Internet users (90%) live in industrialized countries, so internet laggards beware.

Currently, electronic games and mobile devices are generally static – so one can draw parallel examples with perhaps reading which is also static. However there is a new breed of dynamic, interactive, multi-player and networking games on the horizon. These are enabled by new platform technologies, higher processing power, improved graphics, virtual worlds and location-based technologies.

Their role in helping the young to read should not be dismissed, as they do require different levels of reading to understand game rules, answer questions and figure out complex games. It’s easy and fun for kids to escape “this world” and loose themselves as they text, email, surf the web or simply turn on the TV. It is therefore no wonder that kids have short attention spans: they find reading a traditional paper book “boring” and a “challenge” to wade through 150 + pages of plain text.

The “want it all now” generation are growing up in very different times, where less is left to imagination and more is required from media, on demand. It is therefore a tough challenge to kick-start reading in a fun way, that will then hopefully develop a lifetime love to read books (be it via eBooks or on paper).

When faced with a new book or novel, kids may encounter unknown vocabulary, they may have no background on the subject they are reading, and perhaps, they have no choice as to what they can read – being instructed by teachers to read a certain book. If we compare this to their free or hobby time, kids have a choice on what they want to do, they plan when they can devote time to their hobby and they determine how hard they wish to make their particular pastime.

These ideals can be applied to the reluctant reader. By allowing them to make some of the reading decisions: what, when, where. The result will be a more motivated and energised child.

With these factors in mind, I have tried to apply a multi-media approach to my own book writing.

First, for the early reader (4-7 years old) I developed some fun, environmentally themed stories and offered these free on YouTube. The mini series: Radio Ron’s Rainforest Adventures are believed to be one of the first early reader books (with narration, sound effects and original music) to be placed on YouTube. The HD feature in YouTube, makes an ideal reading experience on computer, TV or mobile phone screen. With a more technology-savvy generation, it is an approach that has appealed to youngsters. The stories have been hosted on a variety of charity websites, around the world, including the Australian Orangutan Project.

I wrote the Radio Ron’s Postcards from Borneo series to raise awareness on the plight of orangutans who face extinction in the Borneo rainforests. I’m hoping this work will stimulate interest in this topic and encourage people to donate funds to orangutan charities.

Learning to read is one of the biggest milestones young children face. 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, an interest in environmental issues. Radio Ron has been a true family effort with illustration and voice over contributions by my, then young, six-year-old twin sons; plus voice over, music composition and performance and video creation by my husband, Richard Arthur.

With the success of this series, I am in the process of having the illustrations re-drawn so that an both printed and eBook formats can now also be supplied to the 2.0 generation!

Clearly, motivation varies from child to child depending on their mood, health, etc. My second writing project set out to offer a cross curriculum approach – embracing English, history, geography and music, and also offering an online multi-media angle in addition to the book reading experience.

The result has been Venice Escape – Maria’s Golden Gondola Adventures, a junior fiction book aimed at 9 to 13-year-olds. I have found out that it is also being enjoyed by older folks. They report they are remembering long forgotten history and being excited by the notion of hearing and seeing music clips online!

Blending the dual themes of music and Italian luminaries, I created a whirlwind time travel adventure of a young girl eager to learn about the world outside her cloistered Venetian surroundings. This junior travel fantasy paints geography, history, music and adventure on the canvas of a light-hearted voyage of self-discovery for a young heroine.

Venice Escape also contains an appendix where readers can learn more about the Italian explorers and Vivaldi featured in the story. There is also a companion multi-media website with music clips for each instrument and musical style.

My free online resource has been developed to offer readers of Venice Escape an improved reading experience, and at the same time provide teachers with the opportunity to use this material to trigger cross-curricular discussions in their classes.

My hope is that the book will be used in schools to assist discussion on music genres/instruments, history and geography. Alternatively, young readers can simply enjoy linking to the music sounds and reflect back on how Maria would have enjoyed hearing this music for the first time.

In conclusion, I urge you all to take your kids to the library or review the latest range of eBooks online – and let them choose a fun title or gently recommend something new or a title you know is a winner. Curl up on your sofa, grab your chosen book and let your imagination escape with a fantasy novel tonight – it could be the start of a lifetime adventure, offering your child (and you) the enjoyment and pleasure to read.

Venice Escape now available at Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk and Lulu.com
I provide early learning videos for children under six, teaching resources and music links to expand awareness on music styles. Head to my website for more on my new book and discover the free resources online – SandraArthurBooks.com

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