As a teacher for 20 years I’ve always looked for ways to help kids make sense of the crazy English spelling. In every spelling lesson, the fact that there are so many ways to spell sounds in words causes problems.

One particular day I was teaching a lesson about ‘oo’ words. The kids were suggesting words such as soup, fruit, prune etc and were wondering why there were so many ways to spell the ‘oo’ sound. There was a sea of confused, worried little faces wondering why the words they thought were right were not the ‘oo’ words the lesson required. So I ditched the ‘lesson plan’ and together we wrote a funny story about eating soup and prunes on the moon, they loved it and a boring lesson became fun.

I went home and thought to myself wouldn’t it be great to have a story for every sound. I looked and looked but couldn’t find any stories that taught all the ways to spell sounds in words that had any sort of interesting narrative.

So I set to work, researched all the vowel sounds, created word lists and wrote 20 vowel sound stories. I sent them off to print publishers but no luck, and so my computer techie partner Brenton suggested why don’t we make them into apps.

Our talented artist niece Amber came on board and off we embarked on our steep learning curve. A little bit later we were very lucky to get to know Lavinia, who is an amazing artist and brings the stories and characters to life with her lovely art work.

We thought we were finished once the app was created but then I discovered the world of self publishing and after a year of adapting the content for print we now have 10 beautiful picture books, printed here in South Australia. People love books!

So now we have the first 10 stories, the Long and Short vowel sounds available as decodable sound phonics picture books and also as an app for iPads. A unique Story Based Learning approach that teaches 73 ways to spell 10 vowel sounds. It has become so much more than a collection of stories and has morphed into a complete learning journey!

Karen Sandelin: Creator of Clever Speller