Login Connect with us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Connect with us on Google+ Follow us on Youtube

Press Release

Getting Kids to love books...by publishing their own, The Educator, Brett Henebery

Schoolyard Stories aims to improve literacy outcomes through giving young students the opportunity to write and publish their own books. Read more

Fundraising that Feeds the Mind

With childhood obesity on the rise, schools must do away with junk food provided or sold in canteens or at school events. One area that is an easy fix is fundraising. Schools could easily do away with junk food related fundraising activities and introduce more meaningful ways to raise money. One Melbourne mum addressed this problem with a fantastic literacy based fundraising activity that is worthwhile on every level.

Schoolyard Stories is a wonderful fundraising idea where the students benefit from the funds raised as well as the actual fund raising activity. It's simple, every student writes a story, the stories are compiled into a book and the book is sold to the school community with profits from books sales going back to the school. By allowing every child to become a published author, it creates a personal interest in that book. The children are proud of their own achievements and are curious to read what their friends have written. The goal here is to get kids to excited about reading and writing.

Sophia Stefanos first took this idea to her own kids' school and was witness to the buzz of children’s enthusiasm as the whole school worked towards a common goal. In 2007 she embarked on setting up Schoolyard Stories, a product that Sophia believes in and can be truly proud of. Books can be a compilation of stories, poems or even recipes. Variable data printing has made it possible to personalise each cover with children’s very own artwork and it goes one step further by also allowing each student to create a personal portfolio of their entire years work.

The possibilities are endless the results are inspirational.

How do you get kids to open a book?

In this age of computers, Wii, Xbox, PSP, DS, TV, DVD, etc. etc. etc; how do you get a kid to read a book? The answer is to let them publish it themselves.

One Aussie mum/teacher has come up with a brilliant way to get kids excited about reading, writing and illustrating. Schoolyard Stories is a simple idea. Every student within a school writes a story. The work is then compiled into a single volume and sold within the school community. Seeing their story published in a real book builds children’s confidence and they immediately want to share their stories with family and friends. There is also the curiosity to read what their friends have written. The book becomes a keepsake that children can read over and over again. The added bonus is that it can be run as a fundraiser.

Sophia Stefanos published a compilation of short stories entitled, Imagine if… in 2007 at her own kid’s school and was witness to the buzz of children's enthusiasm as the whole school worked towards a common goal. The response from parents, teachers and students was overwhelming. Even after several years her own children often revisit the stories from Imagine If... In 2009 Sophia also saw the potential to publish cookbooks created by kids and families; the expectation being that kids could convince other kids to try new things to eat by sharing their favourite healthy meals. The idea also lends itself to ownership of their published recipe and encourages kids to share in the mealtime decision making, food preparation and if you’re lucky, washing up; a real family affair.

Variable data printing has allowed for personalisation of covers and content and in 2014 Schoolyard Stories teamed with educational software developers, SoNet Systems to develop an online publishing tool. Students are now able create their own personalised covers for compilation storybooks or cookbooks as well as completely personalised content portfolios of their entire year’s work. Compatible with iPads and most tablets it embraces the wonderful world of technology and nourishes the love of books by produces a real book that students, parents and teacher can truly be proud of.

I want what she’s having.

How do you get kids to try new thing to eat? Send them to their friend’s house? Good try, unfortunately you can’t exactly do that every day or even once a week, but if you have documented proof of what their friends’ favourite food is you might have a better chance of getting your child to eat it.

Melbourne mum, Sophia Stefanos has come up with a way to document what her children's friends are having for dinner. It’s easy really; and it actually works. In 2008 Sophia published a cookbook of recipes submitted from families at her kid's school. Recipes titled, Madison’s Favourite Stir Fry or Jayden's Crispy Chicken Wraps, were excellent testimonials to what must taste great because Maddy or Nick love it. But wait there’s more...

The idea of creating school cookbooks isn’t exactly new, but Sophia has taken the thought one step further, by allowing each student to have their own personal artwork or photo on the front cover. That's right, every cover is different! Cookbooks personalised with just your child's art make a wonderfully, useful gift and a cherished keepsake. But wait there is more...

No more volunteer time typing up recipes, sending out order forms or collecting money, it's all done online. Schoolyard Stories has developed a user friendly online publishing tool that makes the coordinators job easy. A central coordinator simply sends out an email invitation and everyone gets online to fill in a page of the book. Volunteer coordinators watch the book build itself. The coordinator can have as much or as little control as s/he wants over the layout and design of the cookbook. The coordinator also has the ability to edit submissions and allow submitters to see other recipes in order to eliminate duplication.

The idea also lends itself to children’s ownership of their published recipe and encourages kids to share in the mealtime decision making, food preparation and if you're lucky, washing up; a real family affair. It makes a great fundraiser and printing costs can be offset by allowing local business to advertise within the publication.

Volunteering Mum Become Business Entrepreneur

With three school aged children, Sophia Stefanos has done her fair share of volunteering on pre-school and school fundraising committees. Volunteering brought on many ideas, but one idea turned into a business opportunity.

Selling junk food and raffle tickets was not only frustrating, but it seemed counterproductive. "A conflict of interest was realised when I was selling chocolates to help fund the purchase of sport and exercise equipment". Most great ideas develop from a solution to a problem. "How could we raise money in a way that the children benefitted from both the funds and from the actually fundraising activity?"

With background in teaching, Sophia then came up with the idea to incorporate literacy into a fundraising project by publishing children's stories in a real book. By allowing every child within a school to publish their story this would create a personal interest in that book. The children would be proud of their own achievements and would be curious to read what their friends had written. With every child represented the book would sell itself. The first publication was created at her own children’s school. Sophia was witness to the buzz of children's enthusiasm as the whole school worked toward a common goal. The response from parents, teachers and students was overwhelming and Sophia saw the business potential in the idea.

In 2007 Sophia embarked on setting up Schoolyard Stories. "It's a product I believe in and am truly proud of. The aim is to get children excited about reading and writing while helping schools earn much needed funds and the books become cherished keepsakes."

The big challenge was to create a streamlined process to make it as simple as possible for the volunteers and teachers. "Being a primary school teacher and a fundraising coordinator myself, I was very conscious of not creating work for teachers and fundraisers, but rather developing a tool to lighten their workload". The product has gone from using publishing kits and hard copy templates to a full online publishing/teaching tool that is very simple to use.

The system means no more volunteer time typing recipes, distributing and collecting order forms or collecting money, it's all done online. Variable data printing allows every student to create their own cover and boosts sales as each parent can purchase a book with their own child's cover.

The brand new teaching tool provides a blank online template for each student to work on throughout the year. It allows teachers to set tasks, modify tasks according to ability, correct work, invite parents online to view and comment on their children’s work and professional print a hardcopy of each individual student's portfolio of work.

As a stay at home mum her number one priority will always be her family. Sophia years of volunteer experience provided her with an idea. Her follow through, determination and hard work have turned that idea into a successful business. This product is one that produces a win, win situation for all involved.

A Literacy Tool with a Difference, Students Become Published Authors

With a vision to: simplify the way teachers develop individualised programs for students and get children excited about reading, writing and illustrating, Schoolyard Stories has created a teaching tool with a difference.

The idea is simple and the benefits are numerous. By seeing their work published in a real book, students, parents and teachers take pride in their achievements and in turn their school’s image and students' confidence are enhanced.

Essentially, the teaching tool is in the form of an online portfolio of every child's work that gets printed into a professionally bound book at the end of the year. Teachers simply input their class list into the SYS spreadsheet and a blank book template is created for each student. As activities, projects, excursions and personal achievements occur throughout the year, students record and work in their SYS portfolios. Teachers have the ability to set tasks, check their students work and invite parents online to view their child’s progress.

As the end of the year approaches teachers are reminded to ensure students complete their portfolios and parents are invited to order copies of their child's book.

There is also opportunity to create compilations of stories, poems, artwork or recipes and add a completely individualised cover for every student. It can be a whole school or a year level project and fundraiser.

The Schoolyard Stories website provides a wealth of information about creative writing, free downloads, fundraising and much more. With a great imagination, there are no limits to what you and your children can create.