Education through Personalization – "Reading is Fun When the Story is About You"

IMAGINE reading a book where the principal character is yourself and the characters that populate the pages are your friends, grandparents and even your pets.

This idea apparently sits well with a lot of young kids who somehow dream of playing for their favorite hockey team, or delivering presents with Santa Claus and the reindeers. One would be delighted to know that a line of personalized, custom-made books are available here in Toronto through the efforts of a mom who wants to help children into the reading habit at a young age, through a method that would engage them most.

“Putting the reader as the main character in a book encourages the self-esteem of the child and gives him/her identity,” says Fay Livingston, Jamaican-born owner of Personalized Books Ontario, a personalized bookstore operated as a family home-based business from her home in North York, Ontario. Livingston markets these books mainly by mail-order, from her website and through ‘word-of-mouth’.

Livingston was introduced to the concept by her sister, Mary Irwin, who has operated her own personalized bookstore in Northern Alberta since 1995. Irwin’s elder son, Martin, was only 3 years old when idea to promote personalized books was born. Livingston related the following story: Martin would demand that he read whenever his Mom read to him. He would literally pull the book away and start calling out words (none of which were in the book). He would get very upset, shouting ‘I read, I read’. She’d watched in frustration as her young son changed his demands from ‘I read’ to ‘Make me to read’. It was at this time that she realized her son’s desperate plea. She began to spend more time patiently trying to help him learn to read. She noted that repeatedly whenever she read from a personalized storybook which his aunt had given him, he became more excited, followed the story and, indeed began to recall some of the words which were being pointed out to him as she read along. That was the blossoming of what she strongly believes gave her son a headstart to learning to read. She made a decision then to promote personalized books and, a year later, sold the idea to her sister, Fay.

Fay prides herself in producing the books with a quick turnaround time. She aims at getting the book in the mail within 48 hours of receiving the order. She states that she offers personalized service, and will contact customers to clarify any information, and make suggestions to help them choose the right book for their child. She shared the following excerpts from two happy customers:

From Garth and Nancy Simms, customers from Saskachewan:

Hi, we wanted to let you know that we received the book today. We were very impressed with the quality of the book for the price of it.

From Elham Hajarian, Fay’s co-worker, (speaking of the Baby Book):

Hey Fay, WOW! This is the neatest thing I’ve ever seen!

Of all the gifts I received for Ariano, this is incomparable.

I will read it for him at nights and will save it so when

he grows up he’s assured how precious he is to his family.

Fay, thank you again for this brilliant gift idea 😉

Each book is fully Personalized with the information you provide. Your child’s name, age, friends’ names, hometown and information that is specific to the child is integrated into the pages of the story. The book pages are then printed with a high-resolution laser printer, collated with the story’s illustration pages, and bound in a hard-coated cover, which can be wiped clean. This process produces a durable keepsake that will last for years to come.

Currently, Personalized Books Ontario offers over 50 titles dealing with a wide cross section of subjects. Visit the website at: http://www.personalizedbooksontario.com/

Livingston maintains that in order to learn, one needs to learn to read!

Today’s readers are tomorrow’s leaders!

About Fay Livingston
Fay Livingston was born and raised in St. Mary, Jamaica. She attended St. Mary’s High School and Excelsior High School (in Kingston). She graduated from the University of the West Indies (Mona Campus) where she majored in Mathematics). Fay was a high school mathematics teacher at Jamaica College for two years. She taught Math & Science for 6 years in Nassau, Bahamas. After that , she became an IT professional.

Fay and her husband Errol, who is also from Jamaica and an IT professional, migrated to Canada on August 28, 1992. Adjusting to Canada was not without it’s challenges. Initially, they lived in rural Alberta with Fay’s sister Mary. It was very difficult for to find jobs in IT in the Prairies. In April, 1993, they moved to Toronto in April 1993. They found IT jobs within three months of their arrival in Toronto. They lived with relatives until they saved enough money to buy a home. Fay is a Quality Assurance Software Tester with a major company north of Toronto. She has been marketing personalized books since 1996.

About the author

Mahogany Saunders