Oaka Books Shortlisted for ERA Award

Oaka Books, the company started just 2 years ago to produce text books for visual learners and struggling readers, has been shortlisted for the ERA Secondary Resource Award.

Founder of the company, Bambi Gardiner, found it impossible to find textbooks for her 13-year-old dyslexic daughter — so she created her own. Her company, Oaka Books, now publishes a growing range of over 30 titles for visual learners aged 5-14 years and supplies over 250 schools.

‘Being nominated for an ERA Award is a real feather in our cap,’ says Bambi. ‘Our team is incredibly passionate about our products and the children they are helping and this will go a long way to increasing our visibility within schools.’

Oaka packs are for children who like to learn with images and colour. For these children, pages of black and white text affect their ability to absorb information. Bambi says, “Our daughter struggled with lots of text on a page. But from year three onwards, she was expected to read the same textbooks as her peers who were fluent readers. It didn’t work.”

Eventually, Bambi decided to turn her daughter’s work into cartoon-style notes, using vibrant design and activities to bring it to life. It was a ‘game changer’. Bambi says, “Her exam grades went from Es and Fs, to Bs and her first A. More importantly, she gained self-belief.”

Working with the learning support department at Hurstpierpoint College, Oaka produced a range of curriculum based  Topic Packs to meet the needs of children who struggle with their reading, but still need to access the information and pass their exams.

With the help of her own mother, Joy, who drew thousands of illustrations, and a team of teachers writing for them, Oaka Books developed C.E./KS3 topic packs for science, geography and history. Today, the company supplies schools in the UK and abroad as well as parents direct and pupils are reaping the rewards with improved grades.

Bambi says, “Oaka packs are different from standard text books; they’re full of pictures and colour. The topic-based packs are short and concise, using bullet points and easy-to-understand words and sentences. All text is in Comic Sans font and is printed on a pale blue or yellow background, and there’s a glossary of key words for each topic, plus each subject has an learning game.”

The history packs include active learning maps, complete with character cards for children to re-enact the events they’re learning about. This helps children to visualise events, and when they’re in exams, it’s far easier for them to recall the details.’

Director of SEN at Edgeborough School has been using Oaka packs for the past year and says, ’Those who find learning a challenge find that topics like the Peasants’ Revolt come to life by using the Active Revision Maps and cut-out characters. These products are ideal for visual and kinaesthetic learners and condense topics into memorable and easy-to-understand stories.’

She adds, ‘When boys come in from the rugby pitch at lunchtime asking if they can play ‘On the Map’, a geography  revision game for Key Stage 3 & Common Entrance, you know you have found a top-class product!’

Science and geography packs include question and answer flashcards and board games. Bambi adds, “If children are engaged, then they will learn. Our challenge is to come up with ways to engage them and make learning fun.’

‘The thing that motivates us is the fantastic feedback we get from schools and parents. That just spurs us on to produce more Topic Packs and expand our range further. The thought that what we do really does help children is amazing – it’s the perfect job!’

Oaka Books will be exhibiting its range of learning resources at The Education Show on Stand F3.

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