As an educational assistant at the Edmonton Public School District in Alberta, Canada, Irene Read has plenty of experience in educating children with special needs — children with autism, in particular. She noted early on in her teaching career that these youngsters struggle to focus — and the importance of simplicity in communication.
To help increase the children’s comfort and comprehension levels, Read began taking photos of various objects and using them as part of how she communicated. “If we were going to the washroom, for example, I’d show a picture of the washroom,” she says. “For some, these photos did help them make the connection much more quickly.”
With photographs making such a difference in her classroom, Read began thinking about applying the same concept to children’s books.
“Books with fantasy illustrations are gorgeous, but children with autism have enough trouble relating to the real world, let alone sorting out graphic interpretations of reality,” Read notes. “And they can’t process visually complicated, busy pages. I thought that seeing real photographs on the pages would make more sense to them — just as we’d seen in the classroom. And I also thought that not just autistic children, but all children could really appreciate the merit of one photograph presented on a single page.”
An avid photographer with a willing model in Wally Dog, her family’s 10-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, Read put together a simple story using large photographs of Wally and short captions to describe him. She wasn’t sure what to do with it until her husband mentioned reading about MagCloud in their local Edmonton Journal newspaper.
The idea that she could produce a magazine about Wally with no upfront costs seemed like a perfect fit. She uploaded her first 12-page issue of Wally Dog’s Tale to MagCloud’s Web site and, when it was ready for printing, began telling her friends and family members.
“I got a lot of positive feedback and a lot of smiles,” she says. “Everyone who knows Wally loves the magazine. My mother-in-law sold a few copies at her senior center. And a couple of friends bought copies. One friend purchased a copy because he says he thinks I’m going to be famous!”
Read followed the first edition with a 16-page issue, this time introducing Wally’s friend Bird — the family’s pet dove. The issue features photos of Wally and Bird with simple captions describing them playing, eating and taking naps together.
The next four issues are based on a true story of a missing Bird and all the places Wally searches for him. The tale ends well — Wally finds Bird trapped under a basket and rescues him.
Working with MagCloud, Read says, couldn’t be easier. The responsive staff is always on hand to answer any questions. And since the magazines are primarily for children, she’s especially pleased with the thick, durable paper stock.
Read promotes Wally Dog’s Tale through word of mouth and hopes to attract the autism community and pet lovers everywhere. When she returns to school next year — she’s on leave at the moment — she’ll be eager to see firsthand how her students respond to Wally Dog.
“I hope that adults who love to read to children and talk about what they see in the pictures will enjoy the magazines,” Read says. “And I hope that children with autism find them attractive and informative as they try to make sense of the world. It’s thrilling to see something that was initially just a little hobby come together in material form.
“MagCloud lets anyone turn ideas into reality,” Read adds. “Unlike big magazine publishers that must please the tastes and interests of the ‘majority’ to increase sales, MagCloud gives everyone the opportunity to publish regardless of interest area or niche.”
Check out the latest issue!