We're Making It (Better)!

Huge thanks to all of our early supporters for helping us reach our goal and pushing through our first stretch goal! We're excited to have all of you and your families on board. For those just tuning in, after taking a look here, please be sure to check out our first update on Why We Are on Kickstarter or take a look at the most recent update on our pilot progress.


It’s hard to explain to a child that the ‘C’ in OCEAN sounds like “SH”, in RACE like an “S”, in CELLO a “CH” but is silent in YACHT, and a good old “C” in COOK. These words, and thousands upon thousands of others, need to be memorized. Or at least they used to.

Our company has made it super easy to teach kids to read, with no tears and no frustration, using a powerful computer algorithm that decoded the entire English language and found a simple solution: Add TIPS.

By adding TIPS (small accent marks) to each letter, kids know exactly which sound to make when they see it in a word. We teach them the most important TIPS Letters early on, like the Ś as a "Z" in HIŚ or IŚ, or the Ō in GŌ. And, like magic, reading is unlocked. After learning just 50 TIPS, a child could read over half the words in the dictionary. And it all takes just minutes a day. 

As a child masters the system, they begin to read words “on sight”, just like an adult. The real beauty of our system is that when a child gets to this point, they can read words in the real world, even if they don't have TIPS. 

How It Works

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Why This Matters

65% of kids in the United States read at or below a basic level and only one in ten read at an advanced level. Nothing has really changed for thirty years, but imagine what would happen if those two numbers were reversed? 

If you don't have kids of your own, but you think this is pretty interesting stuff, please consider giving just $1 to show your support, $7 to buy a deck of cards for kids in a low-income school. The kids can really use the help.

 Let's Get to a Whole New World

This Kickstarter is about more than a single product, because no single product alone can accomplish the objective we are aiming for: we want to teach kids to read. It's no easy feat. That's why our campaign includes all kinds of rewards, ranging from physical flashcards to eBooks to a full-feature game for iOS & Android to teach the system. Each reward is described in detail below.

Also remember, almost every tier of support includes a "buy one, give one" model, helping us to support schools across the country in achieving their literacy goals.

TIPS Early Reader Pack

The TIPS Early Reader Pack includes 60 Letter Cards, with the letter on one side and a guide sample words to help you pronounce it on the other.

So when a child sees the ī, we teach them to make the hard "i" sound. Once you know L like LOVE, I like ICEBERG, O like... UHH, and N like NERD, you have a great chance at sounding out LION, using one of our Word Cards.

After some practice on these meaningful words, we start to rev our reading engines, adding Power Words, the little words used often in grammar. Sentences like this become easy to read almost immediately. 

TIPS Reading Series eBooks

Because we know exactly which letters a child has learned, we also know exactly what words they can read. This is HUGE! This means that we can give kids reading material that we know they have the skills to tackle on their own. TinyIvy has put together five books for you and your child to explore, offered as Digital Rewards at most pledge levels. 

 Each book includes at least two dozen words, which are organized into Reading Levels. These books help you strengthen phonics skills with familiar words, practicing the TIPS Letters that are known and learning the new ones needed to read more advanced vocabulary.

Our Alphabet Book is a fantastic way to introduce the system both to little readers and their parents. We include all the important variations of each letter, so it's a lot more than just 26 pages. 

TIPS Reading World - For iOS/Android/Web  

TIPS Reading World is a learning environment that helps kids learn phonics through  TIPS, tracking progress on each Reading Level to deliver exactly the right content at the right time to ensure your child is learning the reading skills they need to read efficiently and effectively succeed. 

The game is currently built with five themed islands, each with unique characters, fun animations, and themed content to keep your children entertained while they learn. 

TIPS Reading Series - Athena's Mission

For more advanced readers, we are including as a Digital Reward what could be the first book your child will truly read.   

The book is written to Reading Level 6, which means that 95% of the words can be decoded using TIPS Letters from Level 1-6. Using just 36 TIPS in total, the book tells a story in over two thousand words. 

Here are the key reasons we believe that TIPS is going to drive a revolution in early childhood literacy education. 

Kids Learn Quickly: Because every TIPS Letter produces exactly one sound, and there are only 60 of them, it's very easy to learn the system. Kids can learn the ERP Pack in about 3-4 weeks of consistent practice.

Kids Learn Better: Because every word is decodable, the skills of decoding a word and matching it to an idea are practiced every time. The idea that letters have many sounds is taught explicitly, building more flexible little minds that can easily graduate to standard reading.

Kids Learn Independently:  Because every word is decodable, a child is able to practice reading on their own, successfully reading words that are within their vocabulary without an adult to guide them, even the first time the word is seen in print.

Kids Have More Fun: Because TIPS gives a child the visual cue they need to get the answer right, they read more confidently knowing they won't get the answer wrong. When kids get the answer right, they build further confidence and have more fun. More fun reading means more time reading, both with adults and on their own. 

Reading Improves Dramatically: We know the world isn't filled with TIPS Letters (yet), but we are watching first hand as our first sets of students build their skills, graduating from TIPS to standard reading without effort or stress. Because the TIPS Readable Font presents our accents subtly, we preserve the "word picture" allowing sight reading skills to translate seamlessly to any printed material. 

 Kids (and Adults) Have Better Pronunciation: Is Han a "scound-rul" or a "scound-rel", a "band-it" or a "band-ut"? With TIPS, we include the exact pronunciation of the word explicitly in the TIPS Letters themselves. This is going to make a lot of people with minor accents go "Really? Band-ut?", but it is critical for ESL learners and children of those with strong accents and less English proficiency.

Potential Benefits for Kids With Learning Disabilities: We believe there is a lot of potential for this system to be valuable for all types of students, including those with dyslexia, autism, or other learning disabilities. These are areas we are deeply committed to exploring as we begin to roll out pilots of TIPS across the country. 

We are makers. We love to create things, from folded origami dinosaurs for our kids to my last company's products that are used by tens of millions of people a year. For make/100, we are looking for folks who want to make a huge difference, who want to support innovation and lend the weight of their support to bend the trajectory of early childhood literacy for the better. This make/100 has two parts. 

For you, most awesome you, we will produce the fanciest version of the Early Reader Pack we can possibly design. The deck will come with Gold Gilt Edges and KS exclusive box design with Athena in her Level 10 Wizard Warrior Gear.

In addition, your support will fund the creation of a TIPS Classroom Learning Pack, which we will ship to a school of your choice anywhere in the US. This is more than just a product, it's the chance to shape the lives of hundreds of kids. We will keep you up to date as we roll out the pilot using the Classroom Pack, sharing the data (good or bad) with you to prove the impact of your contribution. Educators typically like "proven" solutions, but our system is brand new. Your make/100 support can help us bridge that gap.

The TIPS Classroom Learning Pack is a variation of our ERP deck, printed on 8.5"x11" and laminated for durability. We have created detailed Lesson Plans aligned to Common Core Standards, designed primarily to support the Reading Foundational Skills of CCLS K-1.RF.2 (Phonological awareness) and K-5.RF.3 (Phonics and Word recognition).

These resources are critically important. 

Every year, NAEP reports the literacy levels for our schools and every year, for thirty years, almost nothing has changed. The closer you look at the data, the worse it gets. This speaks to the heart of our mission at TinyIvy. We want to make reading easier to learn and easier to teach. We want to help kids all across the country in low-income communities or with low-literacy parents or learning disabilities to catch up. 

That is why for every Early Reader Pack we sell, we are also donating a shiny new pack to a school in need of support. Buy one, give one.    

More Facts About the Literacy Crisis in the US

How Did You Come Up With All This?

It started because we were teaching our son and wanted it to be a little easier. We wanted to find a list of words Conrad could read. Oddly, that didn't exist. We didn't realize exactly what we had done until after it was done. And the results are awesome. Little kids pour rice from one cup to another a thousand times, trying to understand exactly how that works. They like systems that make sense. Since reading does not, learning it is painful. 

Or at least it used to be.  

 * This timeline ends in April, but we are promising May delivery to give us buffer in case anything unexpected comes up.

Risks and challenges

We learned a lot from our first Kickstarter. One of the biggest lessons was the value of the community. We expect there will be a lot of discourse about our approach. There will be a thousand eyes looking at every translation and every choice we made. This is a challenge, but it is also exactly why we are doing this project. We want the community to be involved, to look at our work, to give us feedback. We hope it leads to a better product. The ERP is largely complete. It's a simple pre-press and we are using known suppliers. Shipping is less of an issue because of the product's small size. The digital rewards are very doable. The stretch goals won't delay the project. The iOS game is still a work in progress, but that has been in development now for four months or so. So again, we feel ready. There are a lot of products to manage and rewards to track, but I think we got this locked down tight. We really appreciate your support and can't wait to see this in the hands of little kids across the country.