My name is Kathryn Starke, the founder of Creative Minds Publications, a global educational publishing and literacy consulting company. As a former inner-city elementary school teacher and reading specialist, I wanted to share my brand story to help fellow entrepreneurs feel inspired to create their own business and make an impact within their industry.
The Student Becomes the Teacher
I was teaching by the time I was a kindergarten student herself. I came home every afternoon after a long day of learning to play school. I wrote lesson plans, graded papers, and taught twenty invisible children. My mother and five of her siblings were in education, so teaching was certainly in the blood. At nine-years-old, I started a tutoring business to teach future kindergarteners around the neighborhood knowledge of letters, sound, and rhyme awareness. A little over a decade after that, I was teaching my first class of second graders with the same reading skills. I started writing stories and songs to teach elementary school students about the curriculum creatively while supporting literacy instruction. I told the story about my college suitemate, Amy, who lived on five of the seven continents.
No matter where you live in the world, you learn about the continents. I had a feeling this would be a useful resource to fellow teachers. Believe it or not, in 2005, children’s book publishing and independent publishing was not as common as it is today. My dad, a business owner, suggested I start my own publishing company, so I did. I wrote and published my first children’s book, Amy’s Travels, under the imprint of Creative Minds Publications. It became the first children’s picture book to teach the seven continents. First, a center in Melbourne, Australia adopted the book. Then, the California Department of Education recommended the book as a multicultural title for the classroom.
From the Classroom to the Boardroom
When my book first appeared on the market, I was teaching first grade full-time and was in graduate school earning my Master’s degree in literacy and culture. I ran my company on the evenings and weekends. I taught myself everything I could about running a business and publishing company through reading tons of business books, memoirs, and magazines including Forbes and Fast Company. While my school principal allotted me professional leave to present at conferences and provide professional development for other elementary schools around the region, I had to decide whether I would continue to run my business part-time or commit to 100% leading my company and expanding the impact-to teach the world to read.
While publishing companies and educational companies have existed for years, I knew that being a founder who happened to be an elementary school teacher by trade would be the unique factor to ensure my company motivated, inspired, and supported children, families, and teachers. Once I put all of my energy entirely into her company, I was able to increase my literacy coaching support to help schools around the country achieve reading success. I became a contributing writer for a number of educational and business media outlets. Amy’s Travels, was turned into a musical by the Latin Ballet of Virginia and a dance company in San Francisco. Creative Minds Publications became a consultant for nonprofits and companies supporting education including Chicken Soup for the Soul and the Washington Football Club.
Publishing for a Purpose
Companies who make a philanthropic impact also increase their staying power. Creative Minds Publications believes in publishing for a purpose. Every book we publish supports a specific philanthropic mission, organization, or initiative. For example, the book Tackle Reading has become an annual educational initiative supported by the NFL to promote a love of literacy with a passion for football. All thirty-two teams are represented coast to coast thanks to athletes, alumni, Hall of Fame members, owners, cheerleaders, and coaches donating their time reading to K-5 children virtually or in person. The sixth annual event kicked off March 2, 2022, in honor of Read Across America Day and National Reading Month.. We offer bulk rates with special gifts to every school and organization for every book that we publish. We also have created a literacy ambassador program to help teachers earn gifts to inspire quality reading instruction as well as an additional income.
Next Steps: Teaching the World to Read
Before the pandemic, only 37% of nine-year-old children in America were reading on grade level. The percentage decreases to 22% in low-income areas. Currently, over 32 million adults are considered illiterate. Literacy should not be a luxury for some children, but rather a right for all children. We have so much work to do in reading education, which contributes to the fact that Creative Minds Publications enters its sixteenth year in business this fall. The personalized literacy consulting side of Creative Minds Publications helps elementary schools around the world achieve literacy success, often in one school year. We have expanded our reach virtually and to support the homeschool community. The company has also expanded to publish children’s books and educational materials written that are used in all 50 states, in 26 countries, and on 6 continents. Our company’s newest resource, A Touchdown in Reading: An Educator’s Guide to Literacy Instruction, is the playbook to support every single teacher in this current climate. We continue to spend the majority of our days in elementary schools to ensure that we create products and services to help teach the world to read.