Val Prevish reports
A few casually drawn sketches of action heroes led to a new business for Todd and Temeca Jones when they harnessed their creativity and marketing skills to develop a line of educational books for children.
The Joneses, who run the business out of their West Chester home, originally operated as a non-profit called All in One Books. Today, they are marketing their books as a for-profit under the name FUNducate. They offer 10 books they self publish through their website, funducate.net. Subjects include reading and math, as well as real-life heroes like police officers and fire personnel.
Temeca saw an opportunity 10 years ago, when she realized her daughter was collecting Todd’s cartoon-like sketches of fictional action characters.
“I knew that if she liked them, other kids would, too,” said Temeca, whose daughter Sierra is now a teenager.
The couple started small with simple concepts and short books about the alphabet and counting. Temeca even wrote songs to accompany the books and would sing with Sierra to encourage learning.
Sierra’s kindergarten and first-grade teachers were impressed with the results, and the Jones were inspired to go further. Since then, the couple has created a cast of illustrated characters called “The Fun Bunch,” around which they’ve developed a series of children’s books and a television show.
They’ve also just introduced a new book and education initiative to prevent school bullying.
SoMo Lend, the online crowd funding project founded by Candace Klein, funded the initiative, which received $1,000 from a local private investor, Temeca said. FUNducate will kick off a series of walk-athons in several major cities next month to raise money to put the “Show Love No Bullying” books in various schools.
Several local school districts, including Cincinnati Public Schools, have purchased the books, and Temeca says she hopes the company can broaden its sales base to include parents of young children.
“We hope our biggest customers will be parents,” said Temeca. “The books would be perfect for parents to help their kids learn to read and count.”
The project has been a labor of love from the start for the couple, who say they feel passionate about helping kids develop their full abilities.
Todd, a University of Cincinnati College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning graduate, works full time on FUNducate. Temeca is a contractor at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in financial management, but spends much of her spare time working on FUNducate. She visits classrooms in character to illustrate some of the books’ reading and math concepts.
“I’ve been to many schools as Udder the cow,” she said.
The Joneses regularly consult with early childhood education experts and psychologists.
Tyffani Dent, a private practice psychologist in Cleveland, says the material is appealing on several levels.
“The artwork is fun and it’s engaging for young children. Young kids like to see illustrations with fictional characters rather than real people,” she said. “Often they see a picture of a real person and only see that person in the situation. They can’t imagine that it could be them or someone else, so imaginary characters are a better way to reach them.”
The Joneses want FUNducate to become a nationally recognized brand for children’s educational materials. They eventually want to sell through large retailers and develop an animated television show using The Fun Bunch characters.
They are eager to attract outside funding.
“We’d really like to take it to the next level,” Todd said. “We want to help kids reach their potential, and this is the way we think we can do it best.”
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