I grew up in Los Angeles, studied at Harvard College, and earned a PhD in Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego. I then worked as a biologist doing research on Alzheimer's disease and other brain diseases. Now I live in Hong Kong, where my children Ryan and Ianna were born in 2003 and 2005. When they were old enough to start reading, I looked for children's books with simple words so that learning would be easier. But all the books I found had a mix of short and long words. I wondered whether I could write a children's book with only short words. Using words no longer than 4 letters would be feasible. What about 3 letters? That should still be doable. Two letters? That would be a big challenge, but I tried and came up with "We Go To Bo." After being too busy with work for several years, I finally decided to hire an illustrator and publish an ebook myself, making it free so that as many children as possible could benefit from it. Joanna Pasek's charming illustrations caught my eye, and we completed the book in October 2015.
After I self-published it, teachers told me that reading would be even easier if I used only simple sounds and if each letter corresponded to only one sound throughout the book (for example, if “O” were always pronounced with a long “o” sound). That got me thinking about writing a new 2-letter word book with these improvements.
Meanwhile, at a public reading of “We Go To Bo,” I asked the children if someone could write a book with only 3-letter words, and they said yes. 2-letter words? Again yes. And then one smart aleck said 1-letter. My first impulse was to ignore him, but then I thought, “Why not 1-letter?” If I use “C” to mean “see” and “U” for “you”, maaaybeeee. So I combined the ideas for a new 2-letter word book with a 1-letter word book, and added a 3-letter word book for a 1-2-3 trilogy.
Children can start with “Y”. As soon as they can read the alphabet, they can read this 1-letter word book, giving them a sense of pride that they can read a whole book all by themselves, and confidence to continue reading. Then they can read the 2-letter word book, “Bo, Go Up!”. Next, readers can move to the 3-letter word book, “Cat Egg.”