An Interview with Isabelle Baril
Isabelle Baril is the founder of Mind Growth Education, an online reading log program that integrates a journey across Canada, as children learn about geography, social studies, history and other topics. Isabelle has been in the education field for 10+ years now in various positions as a primary, secondary and a learning assistance teacher, a substitute teacher, and even a tutor.
TCS: What prompted you to create an online reading log program?
Isabelle: Mind Growth Education was inspired by necessity. During my years as a classroom and learning assistance teacher, I implemented a variety of classroom and home reading programs, as well as a variety of reading log programs, quickly realizing that they were all great assets to children’s lifelong learning journey.
My paper-based reading log program was very time consuming and a little annoying to parents (as per feedback I got)—so creating the online version of it—I knew it was going to be a great way to keep the kids (and parents) interested in continuing my reading log program for the length of a whole school year, without them getting bored or discouraged. Having it interactive is very appealing to kids these days. I went for it and now have an amazing interactive and motivating classroom/home reading log program to offer to all the world!
TCS: Can you tell us a bit about how you created the program?
Isabelle: I had come across a few variations of paper-based “Read Across Canada” reading log programs through fellow colleagues but created my own version to cater to my classroom needs. I wanted to bring back the fun in reading, catering to all learning/reading needs, and not making it feel like my program is a chore for the student, the teacher and the parent. Also being an avid Social Studies buff, I made sure I was integrating a way within my reading log program for my students to explore Canada from a variety of perspectives: artistic, cultural, historical, geographical, political and economical.
This eventually led to hiring an amazing web design company named Array Studios (based out of Nanaimo, B.C.), and 9 months later, we launched our first program on July 1st, 2019. It has been very effective so far. One of my former students had a hard time being motivated to read on a daily basis, even with the paper-based version of the “Read Across Canada” reading log program; but when the online version came out, within a month of doing the program, she read 842 minutes, which is incredible for someone that was struggling to enjoy reading in the first place. My own children have been asking to read and log in their minutes on a daily basis as they cannot wait to see which Canadian town or city they are going to learn about next!
TCS: It’s great to see that you offer the reading log program and the various teaching resources on your site in French and English. What subjects do you cover with all you’ve created at Mind Growth Education?
Isabelle: Having all of the resources, as well as the reading log program offered in both French and English was a priority for me, since I was raised bilingual. The subjects covered in Mind Growth Education’s educational resources are:
- Canadian Studies
- Reading Strategies
- Learning support tools
With the addition of other programs in the future, more educational resources will be added with subjects such as World Studies and Science. All of our extra educational resources are available in the Mind Growth Education online shop.
TCS: What are some strategies you’ve found effective for kids who are reluctant to read anything but what’s required?
Isabelle: Learning to read takes practice. Loving to read takes enthusiasm. As a teacher, I always suggest the following four strategies:
- Read with your child every day possible—even as young as a newborn!
- Have your child read out loud to you. Listen carefully and make sure to praise your child’s reading.
- Be involved. Take turns to read.
- Challenge them even after children can read on their own and keep reading to them so they can enjoy stories and books that interest them.
If you have a reluctant reader in your family, here are five strategies that can help:
- Make reading relaxing and low key for a short part of the day. Twenty minutes of reading a day is recommended for every child.
- Read aloud some funny or interesting parts of your favorite book.
- Make sure the book is relatable to your child’s interest. Draw your child in with a brainteaser book for kids, a comic book, or a newspaper story.
- If your child likes a movie, watch it and then see if it’s based on a book. Or do the opposite, depending on your child's preference—read the book first and go to the movies afterwards!
- Sign them up for a Mind Growth Education reading log program account to gain that enthusiasm back (and to learn other amazing geographical facts at the same time!).
TCS: While there are obvious reasons for our children to be literate, what benefit do you think children get from reading for enjoyment?
Isabelle: Reading for enjoyment has a significant number of benefits such as mental stimulation, stress relief, increased general knowledge, vocabulary expansion, memory improvement, better sleep, better writing skills, increased empathy and happiness, to name a few. Reading is the best exercise for your brain. As one of our mottos states, “Reading is essential.” Actually, it is one of the most important ingredients to becoming the best version of yourself. So grab a book—it’s good for you!
TCS: How can homeschool families benefit from Mind Growth Education?
Isabelle: Homeschool families would benefit from what Mind Growth Education has to offer because it can be tailored for every style of reader—from choosing their own character to their homeschool teacher assigning their level of difficulty.
If a teacher or classroom membership account is purchased, the homeschool teacher also has the ability to have a class blog where he or she can assign reading homework, comprehension questions, novel studies or even just simply write encouraging statements. The students have access to their homeschool teacher’s class blog upon signing into their account. An additional bonus to the teacher or classroom membership is that the homeschool teacher can monitor their students progress on a master map at anytime, as well as see all of the data the students log in on a daily basis.
All membership options come with a Reading Across Canada PDF that introduces the reading log program and has fun activities and lessons. They also have access to additional educational resources in our online shop that are created by teachers, relatable to the reading log program, and are useful to teach their curriculum for a low cost.
Mind Growth Education also offers a themed book recommendation list once a month through our blog, such as back to school, inclusivity, holidays, etc., or you can even ask for our help to suggest series of books for your home reading program or for any specific academic need.
TCS: What’s next for Mind Growth Education?
Isabelle: Since I always implemented the “Read Across Canada” reading log program in my classroom, I chose to launch this program first. It’s a super popular one and used daily in classrooms across Canada. My intentions are to launch three more programs in the next few years: “Read Across the World,” “Read Across the United States of America” and “Read Across the Solar System”—as well as a variety of relatable lesson plans and activities in hopes to give teachers, tutors, parents, librarians, etc., a choice in programs for their upcoming school years. We are also wanting to make our badge system digital as soon as possible. To be honest, this is just the beginning! Amazing things are to come!
Isabelle Baril has two beautiful children, 7-year-old Ayla and 5-year-old Hudson. She has called a few places home across Canada, including Quebec and Ontario, but currently resides, with her husband Devin, in Parkville on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. She has held various roles in the education field, but is currently raising her family and running her business, Mind Growth Education. Her educational achievements include graduating from the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, BC, with a Teaching Degree in Social Studies and Special Education, and obtaining an undergraduate degree in Geography and French from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. She has always had a strong passion for helping others, which led her to her teacher career and starting Mind Growth Education.