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About Michelle

 

Author / Illustrator

 

Michelle Hargreaves

Michelle Hargreaves

About me, how my Zebnys and Zonkey were born and early sketches.

At school, I was always told I was slow, not very clever but I excelled at art and needlework, in my early teens my parents bought a farm, we had livestock and horses. I nurtured a Palomino yearling back to health whom I named Pablo after ‘Pablo Picasso’.

Disaster nearly struck, when I was studying Art at college someone stole most of my work from my portfolio. This happened just before my University interview, luckily I was accepted after my principal wrote a letter. 

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I started my career in London after my Graphic Design degree, working for clients including Walt Disney, Tescos and Marks & Spencer. As my family grew I returned to the Midlands. After the birth of my 3rd child, I started doing illustration and painting. My equestrian art took off quite quickly, with many exciting trips to London, exhibitions, sponsorship and celebrity clients.

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This is where Zebnys & Zonkey first began, as little characters that would race across the paper, doing ‘egg n' spoon’ and ‘ribbon’ races. Always drawn in pen, I would only add colour at the very end. My children took great delight in these humorous illustration races with three ponies, each pony represented one of them. Waiting to see which pony had won when I finally coloured them in, kept my children entertained while I continued my commission!

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I soon found myself teaching Art to 4-11-year-old children at Solihull College, I then studied for my second degree in Teaching. This is where I found out that I was Dyslexic, and quite badly too, but it answered a lot of questions. By this point, I had remarried and my young son was showing signs of Dyslexia too. So I began to research it, which led me to discover Dolch Sight words.

The book's characters grew over time until I decided I must write and illustrate these stories. My mission is for Zebnys & Zonkey to teach children how to enjoy reading, rather than teach children how to read. I’m excited to share my second family at Hilltop Hall with you! 

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What are Dolch sight words?

 

Dolch words, or sight words, provide an excellent base for reading at an early age. 

 

They are often called sight words because some of them can't be sounded out, and need to be learned by sight

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The Dolce word list contains 220 frequently used English sight words that have to be easily recognisable, to achieve English language reading fluency. It was compiled by Edward William Dolch.

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Dr. Seuss was a famous user of 220 high frequency words, authoring numerous beginner reading books in the 1950’s which are still popular today. One of the favourites is 'The Cat in the Hat'.

For decades his books have been a favourite with educators and kids alike, helping children learn to read through the repetitive use of sight words which represent over 50% of all print media. High-frequency sight words make up 75 - 90% of Dr Seuss’ books making them ideal for learning to read and building reading confidence in kids.  

 Dyslexia friendly books

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BUTTER

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All the Zebnys and Zonkey books are typeset in Comic Sans, to help readers with Dyslexia.

All the Zebnys and Zonkey books are typeset in Comic Sans, to help readers with Dyslexia.

I decided to write all the Zebnys and Zonkey books using Dolch sight words for two reasons - to help fulfil my mission to give children a love of reading and to help others, like me who are Dyslexic and sometimes find reading tricky. 

You might have noticed that the books are written in a rather distinctive and notorious typeface - Comic Sans! Despite a reputation in the design community as a childlike font that’s best not used, Comic Sans has proven to be an ideal font for dyslexic readers and is highly regarded in that field. So it was a natural choice to typeset the Zebnys and Zonkey books in the font.