FIELD 3 Start-up Aims to Support Child Development Through Media

FIELD 3 provides HBS students the opportunity to dabble in entrepreneurship, resulting in numerous clever iPhone applications, unique dating sites, and a proliferation of food delivery concepts. But this year, one team from section H is using its creative talents and $7,500 to tackle a social issue important to the group.

Inspired Reading is a team of six HBS students with a clear mission: To inspire and motivate children with common childhood disorders and developmental challenges through the use of creative content and social media.

The national conversation in the US has begun to focus on developmental issues in children; the media continues to shed light on the challenges children face, whether in bullying, cyber-bullying, or in the mental/emotional/physical realm. Too often, though, these stories are sad and discouraging.

Inspired Reading believes it can be a positive catalyst in this national conversation by delivering powerful stories of hope and inspiration to the children who need it most – and their caretakers who are looking for support.

Inspired Reading’s first book is about a boy’s struggle with a speech impediment. The story presents various challenges the boy faced and the steps he took to overcome his disability and become a leader in his community.

The team chose to write about speech disorders because of a personal connection; team member Ben Faw struggled with a speech impediment as a child. He eventually overcame this disorder and is now happily engaged in class discussions and cold-calls at HBS.

Like many children, Ben faced challenges speaking from an early age. In fact, by the first grade, about 5% of children in the U.S. have noticeable speech disorders, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

As a child, Ben found few role models or motivational stories of people who had overcome speech disorders. Inspired Reading hopes to fill this void and help children with speech-related disabilities and other developmental challenges.

After multiple rounds of “ideation”, team Inspired Reading chose to write a children’s book as it resonated with every person on the team. As team member Jackie Burgos said best in an early team discussion, “If we make a positive impact on the life of even one struggling child, then it is worth every effort we devote to this project.”

While the entire team was excited as this idea began to take form, other HBS students acted as catalysts to bring the idea to fruition. Aman Kumar, NF, has struggled with a speech impediment since childhood. In his words, “Inspired Reading is vitally necessary positive reinforcement that directly addresses the stigma and despair of the many children who struggle with their speech.”

Inspired Reading is receiving attention outside of HBS, including inquiries from undergraduates and people in the greater Boston community eager to share their stories of living with and overcoming developmental challenges.

While the team’s initial goal was to encourage children who struggle with these challenges each day, the Inspired Reading team has quickly learned that anyone can find these stories inspiring. They hope to finish their first book in the next few weeks and begin working on additional inspirational stories that address other developmental issues – especially those that are rarely talked – or written – about.

To support the team and engage in this important national conversation, please follow them on Twitter or Facebook at #InspiredReading.