There was a time when Kiara Smith didn’t enjoy reading at all.
Trying to get her to read anything was a daily challenge, her mother Katrina Smith said.
But now, Kiara, a third grader at Mariposa Elementary School in Brea, doesn’t only enjoy reading books. She enjoys writing them as well – so much so she has authored four, with a fifth book on the way.
With titles such as “Friends of All Types, Shapes and Sizes,” “I Love Myself,” and “Truth Over Lies,” each book contains a life lesson that Kiara felt it was important to share.
She donates the proceeds to her favorite nonprofit, Save the Children.
The achievement is made more remarkable, considering Kiara, 8, was diagnosed with dyslexia in the fall of 2020.
Defined by the International Dyslexia Association as a “learning disorder that is neurobiological in origin,” dyslexia is “characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.”
As her mom explains it: “For the most part, it comes more naturally for her to want to read from right to left or see things transposed or in reverse.”
Kiara, whose nickname is “Kiwi,” was diagnosed with dyslexia after her first-grade teacher noticed the difficulty she had reading.
What Kiara’s mother didn’t know, but soon found out as school specialists started working with Kiara on her reading, was that people with dyslexia tend to also possess enhanced creativity, the ability to see the bigger picture and to think outside the box.
“You hear ‘Oh, it’s a learning disability,’” Smith said. “You don’t realize that there are other attributes, that, if fostered correctly, can be amazing. We always kind of knew she was extremely creative and very outgoing.”
As second grade began virtually while the country was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kiara become more aware of its impact on people, her mother said.
“I think that just opened her eyes a lot more as to like, there is a lot going on in the world, and a lot of people are affected,” Smith said. “She wanted to give back.”
Kiara decided to write a book, and then a second and a third.
She came up with the titles, the characters and the stories, and each book contains questions to engage the readers.
Being an animal lover – Kiara and her 4-year-old brother, Jackson, have two dogs and a bunny – many of the characters are animals, including a bear, a fox, a peacock and a kiwi who wears blue-framed glasses, just like Kiara.
“I started thinking, and I kind of wanted it to be like kind of fun and pretend,” Kiara said. “I didn’t want them to be real. So, I thought of nature things.”
Kiara’s mom helps with edits, types the stories on word documents, figures out pagination.
The documents then go into an illustrator platform where Kiara designs every page, along with the background, fonts and character options.
With help from her mom, Kiara also formed a business, the Kiwi Cares Collections.
Her first three books were released on April 2, Kiara’s 8th birthday.
Later released were “I’m Sorry, The Right Time to Apologize,” and then “The Kiwi Business Plan,” which was co-authored with her mom and provides resources on how to start a “kidpreneur” business.
The theme of her next book is a secret, Kiara said, but its characters will include a butterfly and caterpillar.
“Every story was something that she had recently learned in our house,” Smith said. “For example, the one on truth telling came out of a conversation about how it is important to tell the truth.”
“I Love Myself” contains a series of affirmations on why Kiara loves herself: “I love that I am silly. I love that I am smart. I love that I am happy and can make myself happy.”
Readers are then asked to come up with their own affirmations.
In “Friends,” the central message is acceptance of others.
The books, which are geared toward early readers, can be purchased on Amazon, range from $9.99 to $10.99, and all the profits are donated to the nonprofit Save the Children.
About 300 books have been sold so far, Kiara’s mother said.
Kiara’s books are also available in the Mariposa school library and are extremely popular among the students, because they can apply the themes into their own lives, said Angelica Castillo, the library media tech at the school.
“They are always flying off the shelf,” Castillo said. “The kids love her books.”
Information about Kiara, her books and the business can be found at Kiwicarescollections.com.
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