Last summer, when stay-at-home-dad Rob Roseman of Roswell visited his sister Lauren Goldblatt in Florida, he noticed that her four-year-old son could already read. Roseman, whose oldest son Cameron was also four at the time thought, “What are we doing wrong?” He asked his sister, a teacher, for some tips. She first suggested worksheets and flash cards. “I’m not doing that. I have twenty minutes at the end of the day to get all the kids into bed,” Roseman (who also has a three year old son and an eight month old daughter with his wife, Angie) replied. “Make me a video and show me what you do. Make it two minutes maximum or else we’ll never do it.”
So Lauren filmed a simple PowerPoint presentation with her phone camera where she explained how words are formed–ran, for instance is “r + an.” Roseman showed the basic video to Cameron who loved it and at his request, Lauren created more videos for her nephew. “I knew it was a really cool idea because I instantly felt like a good dad, like I was contributing,” Roseman said.
After sharing the video with a few friends who also had four and five year olds, the brother-sister team decided to start an online business with these bite-sized clips. Kickstart Reading launched in October of 2017. They used technology to make the videos a little more fun and interactive and posted about their new website on Facebook and Instagram. Roseman says they immediately had a great response from parents who said things like, “This is so cool. I could use something like this.” We sat down with Roseman to talk about balancing family and a new business, helping young children to read and his past life as a professional poker player.
AP: How did you and your wife decide you would be a stay-at-home dad?
RR: We were living in Las Vegas and Angie was offered a new position in Atlanta with her job. At the time I was a professional poker player and there is no poker in Georgia. That’s a scary thing for me.
AP: Wait. You were a professional poker player?
RR: Yes, I had played poker since high school and was playing in regular games after college. I qualified for the World Series of Poker in 2006, and I flew out to Vegas. I ended up finishing 23rd out of 8,773 people. It was insane. I thought, ‘Why don’t I give this a shot?’ I’m apparently good at it. When else can you do something like that? I thought I would do it for a year or two, but I ended up doing it for ten years. After marrying Angie and having three kids, I realized that being a professional poker player isn’t compatible with family life. So when Angie had the opportunity to move to Atlanta we decided I would stay at home with the kids and focus on this new business idea that Lauren and I had with Kickstart Reading.
AP: So how does Kickstart Reading work?
RR: Parents can go on the website and subscribe to watch all the videos for $7 per month, or $42 for the year (50% off). To make the experience more customizable for the kids, parents can choose the “make it personal” option. With that, they get lifetime access plus two videos with their kid’s name and picture. We like to say it’s for kids ages 3-6. It’s probably more like 3.5 to 6. We don’t want to exclude people. If it’s too easy, that builds confidence. My son Brooks is 3.5 and he enjoys the videos. Lauren says it gets them ready for reading.
AP: How is Kickstart Reading different from other reading websites?
RR: Some of our competitors are for ages 2-8 and they do everything. While we do want to grow, we want to keep it narrow right now, just reading. Everybody’s like ‘you can do math’ and I’m like ‘no, we are just reading, just for young kids.’ That’s what makes it different. A lot of other apps are like video games. They’re addictive. They’re too flashy and overstimulating for a young child’s mind. We try to keep ours simple, quiet and around two minutes. We say, ‘It’s screen time you can feel good about.’ And the kids like it. Also, it’s a great thing for dads. They say things like, ‘It’s empowering to me. I was frustrated and this gave me a way to bond with my kid.’ They love how short it is cause they’ll do it–two minutes, you can knock one out and you go back to what you’re doing.
AP: What other resources or tips do you recommend for helping young kids to read?
RR: We like BOB books. Of course read to your kid. I don’t want to talk like we’re these super parents, but we do try to read to our kids most nights. Lauren told me when your kid is starting to read and they’re struggling with a word, resist that impulse to help them. Pause for five seconds. Give them ‘think time’ she calls it. Walk them through it and let them try to figure it out.
AP: How do you balance being a stay-at-home-dad and a new business?
RR: When you have kids at home, that’s your priority. I do a lot of work when they go to bed. It’s challenging. Patience is a really important attribute to have when you’re doing something like this. You want to take action and always be moving forward, but also manage your expectations because you can’t do everything you want. It all relates to having kids, having a family, because a family is like a business. It’s hard to run. Things are constantly going wrong. And you think everybody else knows what they’re doing. But we’re really all just winging it.