Halifax-based Squiggle Park, a web-based platform that aims to help children learn how to read, announced that it has raised an $800,000 seed round.
To date, Squiggle Park’s has raised $1.02 million. Past investors include Heather Reisman, founder and CEO of Indigo Books and Music, and John Montalbano, head of RBC’s global asset management division. The company has also completed a family and friends round and received business development funding from Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Ontario Centres of Excellence.
“In Canada, the tipping point is third grade where kids go from learning to read to reading to learn and there’s still about 30 percent of kids that aren’t meeting those basic reading levels in Canada.”
– Leah Skerry, co-founder of Squiggle Park
Founded by Leah Skerry and Julia Rivard Dexter, Squiggle Park launched in 2017 with the goal of helping young children develop reading skills through a literacy platform consisting of small games designed by teachers, researchers, and gamers. The company uses a concept called “blended learning,” which combines tech with physical tools like books to help children and English learners master different stages of reading such as pronouncing vowels, consonant sounds, and high-frequency words.
Speaking with BetaKit, Skerry said children play a series of small games that ask different questions. Each game adapts based on how players are answering those questions, and as players complete each level, called a “world,” they are given corresponding books and poems as a reward.
While Squiggle Park’s co-founders initially set out to develop software to address reading challenges among all children, Skerry said the company is now focused on expanding its platform to support immigrants, English language learners, and children who aren’t meeting basic reading levels in Canada.
“In Canada, the tipping point is third grade where kids go from learning to read to reading to learn, and there’s still about 30 percent of kids that aren’t meeting those basic reading levels in Canada,” said Skerry. “We developed the product to support the acceleration of learning to read. The goal for us was really to close that gap. The [people] most affected are Indigenous populations and immigrants, and so we initially set out to develop a product that would accelerate learning to read and because we had introduced that…the kids who wouldn’t know English knowledge were seeing the greatest acceleration and for us, that’s kind of been our target market.”
Skerry said Squiggle Park will use the funding to support the growth of its next product, Squiggle World, a game that focuses on accelerating literacy skills for children specifically in grades 3 to 6.
“Literacy skills will be strengthened through the explorations of curriculum-aligned topics, ranging from ‘Ancient Rome’ to ‘The Great Barrier Reef,'” said Skerry. “What’s perhaps most exciting is the ways in which we are combining gaming and pedagogy to introduce new ways of accelerating literacy and language skills through music, symbols, and even emojis.”
Skerry added that the funding will also be used to support Squiggle Parks’ plans to expand internationally in countries where the company has seen organic growth including China, Oman, Mexico, and India. Squiggle Park is also planning to increase its Toronto workforce by doubling its team within the next six to nine months.
Squiggle Park, which is currently used in over 6,000 schools around the worlds, is currently at the tail end of completing a pilot project with the federal government through Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to help children improve their reading levels over a 10-week period. The company plans to announce the project’s details in the coming months.