Bentonville boy wins pitch competition with book intended to help kids with dyslexia

Posted on May 28, 2024
Share via

By Lydia Fletcher, NWA Democrat-Gazette

BENTONVILLE — Organizations are working to inspire youth entrepreneurship in Northwest Arkansas. The Venture Center, a Little Rock-based entrepreneurship support organization, partnered with Economics Arkansas and the Young Entrepreneurs Institute to host a youth business pitch competition on Thursday night.


The Pitch ‘N Punch competition held at the Scott Family Amazeum allowed 12 students to pitch their business idea to a panel of judges. The “Shark Tank”-style contest allowed fifth- through eighth-graders from Northwest Arkansas to win up to $300.


Ideas presented included a mobile car detailing service, biodegradable plates and a learning tool to help people with dyslexia.


Ashley Jones, The Venture Center’s operation manager, said they originally planned to choose 10 students to give pitches but added a few more because of the number of applications received. Jones said the contest’s goal is to inspire kids to think about problems in the world and what innovations they have that could solve them.


The first place winner did exactly that, judges said. His idea was a visual learning tool for people with dyslexia.


Kevin Ma, a fifth grade student from Bentonville, pitched an activity book for educators to use with students who struggle to read. The book would contain words displayed as visual representations of their meanings. For example, for the word cat, a border is drawn around the letters turning the C into a cat’s head and the T into the tail.


He had sample pages which included words such as “tree,” “eat” and “book.


During his pitch, Kevin talked about how people with dyslexia struggle to read and said visual tools can help them learn. He said dyslexia is a common problem in the U.S. and around the world.


“For most dyslexic kids, figuring out connections can be tricky,” Kevin said. “Adults try to teach the children how to read instead of letting them make their own ways to figure out the basic mechanisms for reading.” He said his book takes a child-centric approach and allows kids to learn to read by making connections with the individual letters and sounds.


Dyslexia affects around 20% of kids in school in the U.S. and over 40 million American adults, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Research.


Kathleen Lawson, executive director of Economics Arkansas, said teaching students to be problem solvers is essential to entrepreneurship.


“An important ingredient for a business to be successful is that you’re solving a problem for somebody in some way,” Lawson said.


Kevin said while he doesn’t have dyslexia himself, it is one of the most common learning disabilities.


“I just wanted to make the world a better place,” Kevin said after the competition. “I searched the internet about big problems in the world, and I found dyslexia.”