PORTLAND, Maine — After spending nearly 20 years in the classroom trying to improve the literacy skills of her many students, Michelle DeBlois was frustrated that she couldn’t do more matter.
DeBlois believes she has developed a way to encourage students to read more and empower teachers to manage that goal.
Along with Kathryn Lariviere and Peter Janett, DeBlois founded ReMo, a web-based application created for students and literacy educators in grades 4-12 to inspire independent reading and develop lifelong engaged readers. CEO and founder DeBlois recently left her teaching career to further develop ReMo at Northeastern University’s Roux Institute. ReMo founder and CFO Lariviere has been teaching for 20 years, and founder and CTO Janett is a website and application developer.
“So when I was teaching it started and I was really frustrated because I had 70+ students and I couldn’t keep track of all the books they were reading and I couldn’t really give them the support they needed. So I decided Be part of the solution,” DeBlois said.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to fix this.’ So we created ReMo and we’ve been beta testing it for the past two years. We found that 25 percent of the students who thought they didn’t read books thought they’d They’ve become readers,” she said.
ReMo is one of five startups in the Roux Institute’s Founder Residency program, which began in July and was featured in Roux’s venture capital showcase this fall. The program helps new businesses develop a business plan and raise investment funds to grow the company.
These start-ups live in Roux for a year and receive guidance on building their business. DeBlois works at Roux to further develop the company’s business plan and scale for growth.
“Roux has really helped us on multiple levels. First, we have a great workspace. We have great mentors. We get one-on-one time and access to those mentors if we need help,” DeBlois Say. “The five founders are all amazing, very knowledgeable, and we can lean on each other for support. I think Roux really pushed us to the market. I think we’re a little bit, as educators, we’re very cautious, we’re kind of humble by nature, and Roux It kind of sparked our enthusiasm.”
Chris Wolfel, director of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship at the Roux Institute, said the Roux Founder Residency program helps early-stage companies by giving them the resources they need to increase their ability to succeed. These resources include workshops, mentors, talent, clients and capital.
“It might be controversial, but starting a business is easy, just fill out a few forms and you’re ‘starting a business.'” But building a business, a team, and growing it is very difficult. We provide companies with a support system designed to help them grow,” Wolfel said.
After considering the idea for several years, the Reading app was launched in 2018 and integrated in 2019. ReMo developed the first prototype in 2020 and continues to test it in the classroom. According to DeBlois, 37 teachers at eight Maine schools use ReMo with a total of about 1,000 students. They’ve been fine-tuning the app with surveys of students and teachers.
Three schools became a paid pilot program in September, and ReMo aims to have more early adopters in the spring before launching the program fully next September.
“This team (ReMo) understands the field and is passionate about making an impact on issues they see firsthand,” Wolfel said. “Personally, I’m a big fan of any business that has the potential to do well financially and in the world, and ReMo is a perfect fit.”
According to the ReMo website, ReMo manages and organizes information on books available to students, helping educators track reading material and maintain information about students’ reading progress.
“Teachers really love it because, number one, they have all the data in one place, and they really love it. They can talk to the kids, and they can get to know their kids faster,” DeBlois said. “When they search for a book, they find books and they say, ‘Oh, I need this book on the Holocaust or something.’ They now have a way to search classroom libraries that they didn’t have before. They found Engagement, student engagement has gone up.”
The ReMo app has two different home pages or dashboards, one for teachers and one for students. The educator’s home page has four categories: Books, Courses, Reading, and Educational Tools. For example, the Reading category displays Student Profiles, Bookshelves, Individual Reading Courses, Reading Journals, and Reading Journal Reports.
The app allows teachers to monitor what and how often students read, view their reading reports, provide feedback to students, add books to the library and make recommendations.
“So teachers have a lot of discretion about what books are in the classroom library, how many times their child has read it, when their child has read it, how many reading logs they have, or how many reading responses they have made,” DeBlois said.
Students see two main categories on their dashboard: Books and Reading, which, like educators’ dashboards, open to additional pages. Students establish reading goals; select books from the library, which provides lists by type and include descriptions; record reading time and page counts; self-evaluate reading; and follow a reading curriculum.
DeBlois said the data on student reading, reading rates, page counts and books builds confidence among students that they see themselves as readers.
“The kids love it too,” DeBlois said. “It depends. If they’re readers, they love it. If they don’t read, they love it, and they love it more than newspapers. They love looking at their data, and they realize they’re reading more than they used to be.” They started seeing themselves as readers and made it a habit to read. Ultimately, it changed their attitude about reading and they read more.”
DeBlois said ReMo has grown with the students every year, and the data has followed them through 12th grade.
Deborah Mills-Scofield — a Roux mentor who worked with DeBlois; founder of Finding Blue Lobsters, which helps businesses grow; and a former partner at a venture capital firm — said the Roux initiative has given ReMo and other startups a big boost .
“[The Roux]gave an honest assessment. If I didn’t think it was a really great project, I wouldn’t have put my time and effort into it. These guys are lucky to be in The Roux. But I also think, from what I’ve seen Roux is lucky to have them as well, as it adds credibility and helps broaden the base.
“I’ve seen a lot of accelerator and incubator programs, and a lot of university programs, and I’ve been very, very impressed with Roux’s founder-in-residence program,” Mills-Scofield said. “They do give them a network and they enable these companies to raise capital.”
Mills-Scofield said ReMo is doing critical work that really matters and can change society. ReMo continues to gather data to show qualitatively how the app improves literacy among students, and with those results, more pilots have become paying customers, she said.
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