Hi. I'm the guy who makes Readeez.
My name is Michael Rachap (say "Ray-shap"). And the first thing is, I was born.
Shortly thereafter I became a musician.
Seriously—I started playing piano at age four. My family soon realized I had what's known as "perfect pitch" (technically Absolute Pitch)—the ability to name or reproduce a musical note without reference to an external standard. About 1 in 10,000 people have it, I've read. Makes for a nifty parlor trick.
Growing up in Maryland I played in quite a few bands, eventually becoming a fixture in the Baltimore-DC music scene. I taught myself guitar. I started writing songs. But I believed my dad when he said "you'll never make a living in music."
Off to business school I went.
After earning a marketing degree from Georgetown (summa cum laude, minor in Philosophy), I entered the ad biz as a lowly Junior Copywriter. I worked my way up to the big leagues: Madison Avenue. I spent four years at the New York offices of global colossus DDB, rising to the dizzying heights of Associate Creative Director.
Then in 1999, my daughter was born.
I took a look at my life. And I decided to make the most of it, to fill it with as much joy as I possibly could.
Bye-bye New York, hello Boston.
Bye-bye advertising, hello Berklee College of Music.
I did a double-major in Songwriting and Music Production. And I had a blast, studying what I loved most.
But I hadn't a clue what I'd do when I left.
In 2002 I still had no clue. I found myself in Atlanta, working the occasional freelance writing gig, making music in my basement and spending most of my time as a stay-at-home dad with my baby girl.
This last meant spending time in the world of children's media. I fell in love with picture books—Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Robert McCloskey, Margaret Wise Brown, Sandra Boynton and others.
I continued to love Calvin & Hobbes.
I also found examples of children's music to love, though in our house it was more likely to be live, homemade music than the recorded kind.
What I did not love was children's video. I hated 99% of what was aimed at kids. It was loud, frantic, dumbed-down, and, all too often, sandwiched between insidious ads.
I felt I could do better. I just didn't know how.
Around this time I attended a course taught by Glenn Doman at the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential. One of Doman's great insights was that young children could learn to read at the same time they learn to speak, and in much the same way.
His method involved showing your child a large, clear, hand-printed word while at the same time pronouncing the word for the child.
It dawned on me: I could make videos of "words being pronounced"—but instead of a random series, like flashcards, I'd have content that kids and parents would enjoy for its own sake. And if I closely synchronized the words on the screen with the words on the soundtrack, the reading instruction would take place automatically, with every syllable.
As for the content, well, it could be my original songs and stories and poems, starring...starring who?
I called an old friend, the brilliant illustrator Gerry O'Neill. I asked him to design a couple of characters—a father and a daughter. I suggested the style of Calvin & Hobbes, or Peanuts. Something simple. Timeless.
Gerry delivered big-time.
Then I put on my Don Draper copywriting hat and came up with the name Readeez. Next I coined the phrase "Learning disguised as smiling" to describe my new concept.
All that remained was for me to was teach myself animation and graphic design and DVD authoring. Which took a few years.
During this period I began producing the music that would form the heart of Readeez. Since I'd always loved recording studios I took the leap and built one into my home.
While I waited for Readeez to catch on (which, to my great shock, did not occur overnight) I happened on a nice part-time career: Music teacher.
At Atlanta's Eclectic Music I led the early-childhood singalong and taught some piano and guitar students, which I loved.
And now...I'm in Portland, Oregon and about to begin some new adventures.
Questions? Comments? Write to michael [at] readeez.com.