Remember when the world wasn't familiar with online learning? Now with technology upgraded and used daily, two women co-founded a company to help teach children how to read virtually.

Hoot Reading was created by two Canadian women, Carly Shuler and Maya Kotecha to be used as an online tutoring company that is available throughout North America.

According to Shuler, approximately two-thirds of children are reading below the expected reading level for their age. So, to make a positive difference in this situation, they provide one-on-one teaching experiences, thanks to more than 100 teachers in their arsenal.

Shuler says that online learning has been in the works for well over a decade because she was part of the research group.

"I have a Masters in Technology and Innovation from the Harvard Graduate School of Education which led me to Sesame Workshop, the creators of Sesame Street," says Shuler. "And while I was working at Sesame Street, I was staffed on a research project aimed at understanding whether kids could learn to read over video chat, which at the time was quite a groundbreaking idea. Skype was just becoming mainstream."

She says that at the time, no one could have imagined how we survived the pandemic where children would be doing most of their learning online.

Apparently, while in the research group they found that under the right circumstances, environment, teacher and books, a child could learn to read virtually.

"So, great finding, written up a bunch of articles but it never actually made it out of the labs. Fast forward about 10 years, I move back to Canada, had my own family and my co-founder Maya Kotecha decided that this idea was too good to stay in the lab."

In 2018, Hoot Reading was founded.

Poster of Carly Shuler and Maya Kotecha (Hoot Reading/Fb)

On March 9, the 25 Women of Influence award recipients were announced, and Shuler and Kotecha were among the group of women listed.

To be considered for this award the women have demonstrated the following key factors:

  • Contributing to the greater good through their initiatives;
  • Reaching inspiring heights on the global stage;
  • Or in using their influence to drive demonstrated change.

Noteworthy achievements Hoot Reading has done is build partnerships with some of North America's largest school districts; have an astonishing representation of women in their business in a typically male-dominated field (5.7x industry average); and have partnered with organizations across sectors to provide parents and their kids the supports they need to thrive.

"We're really proud to have an overrepresentation of women in a technology company, which is quite rare in tech in general, and I would say including here in Winnipeg. We also have a lot of amazing men who support the women working with us, and our team is very inclusive in a lot of ways. It's important to us."

Shuler says that it is truly an honour to be named one of North America's top 25 Women of Influence. She hopes this achievement will inspire other entrepreneurs, especially women, to follow their dreams and achieve their goals.

Even though Hoot Reading reaches communities all around, both Shuler and Kotecha make sure to invest in their local community as well. They get involved with entrepreneur events that take place in the city, such as North Forge, New Media Manitoba, and Tech Manitoba. Shuler says they like to have a presence at these events.

For the future, Shuler also says they plan on staying a steady course and continue providing children with resources and opportunities to help them learn.