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About Us.

We are passionate team of educators and creators committed to changing the way we "do" education. We start with reading. Drawing on learning theory, design theory, culture studies, language theory and positive psychology, we combine principles from these schools of thought and convert them into the features of each page of our books.

Allyson Caseley
Educational Psychologist and Co-Founder

Allyson is an educational psychologist with over 40 years of experience. She has worked for local authorities, worked directly with schools and with individual students in identifying learning and behaviour needs, in designing learning and behaviour programmes to address pupilsʼ needs and writing Education Health Care Plan reports, an estimated 1000 reports over the last 10 years. She is a published author of fiction and non-fiction publications, with a multi-disciplinary education in English language theory, psychology, cultural studies, education, behaviour and learning theory. Allyson is motivated to make a difference in education, designing and delivering high quality resources, using ed-tech systems and data analyses that allow us to manage the process that generates learning success, reducing delays in addressing learning needs and maximis- ing the efficiency of the teaching-learning process.

Kiri Mellalieu
Creative Direction and Co-Founder


Kiri Mellalieu is a creative designer with qualifications in Fine Art and Cultural Studies (BA Hons) and Creative and Cultural Entrepre- neurship (MA). Her 15-year career in the creative industries includes artist in residency projects in London primary education alongside a successful career in the UK film and theatre industry; working for Disney, Netflix, BBC, Apple TV, The Royal Opera House and National Theatre. Her further education at Goldsmiths, University of London has focussed on design-for-learning; specialising in the visual elements that contribute to effective learning. She also has training in UX and web design.

Our Story

Where it all began

The building blocks of Total Words started with an effective literacy intervention programme in UK schools.


A new approach was needed for certain pupils, and sometimes entire schools, locked into a pathway of slow progress. Through a series of interventions led by an educational psychologist, consistent success stories began to emerge.

The data was really good. The programme had been effective. The questions had been: 


How can we make confident readers? And, how can we make the process of learning to read as efficient as possible? Clearly a good learning process was critical. 


Children in a local school had completed 10 weeks of a Total Words Learn to Read programme.  All had made over 6 months progress, two thirds of the group had made over one year’s progress. These children  were showing us the progress that they could achieve with an effective learning programme. They were breaking away from the path of slow progress that had held them back. 


They loved it. The teacher loved it. Their achievements day-by-day fed their enthusiasm. We were making confident readers by showing them how to read, showing them that they could read. 


But there was more that we could do. The books. The books could be better. Reading fiction stories about irrelevant content just didn’t inspire us, or them. 


So we turned to writing content that was relevant to them. We produced a weekly magazine for the school, with short articles on the topics that they were studying.  And we added the crucial detail—the number of words in each article. Now children could be precise.


‘I read 480 words today.’ ‘I read 620.’ ‘I read about the wild flowers and the bees that are just around the corner from school. Did you know…?’


Effective Books + the programme = success. 

Total Words had begun — real children in real schools, reading real content, making real progress.

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