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Redefine reading and community involvement to increase ROI

By using myON Reader’s vast online library and involving the greater community, educators can transform how students think of reading

Currently, the way most schools think about reading restricts students to the time and space of borrowing one or two books from a school library or classroom collection at a time. However, to improve reading skills, it is helpful to break down those physical barriers. With its extensive digital library, myON Reader from Capstone Digital provides children and community members with a wealth of books that can be accessed anywhere. This web seminar, originally broadcast on October 19, 2012, explored how both myON Reader and extensive community involvement can increase the quantity and quality of reading for students.

Alan November
Senior partner and founder
November Learning

I am fascinated with Capstone’s ability to create an extensive online library that can be used anywhere by children. This only furthers the concept of expanding the boundaries of learning. I think most educators would agree that the home as a center for reading is a wonderful complement to reading in the classroom.

A real partnership between the home and the school around reading is essential to improve reading instruction.

I have heard of a school in England where a new principal was hired at a low-performing school in an impoverished community. He decided to introduced unique reading videos for each student. In the videos, a teacher would sit next to a student reading and working on very specific skills. The video was burned onto a DVD and sent home for the student to watch with his or her parent. Even parents who may feel uncomfortable coming to the school for parents night would watch the video in the comfort of their own home.

The school was taking advantage of technology to bring reading into the home. The parents were able to see specific strategies used by the teacher that they might be able to use with their child to improve reading skills. Research has shown children who read at home are better at reading than those who don’t. Thus, anything a school can do to bring reading into the home is helpful. It has also been shown that the feedback a teacher can provide a student is the No. 1 attribute in improving student learning. Teachers can use technology to help give feedback.

One school in the USA has been utilizing Skype as a means of having grandparents read to classes. A grandmother from Ireland had a kindergarten class so entranced with a book and personal stories, the teacher felt she could have left the room unnoticed! The idea of inviting parents and grandparents into the classroom to read only validates the value of reading to children and cements the school-home partnership.

Todd Brekhus
Capstone Digital

myON Reader battles the tradition of sending home one or two books per student per week by making over 3,000 digital books available over the internet. Instead of restricting the amount of content available to children, myON personalizes the reading experience. myON brings content to devices and into the home. We do not think of these digital devices as simply gadgets, but as tools that aid in transforming the way people think about reading.

We want to break down the physical space barriers that libraries or classroom collections cannot avoid. Reading should be a conversation among the school, home, and greater community. With digital resources, it is easy for that conversation to be informed by the data on what, how much, and how often students are reading and engaging with text.

AN: I urge schools to use technology by considering producing a reading documentary that can be given to kindergarten parents. This video can help parents understand the skills teachers have that they may be able to bring into the home to help their child work on reading. With today’s technology, we have the ability to dub videos into any language, so your documentary can be all-inclusive.

TB: There is a non-profit project currently going on in Colorado that connects high school students to fifth grade students. myON Reader has provided these students with digital books so they can continue their literary conversations at home and stay connected. This program has resulted in an over 90 percent graduation rate for the teenagers involved. Unfortunately, some boys drastically lose interest in reading as they get older. By providing them with an older reading mentor, an interest in books can be cultivated.

AN: One of the primary motivators for adults and children is purpose. Without purpose, people will not work as hard on a project. Teachers should work at instilling purpose as much as possible in student work. In one classroom in Alaska, a teacher observes his students until he sees a moment of reading accomplishment. The student who has just done something great then uses the teacher’s cellphone to call his or her parents’ voicemail and tell them what he or she just did.

Then, the teacher holds out the phone to the class so the parents can hear everyone cheering for the accomplished student. Since parents are used to only getting calls from the school when something is wrong, a positive phone call gets them fundamentally excited about what is going on in the classroom. In this case, technology acts as a conduit of positive news to a student’s family.

TB: myON Reader is currently working on a project in Tampa, Florida. Various community organizations had been doing separate projects to improve reading skills among the 145,000 students. We created a website for the county so that anyone could access thousands of books with a username and password. Since February, 2.7 million reading hours have been logged. The goal is to simply get students reading more, and the results have been fantastic. Bilingual students have been helping their parents to read English because the books have audio.

Students model good reading for their parents and are engaging in conversations about books.

AN: In England, there are community learning centers that are aimed at improving reading in the adult community. Results had been poor until it was realized that the best approach is to teach parents how to read to their children. Providing a wealth of books to the home helps the entire family. Scotland has merged all family and health services with education to positive results. It makes sense for schools to partner with community agencies to improve reading.

TB: Data collected from our Tampa project have taught us that if students read more than 10 appropriate, challenging books over the summer, it is as beneficial as attending summer school. Over 400 students in Tampa read over 100 books last summer. It is up to the schools to figure out how to use this data and integrate it into curriculum. In light of the Common Core Standards, reading non-fiction books excites students, teachers, and parents more than traditional textbook reading. The content in books is real and relevant compared to the one-dimensionality of a textbook.

AN: Students who love structure and keeping score will appreciate the apps that teachers can download to record good and bad reading behaviors. In Australia, a teacher uses an app to record individual behavior and then reports the class’ progress to them at the end of the day. The students then sit in a circle and discuss how they did and how they can improve the next day. This detailed data is incredibly motivating for them.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to: