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Removing barriers to equity through digital book platform

Students in California district read 1 million books and improve literacy skills using myON
Students in California district read 1 million books and improve literacy skills using myON
Students in California district read 1 million books and improve literacy skills using myON

Many students at Oxnard Elementary School District in Southern California have a dual challenge in gaining reading proficiency. Not only do they struggle with developing literacy skills, but over 56 percent of Oxnard’s 17,000 pre-k through 8 students are learning English as a second language.

To help these students overcome their literacy deficiency, in 2014 leaders at Oxnard turned to the 1-to-1 devices purchased the year prior.

“One of the things we wanted to use the devices for was as a means to access reading materials,” says Mary E. Curtis, director of curriculum, instruction and accountability.

An equitable solution
myON emerged as the ideal online literacy environment for Oxnard. The platform offers more than 10,000 digital books, and it provides assistive reading tools such as word lookup and annotation to drive engagement and help students improve their close reading skills.

The recommendation engine provides a list of texts based on a student’s interests and abilities, available from their own personalized dashboards. Administrators have the ability to track students’ activity and growth in a simple, real-time data platform.

“One of our goals is to have all students reading at grade level,” says Curtis. “In order to do that, we have to give them their just-right books, which myON makes so easy.”

Students can download and read books offline with myON; this is a critical function, as only 70 percent of Oxnard students have Wi-Fi at home. myON also offers a large number of books in Spanish; 90 percent of Oxnard’s student population is Latino.

Students drive success
Rather than have educators push particular books on students, Curtis knew student choice was critical for myON buy-in.

“Nearly all students had myON accounts by Thanksgiving 2015, and many had 20 books downloaded to read on their devices during the break,” she says. “When they returned to school, they were eager to download even more books.”

Oxnard took a train-the-trainers approach by having instructional literacy coaches trained in the platform first, and then the coaches trained their educator staff. Instead of overwhelming teachers by showing the entire platform at once, they were shown certain features of myON as the need arose.

Curtis noticed that the highest myON usage in Oxnard’s schools was located in the lowest-income communities.

“myON may be the only way some students can access books,” she says. “For many parents, this is a major hurdle removed in allowing their students to read.”

Recently, Curtis visited all second-grade classrooms and asked the teachers what students do if they finish their work before the rest of the class.

“Eighty percent responded that students simply log into myON and read,” she says. “It is something they can easily do independently.”

A parent and Board member once explained to Curtis that she believed because of myON, students would perform better on assessments.

“She said she thought test scores would go up simply because students are reading more,” says Curtis. “Students feel more confident reading prompts, and the test does not seem as difficult.”

In less than two years, Oxnard students have read 1,025,510 books. By mid-July 2016, they had read 145,436 hours and 826,150,386 words. The superintendent shares district-level data at every board meeting.

“That’s the biggest success right there: seeing kids using the program and reading,” says Curtis. “If kids read, and get more comfortable with reading, they’ll read even more.”

For more information, visit www.myon.com