Digital library inspires Connecticut students to read

Branford Public Schools uses myON to cultivate lifelong readers
By: | Issue: June, 2014
February 4, 2015

Last year, while administrators at Branford Public Schools in Connecticut were thinking of ways to encourage their students to read more, Superintendent Hamlet Hernandez came across the perfect solution. While attending a District Administration Leadership Institute Superintendents Summit, Hernandez watched a presentation about a reading platform called myON and its success in another district. myON is a literacy solution that provides anytime, anywhere access to thousands of award-winning digital books.

The program recommends content to readers in areas of interest to them, and at their individual reading level. Other features include spoken word audio to model fluency, sentence highlighting and an embedded dictionary. Administrators can also use embedded reading assessments to measure and forecast reading growth. For each student, teachers and administrators can access myON metrics including time spent reading, number of books read, a reading growth trajectory and more. “We recognized that as we moved forward with integrating more technology in our district, we needed a solution that blended increased access to books and the use of technology and software. We felt that would increase readership among our students,” Hernandez says. “Collectively, the biggest obstacle in our district is making sure students read over the summer and have an interest in books. After learning about myON, I found that it met our needs as a district.”

Branford Public Schools has 3,200 students pre-K through grade 12. Though relatively small, the district has a diverse population, with 40 percent English Language Learners and 23 percent qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch. The district also has a large number of students with learning disabilities. Hernandez says myON has been effective in the district in part because it is able to adapt to this diverse population of different skill levels and interests. Though some high schoolers are using the program, K8 Branford students and teachers have been using myON the most since it was first implemented in May 2013. Many teachers are using myON to encourage their students to find non-fiction titles to help with homework and projects.

Independent reading has also been a district-wide emphasis, as students are encouraged to read for 20 minutes at home each day. “Having myON’s virtual library with new books added constantly, along with our new 1-to-1 pilot, has really benefited our kids,” Hernandez says. “Students can’t say that they left a book at school, because they have access online through myON. We also love that myON includes guided questions for parents to ask students about their current book. It enables parents to be engaged with their child’s literacy.” Branford teachers and administrators have also made use of myON’s assessment features. According to Hernandez, the data shows that Branford students are reading more today than ever before. From July 1, 2013, to May 1, 2014, it’s estimated that Branford students in K8 read nearly 30,000 books, with one of the district’s three elementary schools reading more than 10,000 books alone. Overall, participating students clocked in 5,000 hours of reading time.

“It circles back to our goal of expanding our students’ access to and interest in books,” Hernandez says. “The range of titles and genres offered by myON is attractive to kids and they can easily navigate through their library online.” “Bottom line, we want students to find their own interests through reading,” he adds. “And thanks to myON, we have more students reading, we have more students enjoying reading and they’re becoming lifelong readers.”

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