Digital reading program takes literacy to new level

Connecticut elementary schools see boost in books read and Lexile scores after implementing myON
By: | Issue: April, 2016 | Case Study
February 29, 2016

The push toward digital learning in Meriden Public Schools in Connecticut started about six years ago with a simple premise: Learning doesn’t stop when school ends. Superintendent Mark D. Benigni understood that advancing off-campus education would require a strong and engaging digital reading program. Soon he knew he had a winner with myON, which provides anytime, anywhere access to more than 10,000 enhanced digital books with multimedia supports, real-time reporting and assessments, and embedded close reading tools.

“We wanted a program to support reading and the transition to the new standards, but also something students could do at home at night and on weekends” Benigni says. “myON opens up learning opportunities outside classroom walls and gives students access to high-quality content, including nonfiction selections.”

The right content anywhere, anytime

Students log in to myON to find a specialized dashboard with book suggestions based on interests and ability. There are picture and chapter books, graphic novels, Spanish offerings, and titles for struggling and reluctant readers. Word lookup, highlighting and annotating help with close reading, and classroom teachers can monitor time spent reading, books read and other indicators of engagement. Embedded assessments measure student reading growth.

“We really saw this increasing access and equity for all students” Benigni says. “Some students have vast libraries at home; others students don’t. myON gives every student a very diverse online library.”

In a district with 70 percent of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunch, administrators understood they’d need to boost access to technology. Since Benigni’s arrival six years ago, the district went from zero to 6,000 student-issued devices, with every school having computer labs and mobile carts in addition to desktops and SMART boards in classrooms. Three schools are already seeing the advantages of a 1-to-1 learning environment, and two more will next year. The district’s ultimate goal is to have 1-to-1 technology throughout all 12 schools—8 elementary, two middle and two high schools.

Increasing engagement through choice and differentiation

Some teachers use myON as a station rotation or assign myON reading for homework, Benigni says. Often, teachers will create book sets from which students may select a title that covers a particular topic or subject being taught.

“Students can choose based on their interest and ability, so it’s become a tool that has aided differentiated instruction in the classroom” says Barbara A. Haeffner, director of Curriculum and Instructional Technology for the district.

“I like that it follows the district theme of student-centered learning” Benigni says. “Teachers aren’t telling students what to read; they’re saying to read at or above their level, and students choose the books. They’re excited about reading; Lexile scores are improving.”

At the two schools with myON since the 2012-13 school year, 819 students nearly doubled time spent reading from 3,816 hours in February 2015 to 7,448 hours this past February. During the same 12-month period, Lexile scores showed growth in all grade levels.

myON also allows students to listen to stories, which improves literacy, fluency and comprehension, particularly for ELL students who can listen to proper pronunciation, Haeffner says. “Listening to stories builds the confidence all students need when challenging themselves to read higher-level material” she says.

Getting accustomed to reading online has another important value: Increasing comfort level in an online testing environment, Benigni says.

“The more we can get students used to reading and navigating online” he says, “the more successful they will be when completing online testing.”

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