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Literacy program offers OKC schools thousands of age-appropriate e-books

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Less than a month after school board members agreed to the Oklahoma City Schools Compact to improve student performance and achieve the district goals, thousands of students received their first look at what was in store.

The compact, a partnership among Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS), the City of Oklahoma City and three community organizations, will first focus on literacy through its Citywide Literacy Campaign.

With the campaign, district officials rolled out a new tool to help teach youth to read: myON digital library.

The online, interactive library features thousands of e-books for students in pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. With myON, students can log in to their subscriptions at home, after-school programs or any place with wireless Internet. The myON reader allows those without Internet access to download and save titles to read later.

The program operates like Netflix, the movie and television show streaming service, said Gretchen Jordan, a myON implementation manager working with OKCPS.

When students create accounts, they complete a survey to test for reading comprehension. Also, students answer questions about what they like to read. Based on those results, myON tailors book lists.

“We really match students to texts,” Jordan said. “We know kids will read more when they are reading what they want to read.”

First launched in 2011, myON is primarily for school districts.

In August, the company reported 6 million students and educators logging into the system. That number has likely increased with the addition of more school districts and Indiana families. In January, the Indiana Department of Education announced an initiative to give all families and their children access to myON.

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Removing barriers

Building reading skills takes place in the classroom, but practice must occur at home. Often, teachers and staff know students who don’t have home access to books. myON removes that barrier, as youth can access accounts on computers, tablets or parents’ smartphones. About 64 percent of Americans own a smartphone, according to Pew Research Center.

Unlike checking books out at a library, once a student gets to the last page, they can immediately begin reading another e-book.

“Students need enormous quantities of reading to become independent successful readers,” said Lynn Barnes, OKCPS executive director of prekindergarten through 12th grade academics. “Not just reading, but feeling successful at reading. In order for them to feel successful, they’ve got to log many hours of reading at school and at home.”

For younger readers, myON enhances e-book options with audio, and text is highlighted as youth follow along. Additionally, a dictionary helps students understand new vocabulary.

The program also offers English- and Spanish-language titles.

Parents and teachers can log on to view progress, and teachers can set grade-level filters to ensure e-book results are age-appropriate.

At OKCPS, myON will benefit students who read above grade level by providing titles that might not have a place in the school library.

For those who fall below basic grade level, myON allows anonymity. Students view electronic screens, unlike reading with traditional books with covers that might discourage or embarrass readers and further set them back academically.

District leaders predict myON will raise student achievement and ultimately close the existing achievement gap among student groups across the district.

“That achievement gap starts to close and they get confidence in reading,” Barnes said. “That moves them forward in becoming stronger readers.”

By next fall, students at 55 district schools will have access to myON. Currently, students at 24 schools use the tool through a pilot program.

Compact partnership

The Oklahoma City Schools Compact is a partnership with the city, The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools, United Way of Central Oklahoma and Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. The groups are working together to solve specific challenges and strengthen education in the community.

Each of the five groups has two representatives on the compact’s advisory board. Additionally, advisory committees tackle various issues and recommend policy to the advisory board. The OKCPS board of education reviews those recommendations.

The compact’s goal is to create community ownership of schools.

With the Citywide Literacy Campaign, school and library officials also are working together to create a program granting all students cards for the Metropolitan Library System.

Barnes said more literacy initiatives will be introduced into schools as business and nonprofit leaders continue to work through the compact.

Firsthand experience

Aurora Lora, OKCPS associate superintendent, encountered myON at another district before arriving in Oklahoma City in the last academic year.

In her experience, myON gets students excited about books. Specifically, she recounted middle school boys enthralled by zombie novels.

Her former students didn’t want to put away their electronic devices; as a result, they were reading after school and on weekends.

Lora said OKCPS will see similar results, which will boost student learning.

“It is the key to us closing the achievement gap in this district,” she said.

Print Headline: Reading joy, A new literacy program comes with the community’s help through Oklahoma City Schools Compact.

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