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“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” ~Winston Churchill


Stacie Court
Stacie Court
Stacie Court's Blog

The Journey Begins

 

Reading Specialist Katherine York and eighth-grader Tristan stand in front of her classroom door.  They are both wearing bright blue Learning Ally t-shirts, and have big smiles on their faces.  Tristan is holding a copy of the book he read, Swing by Kwame Alexander.


 

Every day I see students who have lost faith in themselves, but I also let them know that I believe in them.  That is where their journey begins.

 

Reading Specialist Katherine York works with students at Walt Whitman Middle School in Fairfax, Virginia, and sees a lot of variation in the reading levels of her students...including teenagers who have never read an entire book before.  Click on this link to listen to a conversation between Mrs. York and eighth-grader Tristan: thanks to her encouragement, Kwame Alexander’s great writing, and Learning Ally’s audiobooks (including our volunteers’ dedication to the art of narration), Tristan has just completed his first book ever...and plans to read more!  

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ThvNahjH4sxXvITIQXEhtRZP5KqmuV5o/view?ts=5ce408da


 

Mrs. York recently wrote a blog post for Learning Ally, discussing the challenges many students face that prevent them from achieving reading fluency, and what she is doing to improve their chances of success; click here to read what she has to say:

 

https://learningally.org/Solutions-for-School/Educator-Blog/keeping-it-100-for-my-struggling-readers




 

Colorful graphic of celebratory confetti and streamers rising up from festive party hat-like cones


 

Metrics Update for this week:

 

  • Our readers increased to 205,005

 

  • We had 44,421 reading at frequency*

 

  • We’ve had over 135 million pages read--an increase of 67% over last year for school readers!


 

What a great way to start Memorial Day weekend--thanks, everyone!


 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.


We've Got It!

 

A young boy smiles as he listens to an audiobook


 

What do you look for in a library?  Most people look for quality content and variety of choice.  Learning Ally has both! At over 83,000 books, and growing daily, our library is an important resource for teachers, students,and families.  This quality and variety is what makes Learning Ally one of the most popular choices out there for increasing literacy levels and general enjoyment of reading.  Our members range from early elementary school children working towards fluency and teens looking for meaningful and uplifting stories, to college students and lifelong learners who enjoy digging deeper into subject matter.




 

Reading Specialist Jeri Powers smiles for the camera for her school photo.  She has shoulder-length blonde hair, and wears a black blouse and hot-pink jacket, with a necklace of large white beads.


 

Recently, staff member Terrie Noland interviewed teacher Jeri Powers of Prairie Ridge Elementary School in Kansas.  Over the course of the interview, Jeri talks about why she loves Learning Ally, and the importance of our textbooks and literature titles.  Please take a moment to listen:

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3Svvfqr67MaYjBhVWRldk5WSmcta095bGlDWWliaERyWDBz/view?usp=sharing

 

(note: for some reason, the interview is attached to an image of another elementary school)



 


 

During the interview, Jeri mentions the book A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park...and, yes, we’ve got it!  Click here to access Learning Ally’s page for our description of this book:  

 

https://learningally.org/BookDetails/BookID/KQ753






 

Colorful graphic of celebratory confetti and streamers rising up from festive party hat-like cones


 

Metrics Update for this week:

 

  • Our readers increased to 202,771

 

  • We’ve had over 127 million pages read!


 

Another great week--brought to you by the volunteers, donors, and staff of Learning Ally!  Thanks, everyone!


Learning Ally Proud!

 

Graphic with hand from left holding Winner certificate and hand from right holding loving cup

 

Learning Ally staff member Meg Roe recently shared some great news with the rest of us:  in case we didn’t already know, we are real winners! Here are just a few of the organizations that have recognized Learning Ally recently:



 

Parent and Teacher Choice Award Winner logo: gold medallion with stylized adults behind celebrating child figure

 

Parent and Teacher Choice Awards Gold Medal Winner—Best Website

The Parent and Teacher Choice™ Awards from HowtoLearn.com are the most recognized and valued international awards by both parents and teachers. These awards honor educational products, services, media and toys with exceptional quality for their brain-based learning principles, creativity, innovation and fun. To be considered for this award, nominees must reflect proven learning values, stimulate higher-order thinking skills, employ brain-building principles, be innovative in their approach to helping children learn, play or be creative. Products must promote social and emotional growth, build character and help children see the joy in learning or play.



 

SIIA CODiE Awards 2019 logo: no images, simply the words

 

SIIA CODiE Awards Finalist—Best Solution for Exceptional Students

(This is a highly recognized and coveted award. Fingers crossed we will be a winner; will know soon!)

The SIIA CODiE Awards is the only peer-recognized competition in education and business technology. For more than 30 years, the SIIA CODiE Awards have been honoring software, education information and media products for excellence and innovation in technology. This year's program features 32 categories, several of which are new or updated to reflect the latest industry trends. “The 2019 CODIE Award finalists represent the finest in innovation and creativity in educational technology,” says SIIA President and CEO Jeff Joseph.  “These breakthrough products are opening doors for learners of all ages by developing and utilizing new technologies to respond to the diverse needs of student and educators.”

 

 

 

Logo:  The EdTech Awards at top; Cool Tool Finalist 2019 at bottom; stylized e with image of atom in middle

 

 

EdTech Digest Cool Tool Awards Finalist—Special Needs/Assistive Technology Solution

The largest, most competitive recognition program in all of education technology, the EdTech Awards recognizes people in and around education for outstanding contributions in transforming education through technology to enrich the lives of learners everywhere. Featuring EdTech’s best and brightest, the annual program shines a spotlight on cool tools, innovative leaders and innovative trendsetters in the K-12, higher education and skills and workforce sectors. The EdTech Awards recognize people, the products they produce and the lives they shape. Andrew Friedman, Learning Ally President and CEO, was a 2018 EdTech Leadership Award finalist for global leadership.

 



 

Two young boys proudly displaying their Great Reading Game awards.  One has a grin and a medal around his neck.  The other is smiling widely and holding up his GRG certificate

 

In addition, this past week we were pleased to hear from teachers at Woodmere Elementary School in Oregon:

 

Two students at Woodmere Elementary ranked in the top 5 percentile of students from nearly 1,000 elementary schools nationwide in a competition for nontraditional readers. Fifth graders Esnoy and Eric are graduates of Shadow’s Reading Mentors Program, which pairs students with a mentor and assistive reading technology designed for children with learning challenges.

 

 

 

 

 

Colorful graphic of celebratory confetti and streamers rising up from festive party hat-like cones


 

Metrics Update for this week:

  • Our readers increased to 201,345

 

  • We had 41,350 reading at frequency*

 

  • We had over 125 million pages read!


 

Great work, everyone!


 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.


Learning Ally Users' Confidence Grows

 

Three young school children sit at a table, reading their books using Learning Ally.  While they read, they eat their lunches.

 

When you were a kid, would you give up the freedom of lunchtime and recess...to sit at a table and read?  The students at Nola Dunn have been doing just that, thanks to Learning Ally’s Great Reading Games! These students have grown to love reading so much, they’re willing to make that sacrifice in order to hear what comes next in their books.  Learn more about this change and more by clicking on this link and watching the TV news story that aired the other night: https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Dyslexic-Students--509331111.html

 

Learning Ally team member Terrie Noland shares from her conversation with teacher Dana Blackaby:  

 

Many of us have heard the name Dana Blackaby, mainly because of the performance of Nola Dunn in the GRG...but until you hear her shaky voice over the phone telling Gavin’s story, you don’t know the depth of belief that Dana has in Learning Ally.  She uses words like life-changing, transformative, and dedicated believer to tell Gavin’s story.  Gavin is one of her 5th graders who has severe discrepancies in phonemic awareness – he can’t tell what sound an “a” makes from one day to the next.  Dana works tirelessly with him on explicit reading instruction, but with his severe dyslexia, it takes time. With the help of Learning Ally, Gavin has blossomed, his self-confidence has grown immeasurably, even to the point of delivering an Edwebinar to thousands of educators around the world!!

 

To hear Gavin talk about Learning Ally during the Edwebinar, click on this link and scroll to about 27:45 (you will have to enter an email address to gain access): https://home.edweb.net/webinar/readers20190416/


 

Anyone recognize the voice reading Al Capone Does My Shirts?  It’s Learning Ally volunteer Mike Klipper!  Mike introduced his fiancée to volunteering, and eventually Sarah Klipper joined our staff!


 

Mike and Sarah beaming at the camera while Sarah holds up two hand-written fortunes:  (1)  You will be hungry later; and (2) Your future will be full of cookies and tacos.


 

Colorful graphic of celebratory confetti and streamers rising up from festive party hat-like cones

 

Metrics Update for this week:

  • Our readers increased to 198,786

 

  • We had 40,747 reading at frequency*

 

  • We had over 121 million pages read!


 

Another great week for Learning Ally!


 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.


Learning Ally Transforms Lives

 

Eilyn Davis and Mike Freeman have big smiles on their faces as they talk about Learning Ally.  Graphics have been added, making them appear as if they are wearing cartoon-style pink hats with cat and bunny ears, and pink headphones.  Audio-related icons are in front of Mike as if they are his microphone.  Between them are puffy, white, cloud-like words:  GOOD DAY


 

Mike Freeman, Superintendent Principal at Grant Elementary School in Redding, California, and Resource Learning Lab Teacher Eilyn Davis are BIG fans of Learning Ally!  Click on the link to watch this video and find out why:

https://www.facebook.com/grantschoolcougars/videos/2585783788103729/



 

Colorful graphic of celebratory confetti and streamers rising up from festive party hat-like cones

 

Metrics Update for this week:

  • Our readers increased to 196,219

 

  • We had 39,491 reading at frequency*

 

  • We had over 118 million pages read--an increase of 70% over last year for school readers!


 

Great work, everyone!  Let’s see what next week brings!


 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.


Great Reading Games 2019 Wrap-Up


Great Reading Games logo: Blue circle around a purple disc, with a traditional loving cup and laurels in its center.  A blue star is on the main body of the cup, and a crown hovers over it.



 

For the expanded report, click here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-GXMUanzp7IMVCHii1NF74zhv8NAPJx-/view?usp=sharing


 

Highlights:

  • We had a 31% increase in school participation over 2018

 

Excitement is in the air as crowds gather in a school gymnasium, waiting to watch the live-stream event with author Kwame Alexander



 

  • We had a 62% increase in participating students over 2018

 

Resource teacher's classroom door celebrating the GRG achievements of and encouraging students in various grades


 

  • Schools participating in the GRG saw a 27% increase in reading activity compared to only 19% in schools that did not participate

 

Glowing smile on the face of one little girl as she proudly shows off her tablet with the book she is reading loaded onto it.  A little stuffed animal in her arms is listening to the book with her.  Caption:  This little sweetie has been coming to read every morning since the Great Reading Games started!


 

  • Students read nearly TWELVE MILLION pages during GRG19

 

Eyes wide with excitement, a young girl shows off her very full LINK bookshelf.  Caption:  Look at all my books!

 

 

  • Educators are saying: “...this is the ONLY intervention that has made a significant difference to so many kids...These kids FEEL like readers now.”


 

Logo with an open book inside a glowing light bulb; text: Innovations in Reading Prize, National Book Foundation: Honorable Mention


One Mom's Message to You

 

 

 

Learning Ally Mom sits at her computer smiling.  Meanwhile, her teenage daughter has snuck up from behind, throws her arm over her mom's shoulder, and waves happily at the camera.  Both mother and daughter have big smiles on their faces.

 

 

It’s been a great week at Learning Ally!

 

Our readers increased to 191,499, with 37,212 at frequency* and over 111 million pages read!

 

Pages read increased by 74% over last year for school readers.

 

 

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words….and a video is worth even more!  Check out this video where Learning Ally Mom Karen tells us why our work is so important to her family:

https://youtu.be/7e_bWTHCPc8

 

 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.


Metrics Update

 

Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani woman, wears a colorful hijab

 

Let us remember: one book, one teacher, one child and one pen can change the world.

--Malala Yousafzai

 

We would add...and one volunteer!

 

Thanks to your hard work, our readers this week increased to 187,261 – with 35,953 at frequency* and over 108 million pages read!

 

Pages read increased by 75% over last year for school readers.


 

Thank you for all your hard work that makes our learners’ successes possible!



 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.

 

 

 


Great Reading Games: The Olympians of Nola Dunn

Tim Wilson, Learning Ally's Chief Financial Officer, sent out this message over the weekend:  

 

Forget March Madness, we’re celebrating Olympians today! Terrie Noland spent the day at Nola Dunn videoing their Great Reading Games awards ceremony. Terrie’s video is attached, along with her comments below about the ceremony.

Image of the front of Academy at Nola Dunn; traditional brick building with flags of USA and Texas flying in front a clear blue sky

 

 

Terrie, Learning Ally's Vice-President for Educator Initiatives, says: 

 

The students refer to themselves as “Olympians” at Nola Dunn Academy in Burleson, Texas.  They placed #1 in the GRG in the Orange Bracket.  When you are in 2nd grade, are diagnosed with dyslexia, have struggled to read, and accomplish amazing things in the GRG with Learning Ally, you give the District Superintendent a BIG high five in front of an entire audience of students and family.

 

 

To watch video of some of the award winners receiving their prizes, click here: 

 https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3Svvfqr67MaY3I0VVdVXzVnSTBwT0lqcnJLRnhtSDBjbFRr/view?usp=sharing

 

 

Congratulations to ALL the students who participated in the Great Reading Games, and our deepest thanks to the parents, teachers, and administrators who supported them throughout this event!  Together it's possible...to transform the lives of struggling learners!

 


Team TOCTool, At Your Service!

 

Do you ever wonder how the textbooks make it into EasyBooks?  How does THIS:

 

Page from Spanish-language social studies book: ¿Qué es una comunidad?

 

 

 

become THIS?

 

EasyBooks screen, showing headings from previous Spanish book image



 

In the past, only staff, and maybe a very few scattered volunteers, set up books for production.  In late 2017, however, Learning Ally created a Pre-Production Community also known as Team TOCTool.  Currently, eight dedicated volunteers work on setting up books, using the TOCTool program to transform the information from pdfs into .html files for EasyBooks. TOCToolers serve the community in a very special way, making the recording process easier for the other volunteers, and lightening the load for staff members, who still set up books as well, but now have some relief so they can focus on other tasks.


 


 

The requirements of this job are an eye (and love) for detail, some computer ability, regular time to devote to the task, patience, and a PC (sorry, no Macs right now--but we’re working on a new version of the program for the future).  Going through the pdf page by page, the TOCTooler types in every heading and its placement within the book, creating files along the way. One TOCTooler says, “It’s a great way to get to know the books very intimately, and to see ahead of time which books I might like to read or QC.”  

 

Volunteer Caren Snook smiles as she takes a break from setting up the language arts book (computer screen with book and TOCTool images in background)

Caren Snook is one of our most prolific TOCToolers, working steadily to provide the other volunteers with books to work on. Caren first joined the Learning Ally Athens (Georgia) Studio in 1973 and has put in well over 5,000 hours (not including undocumented hours from the “old days”).  Over her 46 years with Learning Ally, Caren has served as a TOCTooler, Reader, Checker, bookmarker, local Board President, events tabler--she’s seen it all! Caren says about TOCTool, “The logic is appealing and the attention to detail that is required fits my personality...I really enjoy reading, but my house does not include a good space for that.”  TOCTooling fits her schedule, and the house doesn’t have to be quiet for her to do it.
 

A former teacher, Caren’s love of Learning Ally led her recently to audit classes at the University of Georgia, classes required for the Graduate Certificate in Dyslexia.  While attending these classes, Caren had the opportunity to learn more about the needs of our learners, and that knowledge has made her even more focused on excellence in her volunteer work, saying, “...it is incumbent on every volunteer to do his/her best every time...take time to find out the correct pronunciation...to reread the conventions...Recognize that everyone makes occasional errors, and learn from yours...If you aren’t feeling well, give yourself a break and take a day off. Our students are depending on you!”
 

As a team in the last calendar year, the group set up over 200 books for the Textbook Community!  Other current members of TeamTOCTool are:
 

 
Jaqui 
Bradley,
a former cloistered Franciscan nun and ongoing kitten rescue volunteer who started at the Upland (California) Studio in 2007 and also currently serves as a volunteer mentor in the VHOC.


TOCTooler Jaci Collins smiling at the camera, wearing a boatneck white blouse, drop earrings, and a large pendant

Jaci Collins, who joined the Austin (Texas) Studio in 1998 and continues to read and QC as well.


TOCTooler Elizabeth DeLaney Hoffman, smiling at the camera.  She has short white hair, dark-framed glasses, and a thick necklace of varying shades of green that match her green top.

Elizabeth DeLaney Hoffman, who joined the Athens Studio in 2015 and also serves as a Volunteer Coordinator.


TOCTooler Pat Lim.  Street scene, before crossing street: arms spread, sunglasses on, smiling as she points to an exceptionally large ice cream shop sign across the street

Pat Lim, a freelance technical writer in the bio-pharmaceutical field who joined the Menlo Park (California) Studio in 2011.

 

TOCtooler Jim Siewert, outside in front of a large bush, wearing a dark green cap with a Green Bay logo

Jim Siewert, a retired Honeywell engineer who started volunteering at the Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) Studio in 2004 and whose primary TOCTool focus is books for the Math Community.
 

Susan Wilson, a former corporate lawyer and current law school instructor who joined the Athens Studio in 2016; Susan not only works on TOCTool but is also helping Audrey Santos pilot a program for volunteers to create project sites  (no photo available).

TOCTooler Beira Winter standing smiling in front of the Rose Bowl Parade float she helped with this year.  The float features a funky-looking house with crooked shutters, and a large cat in front playing the fiddle

Beira Winter, who first joined the Hollywood (California) Studio in 2000, and besides all of her work for Learning Ally, also helped with her community’s float for this year’s Rose Bowl Parade.

 

Think you have what it takes to become a TOCTooler?  Team TOCTool is open to any interested volunteer with the desire to try the task.  For more information, contact Stacie Court sCourt@LearningAlly.org,  or mention joining us in your STAFF Hangout.  We’d love to have you on Team TOCTool!