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Cynthia Hamburger, COO and CIO of Learning Ally led a webinar to explain, in detail, what actions we are taking, and have already taken, to provide for our students and balance our business model. With school closures and more students learning at home, the usage of our Learning Ally Audiobook Solution has surged over ten times the numbers we saw last year. As schools recognize the importance and value of our learning tools, we are extending trial periods and contracts with those schools so that they can continue to offer our valuable solutions to students whose semesters have been disrupted.
For more information, as well as an explanation of how we are revising fundraising needs and our "sales" plan to reach new students, you can watch a recording of the full webinar presentation on the Resources page of the Learning Ally Volunteer site.
In times of difficulty we are always happy to see people rise to the challenge and give what help they can. And with the present conditions keeping many people at home, volunteer opportunities like our online book production have become an excellent way to help struggling learners. Not only are our volunteers continuing the educations of our students, they are providing more books to keep them engaged with reading and entertained in the hours when they most need the comfort of a good book and a friendly voice.
We have seen a massive increase in volunteer activity, with new volunteer applications at 250% what they were this same time last year. Our training programs and meetings are full of new names, new faces, and new voices.
All Learning Ally staff are now working from home. Fortunately, the online nature of our volunteering opportunity means our Production department has needed minimal adaptation to make this transition. Still, we are adjusting hours, availability, and workflow to support a large number of people with training and support needs in a very short time. We thank you for your patience and understanding as our efficient little team works to keep us all online and active.
If you have questions or concerns, be sure to reach out through the Volunteer Portal, Volunteer Training Site, Google Hangouts and Groups, and other channels.
Despite social distancing being extended through April, we are happy to report that our readers are not slowing down…
Our readers this week increased to 226,913 with over 114 million pages read and 43,037 at frequency – a 21% increase for schools over last year!
As we're all getting used to Zoom conference calls and everyone working from home, I wanted to share this video (linked below) from the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra based in the Netherlands. They’ve continued performing, despite COVID-19, by transitioning to playing virtually. They remind us that together anything is possible… even when we’re remote! Enjoy Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”!
And also, a quote from Edinburgh-based journalist, Hope Whitmore that seems particularly relevant to recent events:
In hard times, reading fiction reminds us we are human in a way Twitter never can. Reading teaches us not only about our common humanity – it is wonderful to see something expressed in words and think, ‘Yes! That’s exactly how I feel’ – but also about the world. Reading gives me hope because the chroniclers of dark times tell us that they pass.
Have a great weekend, keep reading, and stay safe!
The 2020 Great Reading Games have come to a close, and we've sparked joy of reading in even more students than before! Check out our data and some twitter highlights from the last few weeks below:
Schools opted in: 2909
Students Reading: 46,366
Pages Read: 13,967,038
Number of students reading in the GRG for 2020 was 46,740, up 25% from last year’s 37,500
The number of schools that had at least one reader in 2020 broke 2,000 (2,033) up 30% from 2019 (1,571) and up 67% from 2018.
In the coming months, the Reading Programs team will track the FOPI C schools that had readers in GRG. Last year 27% of C schools that had a reader in GRG became an A school. In 2020, we had 552 C schools participate in GRG, up in the range of 25% from last year. If the conversion rate of +27% holds for two years, we have a reading program proven to move C schools to A. Did you catch that? Did you see how we are using the data to provide PROVEN programs for schools?
(FOPI= Fidelity of Program Implementation – FOPI A are our highest performing schools and FOPI C are the lowest performing)
Here are the top 5 books that were added to bookshelves and kept our students reading for the final week of our 2020 Great Reading Games. We see that a title from Dan Gutman's My Weird School Daze series jumped into the top spot in anticipation of Dan's webinar! Do some of those other titles look familiar? The Dog Man books were the top titles for last year's games! We love seeing all the titles that have moved in and out of the top 5 list this year.
Along with Dan's book in the top 5 list this week the kids are also reading:
- the first book in a series about Humphrey the classroom hamster
- the first book in the Rowley Jefferson series from Diary Of A Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney
- 2 books in the ever popular Dog Man series by Dav Pilkey
While we are sad to see the Games end we want to continue seeing the increased engagement and usage continue throughout the rest of the school year and over the summer!
Something to Tweet About
We LOVE these posts from Kimberly Sanders, sharing the fun and joy her students get with reading:
#CCEcougars get into some funny positions once they settle into a good 📖!😂😄😅#GRG20 @Learning_Ally @SuessShannon #Risdsaysomething
(Image is a screenshot of a young girl wearing a bright pink coat with fur around the hood. She’s sitting backwards in the chair. She isn’t wearing any shoes and you can see her panda socks sticking out from underneath the back support. She’s holding her phone and she has a slight smile while listening to her book with her headphones)
(Image is of Kimberly Sanders's tweet that reads “Their future is bright because they read!” Below the tweet is a picture of two boys standing back to back with their arms folded and wearing sunglasses. They are looking very James Bond-like!)
Holly Sanford's students "continue to arrive early” for reading sessions with Learning Ally... This means that not only students, but parents and families needed to be engaged and involved in GRG. They had to be intentional about having their kids there early to read before school. Our impact goes beyond the classroom!
(Image is of Holly Sanford’s tweet that reads “Final push for @Learning_ally #grg20 These students continue to arrive early to get in an early morning Great Reading Games/Learning Ally session!”. Below the tweet is an image of a classroom with students sitting at their desks in front of computers. We are seeing their backs and the bright lights of their computers with their books. Every student is wearing headphones and look to be quite content reading!)
There’s Nothing Weird About Reading with Dan Gutman
It’s not every day that you can reach over 680 schools and 25,000 students and teachers with fun, laughter and excitement about reading. Oh wait! If you are Learning Ally, you sure can!
In last month's webinar, we learned about Dan Gutman’s journey as a writer, how he got rejected many times and continued to write because he believed in his books, how he didn’t like reading as a child, and we even got to see the inside of his mouth!
If you weren’t able to attend the webinar live, you can watch the recording. Dan’s only request is that we do not share the recording via social media or anywhere on the internet. The recording was sent to everyone that registered.
(Image is of Dan’s face, smiling widely, and holding up his unfinished manuscript of “Mr. Marty Loves A Party!”. The manuscript is regular 8.5 x 11 paper with the words “Mr. Marty Loves A Party” written in red marker and in all caps taking up most of the page.)
This year's Great Reading Games may be over, but don’t worry - Spring Into Reading and Summer Reading Together are right around the corner.
During our Spring Into Reading Program, we will be inviting everyone to participate in a couple of the fun reading days:
· D.E.A.R. Day (Drop Everything and Read) will be on April 12th
· Poem in Your Pocket will be on April 30th
Finally, our total readers this week increased to 203,005 with over 94 million pages read and 35,790 at frequency – a 23% increase over last year for schools!
Our big fundraising event begins this week and we need proud Macintosh users to lend a hand with our latest software projects.
Building Books for Student Success (BBSS) is here! This annual fundraising event is one of the best ways that you can help us continue to do our great work of helping students as well as their schools, teachers, and even parents. Our online program will guide you through putting together a page for collecting donations, sharing the story and goals of Learning Ally, and promoting your own efforts. Visit the Learning Ally Building Books Campaign page on the Learning Ally website to get involved.
If you have questions about the program, need assistance setting up a donation page, or would like to know more about Learning Ally donations, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and put the phrase Donor Support in the subject line of your email.
Our EasyBooks developers are working to create a web application of the software: WebEB. This exciting development will let us keep EasyBooks entirely online, meaning no more downloads or version updates and no need for different versions of the software for Windows or Macintosh users. At present, WebEB is still in testing with a small group of users. But that's where you can help us! We need more users with Macintosh computers to join our test group and use the application.
WebEB functions just like EasyBooks with a few changes to the interface and some features still in a development state. Bugs are to be expected - this is a test after all - and you'll be asked to document those experiences and contribute to an online discussion documenting and correcting those flaws. If this project sounds interesting and you have access to the right computer equipment, please contact Eleanor Cotton for more information at email@example.com. Please note, this is a test of Mac OS desktop and laptop computers, not iOS devices like iPads or iPhones. Those are not compatible with WebEB and are not part of this test.
Maria M., CJ H., Kaumeshua H., Emily C., Megan H., Audrey K., Jenna S., Kurt H., Judy S., Dawn K., Christian L., Tania P., Aaron T., Alicia H., Therese B., Kristin L., Rick S., Brian H., Derek M., Madi T., Madison S., Bob M., Shannon K., Becky C., Rebecca H-P., Lisa J.
As the Great Reading Games continue, we keep helping students with learning differences fall in love with reading!
More GRG Data…..
Schools opted in: 2858
Students Reading: 37,367
Pages Read: 7,719,183
Here are the top 5 books that were added to bookshelves and kept our students reading for the fourth week of our 2020 Great Reading Games!
KT019 Mr. Granite Is From Another Planet!
NB956 Diary Of An Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal
KM769 To Kill a Mockingbird
NC382 Dog Man: For Whom The Ball Rolls
NB707 Trapped In A Video Game
Everyone is still loving Dan Gutman's books - one of the titles that we started promoting out last week is now #1 on the list!
Something to Tweet About…
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Check out the photos below of some of our amazing readers!
Kelli Zicha tweeted about two of her students, Cynthia and Tyrese:
Cynthia is enjoying Jason Reynolds’ Ghost during the @Learning_Ally Reading Games 💛 #GRG20 #shelfie #wearereaders #tellyourstoryxrds @BonnieCapes @sondra_hinson @mjkmiec @LamprechtPaula
(Image of Cynthia sitting in a purple chair with her laptop in her lap and facing the camera. Her laptop is showing us her bookshelf. She has long black hair and has white headphones draped around her neck. She’s giving a sly smile!)
Tyrese just downloaded the Learning Ally app on his phone! He’s excited to read and participate in the @Learning_Ally Great Reading Games 💛 #GRG20 #shelfie #wearereaders #tellyourstoryxrds @BonnieCapes @sondra_hinson @mjkmiec @LamprechtPaula
(Image of Tyrese sitting at his desk facing forward. He’s wearing a white hoodie with the words that say, “The future is yours”. He is holding a phone in his lap and is giving a handsome smile.)
Finally, what Joelle Nappi tweeted and the picture she captured is an opportunity for us all to make connections to what Maryanne Wolf described in her keynote speech at Spotlight on Dyslexia last year as “deep reading”. The student pictured below was able to read with Learning Ally, then stop, think about the text, play it again if she needed and begin to think deeply about the what she was reading. She may be making connections, finding the author’s purpose, or citing evidence. Take a minute to think about the brain changes that are going on for her with the power of what Learning Ally audiobooks is able to bring. We ALL make this happen every single day!
Joelle Nappi, Middle School ELA teacher in NJ, tweeted out several great strategies:
Listening while following along with text, stop & jots, thinking about our thinking! We are growing as readers everyday by using ALL our tools and strategies! #GRG20 #ddeempower
(Image of a middle school girl sitting in a blue bean bag chair, with a warm fuzzy jacket and boots. Her legs are crossed with a book propped on her leg. She has headphones draped around her neck. She has a pencil in her right hand, looking intently at the page and is jotting notes in the book. The poster behind her reads: “Kindness is the new cool”.)
Hear directly from Dan Gutman about the “There’s Nothing Weird About Reading” author webinar coming up on February 27th! Please share this far and wide. You will start to see it on our website, in emails and on our social media channels.
Our readers overall this week increased to 186,238 with over 76 million pages read and 28,053 at frequency – a 22% increase for schools!
Our readers this week overall increased to 191,092 with 81 million pages read and 30,218 at frequency – a 23% increase for schools!
2020 has started strong for Learning Ally but we're just getting started.
Every year we ask our volunteers to join us in a special fundraising drive. This year March 2nd is the kick-off date for our campaign. Look for special messages with instructions on how to set up your personal fundraising page and reach out to donors. We'll have video demonstrations, reference guides, and even news about recognition rewards. However, you don't have to wait until BBSS if you don't want to! You can get started early if you go set up a fundraising page here.
The New Year always brings an outpouring of volunteer interest, and 2020 is no exception. If you see some of our latest additions to the volunteering team show up in the Google chats or on the volunteer portal pages, please say hello, introduce yourself, and let people know what you're doing to help us serve our students. Every year thousands of people make the resolution to get involved in volunteer work and your welcoming them to our team helps cement that Learning Ally isn't just a service; it's a community of people working together to better the lives of students.
We're always looking for experienced volunteers who are interested in taking some extra time to be peer mentors for our newcomers. Our peer mentors review auditions and coach new trainees. If you've volunteered with Learning Ally for over a year, or have a strong background in teaching or training and are interested in getting involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Kimberly S., Jason O., Lisa J., Sura S., Yvonnette C., Daisy B., Elaine N-B., Janet D., Richard K., Susan H., Jerald H., Buddy S., CJ H., Chris D., Lucy B., Julie N., Becky C., Jami J., Akracha B., Elizabeth B., Jason R., Jeremy D., Van H., Kyle D., Rachel S., Kenneth B., Karen W., Sonia S., Jason C.
There are many different ways to get to know someone. In-person communication works best in most cases, but isn’t always possible.
Another good way is through today’s many forums that imitate the old penpal and note-passing experiences: our online spaces that allow us to communicate immediately with people faraway. These places include social media like FaceBook, Instagram, and others. They also include private and public chats, like those found in Google Hangouts.
Learning Ally uses Google Hangouts to offer a number of options for getting to know staff and other volunteers. Besides your STAFF and project-specific Hangouts, we’ve created a number of Hangouts around specific topics (Foreign Languages, TOC Pre-Production, etc.) as well as locality-based Hangouts for volunteers living in the same general area.
The links to all of these Hangouts can be found at the Volunteer Portal; follow this pathway to find the document with all the links:
Or click on this link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JsS-XigskhVKSGI0NAV6zY58QNBF_VzjRIsVqI0jHYk/edit
You are welcome to join any of those Hangouts, and you don’t have to live in that area to join a locality-specific Hangout. If you’ll be traveling to Southern California, for example, and would like to try to meet up with staff and volunteers there, join the SoCal Volunteers Hangout and post a message about your upcoming trip.
If you’d like to try to get to know other volunteers in your area and don’t see a link for it, contact Stacie Court (sCourt@LearningAlly.org, or through your STAFF Hangout) and she’ll look into creating one for you.
Over the past few years several groups of volunteers have gotten together for meals and other events. It just takes one person to get the ball rolling--post in your Hangout and see what happens!
Images: (left) SoCal volunteers plus Don Sheetz get together for a casual lunch;
(right) Texas current and alumni volunteers get together for coffee
Image: Athens volunteers and staff meet for lunch at a local restaurant
The Great Reading Games of 2020 kicked off this month, and we're off to a great start with over 3 million pages read in just the first two weeks!
Schools opted in: 2700
Students Reading: 26,241
Pages Read: 3,293,743 (last week we were almost at 1 million – look at the jump this week!)
Here are the top 5 books that were added to bookshelves and kept our students reading for the first 2 weeks of our 2020 Great Reading Games!
Dog Man: For Whom The Ball Rolls
Where The Wild Things Are
The Last Kids on Earth
Kristy's Great Idea
Something to Tweet About…
Jennifer Womack from Humble ISD shared this tweet and picture:
OMG Bring the donuts & they will come Check out all these amazing readers @HumbleISD_FE #readersareleaders #GRG20 @MelissaBoehm3
(Picture is of a class of 26 students. Each one is holding up a device with their bookshelf)
Priscilla Swanson from APHE shared this tweet and picture:
The Great Reading Games are going strong at APHE! @Learning_Ally #GRG20 Our 3rd graders are leading with the most points and minutes read this week! #weareAPHE
(Picture is of a student reading a book on his laptop. He has on headphones and is facing the screen. He is wearing a multi-colored blue hoodie)
Elizabeth Vickery Tweeted and shared this great bulletin board display:
We are ready, with medals and a trophy, for The Great Schultz Reading Games! #GRG20 @Learning_Ally @SchultzKISD @KleinISD #EVERY
(Image is of a bulletin board with the title: Metamorphosis of a Reader. It is a tree made out of twisted brown paper with the stages of reading on cards placed on the tree. The cards read: 1st book, read with pictures, recognize words, you’re a reader. In the bottom right hand corner is a section that has medals and the Olympic rings with an image reading “The Great Reading Games, Shultz Elementary)
Mrs. Arevalo Tweeted her bulletin board:
Chill morning with great books for @Learning_Ally #GRG20 #wearereaders @Cambridge_AH and we’ve moved ten places up the leaderboard to prove it! CE ️
(Image is of a bulletin board. Last years’ 2019 GRG poster hangs on the left hand side, it reads: Our school is a Learning Ally Great Reading Games Top 10 Winner!” In the middle are the words “We are now in 22nd place!” 22nd is on a sticky note that can be replaced each week as they move up on the leaderboard. A sticky note hangs beneath that reads: “Up from 31st place! WOW! On the right is a banner that readers: We love our #GRG20 Readers. Below that hangs a flyer about the games.)
“There’s Nothing Weird About Reading” with Dan Gutman
Thursday, February 27th @ 1:00 EST
The event has been updated on the Educator Portal, in our the GRG guide and on our Latest News page.
This event is open to anyone. While we are encouraging our GRG schools to participate, any school is welcome to join. Learning Ally staff are welcome to join as well. If you are in a location with others, considering joining together. Dan is a popular children’s book author who has written more than 130 books for kids from kindergarten all the way up to middle school. His work includes the "My Weird School" series, "The Genius Files", and "Flashback Four". Dan will tell us how he HATED to read when he was a kid, and what turned him into a voracious reader.
As you can see, Dan is a fun guy!
(Picture is of Dan wearing a Mets jersey, standing on one foot and it looks like he is teetering in space over the peninsula of Florida)
Our readers this week increased to 180,815 with over 72 million pages read and 25,860 at frequency – a 21% increase for schools!
We are halfway to midwinter, and our readers show no signs of slowing down. As of last week (Jan 10) our readers increased to 169,395 with over 63 million pages read and 22,273 at frequency – a 22% increase for schools! Let's keep 2020 rolling with some great comments from people who donated online to share our vision.
Comment from Teacher Marina B:
"I teach children and adults with dyslexia how to read, write and spell. Most dyslexic students are reading below their grade level and they certainly do not read for pleasure. While my students are learning to read correctly and are getting their reading skills up to grade level and beyond, audiobooks help them build vocabulary and comprehension skills. Following along in the book while they are listening, increases their reading fluency. They also learn to love books by having wonderful experiences with them! This is a big deal for a student who has experienced a lot of trauma with reading. I am such a fan of audiobooks and of Learning Ally!"
Comment from a parent member:
"My girls greatly benefit from using Learning Ally. Thank you for contributing to their academic advancements in 2019!"
Comment from Volunteer Joan M.:
"My cousin's son visited me this Spring. He was about to graduate from the Colorado School of Mines in Chemical Engineering. Somehow, it came up that I had volunteered with Learning Ally and he thanked me because he was dyslexic. I'm so happy to have been a volunteer!"
Elizabeth Almeyda posted the following in the Washington State Zoom Channel about 1 of our readers last month, and Lee Peters shared. This story drives home the impact we have…..and keep in mind, there are 169,000 other stories to tell!!!
(From Elizabeth): I received this amazing email this morning from a new school that just recently Launched in Kennewick, WA....it brought a smile to my face so I thought I'd share:
"I wanted to share with you an experience one of my students had the other day with Learning Ally. He is a 6th grade boy in a wheelchair, and he is unable to hold a book and turn the pages. He has me the last period of the day for study hall. When he came in with his para, he asked her if he could read. He told me his ELA teacher showed them how to use the program that morning. He told me this was the "Best Day of his Life!" He is now able to actually see the screen and read as the book is reading to him. During the period we would hear his squeals of delight and see the big smile on his face. I sent a pair of headphones home with him, and he said, 'Now I can read anywhere and anytime I want!' We love this program so much Thanks for helping us get it started."