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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."
Hello Learning Ally volunteers...we're glad to be back after our holiday break, and we have lots to plan for in the coming year!
We're continuing our Office Hours program, with a weekly free-form web meeting so that volunteers can ask Learning Ally staff about the training programs, EasyBooks, or other subjects of Learning Ally book production. In the new year, these meetings will be on Thursdays at 3:30 PM Eastern, 12:30 PM Pacific. Update your calendars.
The Literature Listener Training course is now ready. This course is intended for volunteers who want to get involved with our Literature community, but as reviewers and checkers rather than narrators. Because many of our Literature community narrators are voice-over industry professionals, we need extra help to ensure we make the best use their talents and the work meets our standards for high quality. You can do your part and enjoy the work of these narrators by becoming a Listener volunteer!
If you want to get involved, head right over to the volunteer training website and sign in to the Listener Course. You'll find a familiar but streamlined learning experience. It will help you get started listening, reviewing, and improving the "lighter fare" that keep our students engaged and builds their love of reading.
One of the challenges of software development is making software work on as many computers and devices as possible. To maximize the number of volunteers who can use our EasyBooks application we're developing it as a web app. Our web version of EasyBooks is an online interactive website, requiring only that the user has a browser that can open the page. This means it is "platform agnostic" and should eventually run on PC, Mac, iPad, and nearly any other computer or smart device.
We're starting with the basics, so this version does not have the ability to record yet and can only be used to listen to files and check them. There are plenty of features that need to be added and bugs that need to be chased down, but if you have the knack for some technical thinking, then you can get involved in this testing program and offer the feedback we need to move forward with this innovation.
To get involved in testing this next generation of our production technology, you can email Eleanor Cotton (email@example.com) and join the group of volunteer testers.
Henry M., Jim P., Michelle B., Mike P., Shawn V., Barbar H-W., Joan L., Kelley H., Kimberly S., Jason O., Cynthia M., Aaryan B., Samir K., Alison T., Bonnie H., Jamie L., Glenn K., Garry Z., Judi S., Sanjeev J., Chris J., DaKaylah J., Nick G.
No matter our background, most of us will very soon be celebrating New Year’s Day, even if it’s just the day we stop writing “2019” on checks (checks? how old-fashioned!). Have you ever wondered how January 1st became recognized as New Year’s Day throughout most of the modern world?
Image: Babylonian New Year’s festival of Akitu
According to multiple sources, the earliest recorded New Year’s celebration was a long time ago in Mesopotamia (c. 2000 BC). Then, the new year was recognized as beginning with the vernal equinox (mid-March for us today). Other cultures, such as the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians, celebrated the new year at the autumnal equinox (our mid-September).
Image: Roman Colosseum
The Romans originally celebrated New Year's on March 1st of their ten-month, 304-day calendar (side note: the reason our last four months are named “SEPTember”, “OCTober”, “NOVember”, and “DECember” is because they were the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth months of the year). Somewhere around 700 BCE two new months, January and February, were added, but New Year’s was still celebrated on March 1st.
Around 153 BCE the Roman civil year began on January 1st, so many people started celebrating New Year’s on January 1st at that point. However, it was not an official change and many people continued celebrating New Year’s in March.
Image: Julius Caesar Image: Janus, God of Gates
The Julian Calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BCE, along with a decree that New Year’s would be celebrated on January 1st, to coincide with the civil year and the celebration of Janus, the god of gates. So, January 1st was THE date...for a while, anyway…
In 567 CE the Council of Tours abolished January 1st as the date for New Year’s. Until the institution of the Gregorian Calendar by the Council of Nicaea in 1582, New Year’s was celebrated on a number of days throughout medieval Europe, often coinciding with major Christian feasts, ranging from December 25th (Birth of Christ) to March 25th (Feast of the Annunciation).
Images: front page of Gregorian Calendar; Pope Gregory XIII
HOWEVER...Pope Gregory’s calendar still didn’t unify Europe under one New Year’s celebration. For example, the British (and their colonies) did not switch to the Gregorian calendar until 1752. Today, most of the world uses the Gregorian calendar, and observes January 1st as the beginning of the New Year.
Modern countries that do not use the Gregorian calendar include Afghanistan, Iran, Ethiopia, and Nepal. Countries that use their own plus the Gregorian calendar include Bangladesh, India, and Israel. Countries that use modified versions of the Gregorian calendar include Taiwan, Thailand, North Korea, and Japan. China uses the Gregorian calendar for civil record-keeping but use the traditional Chinese calendar for the dates of festivals.
Image: polar bear plunge
All cultures that observe New Year’s have developed traditions around the celebrations. Some of these traditions include making resolutions for the New Year; dressing up for parties on New Year’s Eve, with a special toast and noisemakers at midnight; polar bear plunges into frigid water; eating special foods for luck such as black-eyed peas, lentils, soba noodles, or grapes; and singing “Auld Lang Syne” around a bonfire. Here in the U.S., it’s often a time to gather with friends and family to watch a bowl game on tv (or, if you plan ahead, attend one live).
Image: volunteer recording an audiobook for Learning Ally
Anyway you celebrate it, the New Year is always felt to be a time for new beginnings and fresh starts, a time for casting off the old and ringing in the new. What new and exciting things will you do this year? Maybe...help with more books for Learning Ally? Go through Reader Training and become a Reader/Narrator? Become a mentor to new volunteers? Maybe you’ll get some of your friends involved, and start your own local Learning Ally group? The sky’s the limit!
It’s going to be a wonderful year! Happy 2020, everyone!
Image: Eleanor Roosevelt with quotation, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
After winning one of two nominations at the Voice Arts Awards Gala last month, we are thrilled that Learning Ally has been invited to the VO Atlanta Voiceover Conference this year. Michael Kinsey and Paula Restrepo will be presenting at #VOAtlanta for the #AudiobookAcademy on March 27 and 28. This is a spectacular achievement!
Check out the link below for more information:
Metrics Update for this week:
Our readers last week increased to 156,262, with over 51 million pages read and 16,916 at frequency – a 24% increase over last year for schools!
(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.)
Happy reading, recording and listening!
Thanks to all our volunteers in the Instructional Textbook Community for their dedication.
Information by Lori Leland.
We hope you had a pleasant Thanksgiving holiday. We know that many Learning Ally students are thankful for the work that you've done, making their reading experiences engaging and valuable and expanding their opportunities. Your support and dedication makes our work more rewarding and even the challenges you bring us are more chances to excel. Thank you!
Our third training program launches in January: Literature Listener Training. In this program we'll train volunteers to be the quality checking team in support of our Storybook narration program. Though it is similar to the training for Textbook checking in some ways, there are other factors that need to be considered when evaluating dramatic works of fiction.
We're looking for some "beta testers" to get involved and help us look for flaws in the new lessons before they are released. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
The Listener Training program will be available to all volunteers on January 1st, 2020.
Please be aware that all Learning Ally offices are closed for the week between December 24th and January 1st. During that time there may be significant delays in email correspondence and the availability of chat support. Regular online meetings are also suspended that week. We hope you have a happy and safe holiday!
Learning Ally staff are online to answer your questions live on Wednesdays at 2 PM EST. You'll find links, and more information on the training site.
Wendy S., Tony J., Steven S., Stephen I., Shannon B., Michael L., Marti C., Lori B., Lisa B., Lisa B., Kayla H., Judi S., Joseph E., Joel S., Joanna S., Jack D., Christine L., Cassie M., Avery R., Anna L., Garry Z., Buddy S., Julie W., Mark M., and Nick G.
This season while shopping online for gifts, please consider using our Learning Ally Amazon Smile account. When you do, 5% of your purchases are donated to Learning Ally. All you have to do is shop for gifts and other items as you normally would on Amazon. Just make sure you bookmark and shop from our Learning Ally Amazon Smile URL.
Please note that for this to work, you need to make all of your purchases through the AmazonSmile site. Purchases through the regular Amazon site and their mobile app will not give a donation. Here are some tips to make it easy:
Please share with family and friends and continue to use the Learning Ally Amazon Smile URL when you shop on Amazon even after the holidays. It is at no cost to you! Thank you for your multiple efforts in supporting our struggling learners!
Watch the video below to understand why we are excited about Learning Ally's Great Reading Games event!
Learning Ally's Great Reading Games is a 7-week event proven to help educators engage students and increase reading stamina. Struggling readers return to class each day excited to see how many pages they read and if their school has moved up on one of the 12 school leaderboards. Dyslexic and struggling readers have the motivation they need and the recognition they deserve for their reading achievements! The 2020 Great Reading Games will run from 1/13/20- 2/29/20!
Here are some highlights from last year’s Reading Games:
• 2,086 schools participated in the 2019 Great Reading Games.
• 37,500 participating students read close to 12 million pages throughout the 2019 Great Reading Games.
• 12 schools earned the coveted title of “1st Place in their Bracket”. 120 total schools were awarded prizes.
• Schools participated in social media challenges, which allowed them to celebrate their success and accomplishments.
• 2020 will be the biggest Great Reading Games yet!
How can you help?
“I am a 6th grade Sped Teacher and the fact that my students can read books that their peers are reading does wonder for their confidence. Most of my students LOVE reading on LA. The Reading Games were FANTASTIC!! They begged to go on, we came in 4th place for our division. They have never experienced such success with reading and it was amazing. Thank you so much for that. Thank you for the shirts and the earbuds and the certificates, they walked around proudly that day! I love Learning Ally."
“I LOVE LEARNING ALLY!!! I could be your spokesperson!!! It is difficult to find quality reading resources to help high school-aged students but this is perfect!!! We subscribed for the 2018-19 school year. We promoted it during the first semester, but no one used it. At the start of the new year, I started going into classrooms, signing up students, and modeling how to use it for teachers and students together. About 30 kiddos began to use it, some more than others. There are about 16 who use it regularly. These students have been changed by this gift of reading! They show a new sense of pride where before they were embarrassed about their reading abilities. Several of them have even stopped into my library office to share with me about how much THEY love it and how it is helping them! One of them even placed 6th in our division for the Learning Ally Great Reading Challenge that ended in February! We are ending the year with these students reading over 18,000 pages and having spent over 300 hours reading! I am so proud of them and so happy to have found Learning Ally! In my 30 years of teaching, I have not found anything that has helped high school readers like Learning Ally. Thank you!”