October 13, 2019
August 2, 2019
July 2, 2019
June 4, 2019
April 30, 2019
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!
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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!