Select the search type
  • Site
  • Web
Search

 

 

Volunteer Nation Blog

rss

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


BBSS and WebEB

Greetings Learning Ally Volunteers,

 

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 Is Live 

 

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. 

 

BBSS Home page on Learning Ally website

 

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 volunteer@learningally.org and put the phrase Donor Support in the subject line of your email. 


Macintosh Test Users Wanted 

 

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 ecotton@learningally.org. 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.


Congratulations Recent Training Grads

 

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.


Getting to Know You

 

 

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:


 

Volunteer Portal/Resources/General/Hangouts

 



 

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


2020 Brings New Volunteering Opportunities

Welcome to the New Year!

 

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! 

 

 

Office Hours Has a New Day and Time

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.

 

ListeneFrom the Listener Training - What to listen for - Accuracyr Course is Live

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. 

 

EasyBooks Web App 

EasyBooks Web Application Interface

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 (ecotton@learningally.org) and join the group of volunteer testers. 

 

Congratulations to our training graduates!

 

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.


New Year's Greetings




 

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."

 


Learn more about The Great Reading Games

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?

  • Work on getting your book project completed so it gets into the hands of a student participating in the Great Reading Games! Any book that you are working on could be a book that a student would like to add to their bookshelf and start reading! 
     
  • Want to offer some words of encouragement? Add your message to our GRG 2020 Words Of Encouragement Document and we will share them with our students once the games begin! 

 

Testimonials:
“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!”


Learning Ally is now an award-winning non-profit organization!

Once again, the Production and Volunteer Nation teams are thrilled to share that after two of our books being nominated for the Voice Arts Awards by the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences, the leading industry organization for professional voiceover work, we have won in one of the two nominations.  These nominations are for the best of the best in the Voiceover world!  Award winners were announced on Sunday, November 17th during the Voice Arts® Awards Gala at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, CA

 

Learning Ally’s book was the winner for Audiobook Narration – History, Best Voiceover category, going to Learning Ally volunteer Dave Fennoy for his work on March Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. Dave is a well-known industry powerhouse, with extensive experience in commercials, documentaries, and especially video games. His vast talent is put to work on this amazing project, as he brings Lewis's searing memoir of the fight for Civil Rights to life in an extraordinarily vivid way.  See a picture of Dave with the award!

Take a listen to the "book trailer" below to hear this great voice, and then add to your bookshelf to listen to the whole thing!

 

March Book Three: Learning Ally Audiobook Trailer

Catalog link for March, Book 3: NA898    

 

The second nomination we had was for Audiobook Narration – Teens, Best Voiceover, going to Learning Ally volunteer and intern Clyla Destiny for her work on Unbound by Ann E. Burg. Although this her very first audiobook, Clyla turned in a fantastic performance and is competing with narrators with hundreds of books of experience! Her background in spoken-word poetry proved a good match for this unforgettable story of escaped slaves fighting for survival.

 

Unbound: Learning Ally Audiobook Trailer

Catalog link for Unbound: A Novel in Verse: NA591  

 

 

Like all of our books, these nominees were part of a real team effort! Additional production credits and congratulations on these nominations go to volunteers Susan Smith and John Arnott, as well as staff members Dave Kozemchak, Michael Kinsey, Alexis Bourbeau, and Kevin Ziegler.

 

Take a listen to the "book trailers" on the links above. Enjoy!


This Weeks Highly Recommended Titles 10/23

This Weeks Highly Recommended Titles 10/23

We will be highlighting some of the books that our incredible Volunteer Nation has worked on! These are the selections for this week...and keep an eye out for next week's three-book selection for Halloween! This information is collected weekly by Christina Trejos, Digital Production Coordinator at Learning Ally.


Grade Band: K-3
Melia And Jo by Billy Aronson (NC084)
Narrated by: Nikola Zakocs
Book Trailer: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1pXy0RwFYS61u034fyTT-HZ0X23MWjGil
Synopsis: 
Melia and Jo will be to STEAM what Rosie Revere is to STEM. Melia is scientific and loves to create things in her backyard laboratory, but something is missing. Her inventions just aren't quite right. Enter Jo, her new friend with an artistic spirit. When you add the arts to sciences, something magical happens This whimsically illustrated picture book is the perfect introduction to the benefits of STEAM-focused curriculum.

 

Grade Band: 3-7   
The Ship is Dead: Magnus Chase and The God's of Asgard: Book 3 (NA576) 
Narrated by: Michael Fryar
Author: Rick Riordan
Book Trailer:  https://drive.google.com/open?id=1RqKlXvdVGyN855t0UuO6J6lDwW27UWRe
Book Link: https://learningally.org/BookDetails/BookID/NA576
Synopsis: 
Magnus Chase, a once-homeless teen, is a resident of the Hotel Valhalla and one of Odin's chosen warriors. As the son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus isn't naturally inclined to fighting. But he has strong and steadfast friends, including Hearthstone the elf, Blitzen the dwarf, and Samirah the Valkyrie, and together they have achieved brave deeds, such as defeating Fenris Wolf and battling giants for Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. Now Magnus faces his most dangerous trial yet. His cousin, Annabeth, recruits her boyfriend, Percy Jackson, to give Magnus some pointers, but will his training be enough? Loki is free from his chains. He's readying Naglfar , the Ship of the Dead, complete with a host of giants and zombies, to sail against the Asgardian gods and begin the final battle of Ragnarok. It's up to Magnus and his friends to stop him, but to do so they will have to sail across the oceans of Midgard, Jotunheim, and Niflheim in a desperate race to reach Naglfar before it's ready to sail. Along the way, they will face angry sea gods, hostile giants, and an evil fire-breathing dragon. Magnus's biggest challenge will be facing his own inner demons. Does he have what it takes to outwit the wily trickster god?

 

 

Grade Band: 8+   
La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Series: Book 1 (NA473) 
Narrated by: Paul Morgan
Book Trailer: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1RqKlXvdVGyN855t0UuO6J6lDwW27UWRe
Synopsis: 

Malcolm Polstead and his daemon, Asta, are used to overhearing news and the occasional scandal at the inn run by his family. But during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm finds a mysterious object—and finds himself in grave danger. Inside the object is a cryptic message about something called Dust; and it’s not long before Malcolm is approached by the spy for whom this message was actually intended. When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, he begins to notice suspicious characters everywhere: the explorer Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a daemon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl—just a baby—named Lyra.   Lyra is at the center of a storm, and Malcolm will brave any peril, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through it. 


Why is Logging Hours important?

We get asked often, why logging hours is important. To help answer, here are some ways the data is used in managing our volunteer program. 

 

  • Volunteer Recognition! We appreciate everything you do. This data helps us recognize milestones and outstanding service!
  • Program Health. We can use this data to evaluate the health of our volunteer program. We can see the effort that goes into audiobook production and other Learning Ally initiatives that volunteers support. We can project how many new audiobooks we can produce during a year, measure volunteer retention, and build recruitment plans to grow and fill areas of need. 
  • Reporting. The value of your donated service is required in our financial reporting. We can also provide reports, when requested, to companies that give to nonprofits where their staff volunteers, and to foundations that are interested in our volunteer program.

 

Some cool numbers based on logged hours that you might find interesting. From July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, we had 604 volunteers donate a total of 57,143 hours to Learning Ally -- an average of almost 95 hours per volunteer! Many in more than one role…

 

  • 244 volunteers donated 12,373 hours Narrating new audiobooks in the Literature Community.
  • 94 volunteers donated 5,241 hours Listening and checking those new audiobooks for our Literature Community.
  • 61 volunteers donated 452 hours performing Quality Assurance testing on audiobooks completed in the Literature Community.
  • 216 volunteers donated 24,034 hours Reading new textbooks.
  • 201 volunteers donated 10,436 hours Checking those new textbooks for the Instructional Text Community.
  • 141 new volunteers donated another 1,738 hours of Checking as part of our Virtual Hands-on Center (VHOC).
  • 36 volunteers donated 2,248 hours performing Pre-production tasks for the Instructional Text Community. This included tasks like ToCTool, writing project guidelines, and PDF bookmarking for textbook production.
  • 17 volunteers donated 115 hours providing Career Development Support to graduating Blind or Visually Impaired students from our College Success Program.

 

Gathering volunteer service hours is not unique to Learning Ally. This is something that most volunteer programs do, especially those of our size. However, speaking for Learning Ally on the subject, without you logging hours, we would not be able to truly understand or recognize the work and effort that you all put into providing students with the tools they need to succeed. With that in mind, I will finish with text straight from our Recognition Page on our Volunteer Nation Community Portal:

 

You matter. You make a difference.

 

Your great generosity has had a profound and lasting impact on our students. Your willingness to share both your time and your talent says a lot about each of you as human beings. Your willingness to give selflessly to help others speaks to both your strength and the quality of your character.
 

When you volunteer, you are making a commitment to share that most precious of resources – your time – to make life better for those who are in need. The fruits of your labors make a tangible impact, of course, but perhaps it is the fact that you are willing to share your time and talent to lend a helping hand and to show kindness and caring that makes the greatest difference in the lives of the individuals who learn to love reading from listening to the audiobooks YOU help produce.
 

While we know that you choose to volunteer selflessly and without expectation of being recognized or rewarded, we want to take the time to let you know just how much your dedication is appreciated and to make sure you know that everyone at Learning Ally is forever grateful to each of you. Whether you are a long-time volunteer or if you got involved fairly recently, and regardless of how many hours you choose to give, it’s important for you to know that what you do makes a difference.
 

Words cannot adequately express the gratitude that we wish to express. Please know that your service is recognized, appreciated, valued and cherished. We thank you and look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.
 


Literature Books Completed in June, 2019

The Literature Community finished recording 90 books in June!! I want to thank both our volunteers and staff members for helping us record these books.

 


Students Love Us!

 

     Abigail Shaw wears a bright yellow dress and a big smile; her guide dog, Kit, gazes quizzically at the camera

 

Abigail Shaw, staff member with Learning Ally’s College Success Program, with her guide dog, Kit


 

Students love Learning Ally!  Here’s a message from just one member of our ever-growing fan club:

 

I’m looking forward to this semester because for once I was actually able to get my textbook list ahead of time and found most of the books on Learning Ally, so there’s one less thing I have to worry about...I will enjoy my classes and they seem interesting so I’m looking forward to that.


 

College Success Program student

Sophomore from Long Island





 

 

Another big fan is Sadie Regardie.  A student in the Fairfax County Public Schools, Sadie read A LOT this summer, participating in our Summer Reading Together contest.  Sadie not only read at home--she even took her books on vacation! How many kids want to read on vacation? Sadie entered our social media part of the contest as well, and her entry shows how audiobooks can not only build enthusiasm for reading but also expose students to concepts and vocabulary.  Sadie says about Learning Ally, “...it has helped me persevere in reading. Makes the book make sense and makes reading more fun.” Click here to watch Sadie’s video entry:

https://spark.adobe.com/video/yjkTu48FpM4Sy


 

Sadie’s mother, Jenn Regardie, is a key influencer for Learning Ally in their school district, and will be a panelist for one of our upcoming edWebinars.  For more information about this educational opportunity, click here:

https://home.edweb.net/webinar/readers20190814/





 


 

Metrics Update for this week:

 

  • Our readers increased to 212,034

 

  • We had 47,285 reading at frequency*

 

  • Pages read by school readers increased by 63% over this time last year!



 

Happy Summer, and Happy Reading, 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.