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


One Mom's Message to You

 

 

 

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

 

 

It’s been a great week at Learning Ally!

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

https://youtu.be/7e_bWTHCPc8

 

 

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


From the Training Center: What's VHOC?

Hello all! Our Storyteller course has taken off, and more volunteers are donating more hours to our at-home programs than ever before! If you're a Textbook volunteer wishing to show off your performer's voice, or a Storyteller volunteer looking to demonstrate your subject mastery, check out the Textbook or Literature communities on the Volunteer portal to learn more.

  

What is the VHOC?

We mention the Volunteer Hands-On Center at a few points in our training, but we still have questions about how it fits into the training program. The VHOC serves as an apprenticeship. There just isn't enough time (or patience) for us to cover all of the content you'll encounter in book projects, so you need to do some on-the-job learning and the VHOC is where you'll get that exposure but with more supervision.

 

Screen image of Volunteer Hands-On Center welcome page

 

While working in the VHOC you'll be limited to checking the reading of other volunteers. This serves several purposes:

  • More modeling of good and bad reading: The samples and examples in the training program are brief slices, and some errors can only be recognized as a part of larger projects. You'll be the first line of defense against errors in your work, so you need to recognize problems in anyone's work.
  • Broader exposure to reading conventions: Not only are there many more particular rules and standards than we can cover in the brief lessons on reading conventions, the infinite variety of books means we often need to make judgment calls in how we apply them. Seeing more examples of the conventions in the application helps you internalize the lessons. 
  • Building your schedule: The training lessons can be finished in a couple of hours but book production requires dedicating hours of your time on a regular schedule. While working in the VHOC you can make sure you can be available as needed for volunteering.

 

VHOC book projects are the same book projects you'll find in the catalog of the Textbook community. The difference is that you'll use a request form, so the staff knows what work you'll be doing and you'll end each of your volunteer sessions by filling out a form to notify them of your progress. They'll have another volunteer take a QA pass through your work and offer feedback. (Once you graduate from the VHOC and join the Textbook community you'll be allowed to sign up for your own projects and there's no immediate follow-up checking on your checking work.)

 

As you demonstrate your abilities and knowledge, the staff of the VHOC will need to give you less advice and you'll gain more independence. Soon after that, you'll be allowed to train for reading, and maybe even become a peer mentor to other trainees new to volunteering with Learning Ally.

 

Congratulations Training Grads

Textbook Course: Thomas S., John G., Jane S., John K., Jaime H., Nicole M., Clara H., Suchetas B., Donna L-J., Qamara B., T.A. N., Leslie G., Cindy S., Christina J., Lorraine L.
Storyteller Course: Sayafiq B., Demetrius M., Alice C., Terri B., Angela J., Suzanna L., Lakshmi B., Natalia E., Erica H., Kenye A., Debbie R., Christine D., Carman W., Mary B., Elizabeth B., John T. T., Victoria S., Rowena P., Grace I., Nichalia S., Mak S., Nicole C., Stephanie S., Maria D., Elizabeth VK., Heidi B., Janet S., Sarah F., Brendan S., Ryan K., Jonathan M., Marion H., Mike Patrick M., Doug B., Christina J., J.K. M., Wallis T., Maggie, Sarah L., Rebecca U.
 


Updates from the Training Center for March 2019

Hello Volunteers!

March means it’s time for our annual Building Books for Student Success fundraising events. We aim to raise $100,000 by May 31st through the efforts of our Learning Ally staff, our parent community, and volunteers like you. Visit the Building Books for Student Success Campaign Homepage to learn more about the program and all the ways that you can help. Every $1,500 we raise provides a school, and all their students, with access to our library and educator support services. 

Fundraising page preview image.

You can set up your own fundraising page in three easy steps and get started right now!

 

Evaluation Study

This spring, we are sending out surveys and some interview requests to those who registered as a new volunteer or enrolled in a course in the last 6 months. This is part of our efforts to provide an excellent training experience for all, and we hope you are able to respond and provide honest and thoughtful feedback to help us improve the training process!

 

Congratulations Training Grads

Textbook: Nicole M., Clara H., Michelle S., Thomas S., Suchetas B., Donna L-J., Qamara B.
Storyteller: Joseph H., Maryfran A., Kristine R., Rowena P., Syafiq B., Nichalia S., Carman W., Makenzie S-R., 
 


Team TOCTool, At Your Service!

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

become THIS?

 

EasyBooks screen, showing headings from previous Spanish book image



 

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


 


 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 


Updates and Improvements On the Voltraining Website

New sign in page for the Learning Ally volunteer training siteHello all! We've begun the new year with many updates and changes to the volunteer training website, both large and small.

 

Our most noticeable change is the new Welcome page on the training website. We've made these changes so the site is easier to use for first-time visitors, so they can avoid confusion about how to get set up with a Google account. If you're a returning trainee, you'll still use the link in the top right to sign in. 

 

Once you log in, you'll notice that the new Storyteller Course is now open. If you're interested in recording and editing juvenile fiction and literature, then you can enroll in this course with the links on screen. Not sure which course is for you? There's a link to our Volunteer Fit Quiz to help you decide. 

 

In the Textbook Course, we've replaced the old checking audition with a new project that's a better fit for our current needs and standards. We removed the sample of a novel from the audition since we now have a Storyteller course and will soon have a course for Literature community Listeners.

 

We think these changes will go a long way to improve your training experience. But it doesn't end there! You can expect to see more updates, upgrades, and improvements in the coming year as we work to bring our old reading training lessons up to our new standards. Stay tuned!

 

Congratulations Training Graduates! 

Textbook course: John K., Jason G., John G., David G., Kevin V.,  Crismario S., Ripley J., Lauren D., Linda T., and Natalia E.

Storyteller course: Christina F., Leah L., Karen W-G., Kayla A., Shelley C., Andrea P., Sheila N., April S., Lindsey D., David S., Hilda C-G., Nikita N., Robin B., Jeffrey H., John K., Jim C., Amita M., Josie M., and Joseph H.


The Multiple Benefits of Virtual Volunteering

In 2019, we all know how important one’s time is. There are always errands to run, calls to join or meetings to attend and a seemingly long workweek has passed by in a flash. Yet there is something so special about the feeling we get when we set aside time and donate to a mission we believe in. Truly, there is no better feeling than when we can see the impact of our donated time and efforts in real, life-changing situations.

 

We have seen in many cases that our time spent volunteering is often more appreciated and recognized than our regular work. This satisfaction and sense of positive impact, that come from volunteering is hard to get doing other activities.  At Learning Ally, our volunteers are influencing the lives of individuals who struggle to learn every day. After experiencing the benefits of our solutions, our students feel part of their learning community again and gain the confidence and skills to lead a successful and normal life.

 

As you all may know, Learning Ally’s Volunteer Nation is virtual. We are proud of this unique virtual volunteer model with its amazing Volunteer Nation Portal that will guarantee all resources needed by volunteers are in just one place.

 

Here are some benefits of virtual volunteering:

Flexible

Considering our busy lives, long days at work, family commitments and all the responsibilities and different activities we have to complete every week, we sometimes feel we are not doing enough for society. Having to drive weekly or monthly to a place where you want to volunteer is becoming more and more difficult. Virtual volunteering offers a solution to this problem – you can eliminate transportation time and gain the flexibility of volunteering from the comfort of your home.  All our Learning Ally volunteering opportunities are now performed online.

Broader Community of Volunteers

Virtual volunteering empowers a wider group of participants to give back. In person volunteering events will always be limited by space and resources. Our volunteers will not face these restrictions; in most cases, all of the work can be done using technology.

Service is not limited to particular geographies

Our volunteers can contribute skills and service to projects no matter where they are located. A volunteer in Seattle may support an organization’s mission or client in North Carolina, or in any place in the world!

Volunteering is Skill-Based

Most virtual volunteering engagements are skill based and require a level of technical knowledge. An active or retired professional can mentor a client interested in growing his/her business in a similar industry to their own. Similarly, at Learning Ally, an experienced math teacher can record books for struggling learners anywhere in the U.S.

Volunteers are part of a Virtual Community

Your network opportunities in a virtual community of volunteers grow exponentially. When you belong to a private Google Hangout, LinkedIn or even Facebook group of professionals who volunteer, “you can easily connect with hundreds of like-minded people with in-demand skills” (Raber, huffingtonpost.com)