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


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."

 


Textbooks Completed in November 2019

Thanks to all our volunteers in the Instructional Textbook Community for their dedication. 

Information by Lori Leland.

Textbooks Completed in November 2019
No. Shelf No. Title Readers Checkers TOC Tooler Project Guidelines
1 NB586 Physics: Principles with Applications, Seventh Edition Cliff d'Autremont, Mitch Hirsch, Marion Hopkins, Don Kovar, Tom Lockhart, Bill Painter, Steven Sittig Nick Jones, Bill Lindstrom, Tom Lockhart, Steven Sittig, Martha Takats, George Vella-Coleiro Pat Lim n/a
2 NB485 Diesel Technology: Fundamentals, Service, Repair, Eighth Edition Cliff d'Autremont, Brian Hill,Don Kovar, Richard Kozelka, David Welp Earl Goetze, Sue Green, Tom Hammell, George Kuhlman, Bill Lindstrom, Rosemary McDonald, Rick Sayers, Ev Tate Caren Snook n/a
3 NC407 BoMath! Florida, Grade 5 Juliet Jones, Marilynn Steffen Nola Bragg, Janet Cappers, Susan Kohler, Martha Takats Jim Siewert n/a
4 NC398 The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism, Official Revised Edition Number 2 Elizabeth Vazquez Don Sheetz n/a n/a
5 KZ478 Descubre 1 David Alper, Guillermo Alzuru, Susan Cross Stanley David Alper, Stacie Court, Barbara Stoebenau n/a n/a
6 NB921 FOSS Science Resources: Environments Marcia McDermott Kathy Foster Caren Snook n/a
7 NB687 Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South John Arnott Paul Kurtz Jim Siewert n/a
8 NC551 Texas Pearson MyView Literacy Grade 2 Level 1 Jennifer Canady,Cathy Kimmel, Diane Martin, Betsy Sherer, Kathy White, Kaye Wilcox Janet Cappers, Vicki Davis, Harlan Hively, Al Kendziora, Mary Lou McGee, Diane Nawrocki, John Sandlin n/a n/a
9 NB690 The Restless City: A Short History of New York from Colonial Times to the Present, Third Edition Joseph Hurley Kathi Jensen Beira Winter n/a
10 NC240 Texas HMH Into Reading Grade 4 MyBook 1 Frank Kouri, Linda Mancia, Russ Oliver Vicki Davis, Harlan Hively, Mary Lou McGee, Diane Nawrocki Jaci Collins Kathi Cummings
11 NB334 Pearson myPerspectives English Language Arts 2017 Grade 6 Mary T. Schiavone, David Welp Sarah Bliesath, Vicki Davis, Ruth Giordano, Blair Kessler, Dottie Liston, Linda Mancia, Rosemary McDonald, Mary Lou McGee Jaci Collins n/a
12 NC241 Texas HMH Into Reading Grade 4 MyBook 2 Albert Friedman, Donna Lloyd-Jones, Tom Lockhart, Diane Martin Vicki Davis, Linda Mancia, Mary Lou McGee, Diane Nawrocki Jaci Collins n/a
13 NC552 Texas Pearson MyView Literacy Grade 2 Level 2 Sarah Bliesath, Halina Bustin, Cathy Kimmel, Tom Lockhart, Susan Nilsson-Weiskott, Russ Oliver, Richard Piper, Betsy Sherer, Kaye Wilcox Jeremiah Curran, Leslie Gallagher, Harlan Hively, Al Kendziora, Emma Myers, Diane Nawrocki, John Sandlin n/a n/a
14 NC505 enVision Math 2.0 Common Core grade 7 volume 2 Marilynn Steffen Martha Takats Jim Siewert n/a
15 NC253 Texas Wonders Reading/Writing Companion Grade 4 Units 1 and 2 Albert Friedman, Frank Kouri, Linda Mancia Harlan Hively, Mary Lou McGee, Diane Nawrocki, Caren Snook Kathy Cummings
16 NC256 Texas WondersReading/ Writing Companion Grade 5 Unit1 & 2 Albert Friedman, Russ Oliver Harlan Hively, Diane Nawrocki, Vicki Davis Caren Snook Kathy Cummings
17 NC723 The Secret Place Janet Schoor Kathi Jensen Susan Wilson Susan Wilson
18 NB224 Deutsch: Na klar! An Introductory German Course, Seventh Edition Heidi Bindhammer, Halina Bustin David Berkenbilt, Joe Clark, Sue Kohler, Richard McCurdy n/a n/a
19 NB352 Strategic and Tactical Considerations on the Fireground, Fourth Edition Bonnie Marcus, Don Sheetz Bonnie Marcus, Don Sheetz Pat Lim n/a
20 NC406 Glencoe Health Ed Beck, Pat Smith, Bill Painter, Bob Ellsworth, Cliff d’Autremont, Jaqui Bradley, Adele Wolfson, Pauline Rakich, Barbara Stoebenau, Rita Pyrdol, Scott Smith, and Mary T. Schiavone. Nick Jones, Alison Seymour, Diane Nawrocki, Mary T. Schiavone, Jaci Collins, Earl Goetze, Paul deLeeuw, Timothy Shanahan, Al Kendziora, George Kuhlman, Renuka Baskar, and Janet Cappers. n/a n/a
21 NB205 Exploring Science Grade 3 Jane Sanford Linda Mancia Caren Snook n/a
22 NC244 Texas Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Into Reading Writer's Notebook Grade 4 Tom Lockhart Diane Nawrocki Jaci Collins n/a
23 NB989 Espaces: Rendez-vous avec le monde francophone Mary Braunagel-Brown, Halina Bustin Mary Braunagel-Brown, Richard McCurdy, Cindy Strickland n/a n/a

We're Thankful for You!

Greetings Volunteers,

 

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!

 

Listener Training Coming Soon

 

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.

 

I like Learning Ally because it has so many great books to read. When I listen to books I get to learn lots of new words. - Gabriel, 4th grade 

 

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 voltraining@learningally.org if you are interested.

 

The Listener Training program will be available to all volunteers on January 1st, 2020.

 

Happy HolidaysHoliday Closures

 

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!

 

 

Office Hours Meetings

 

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.

 

Congratulations To Our Training Graduates for the month of November

 

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.


Attention Amazon Shoppers!

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:

  • If you regularly shop Amazon through your mobile browser, simply navigate to our Learning Ally Amazon Smile URL instead and you’re set.
  • Or you can add Amazon Smile to your iPhone Home Screen.  On your mobile device, visit smile.amazon.com in Safari. Hit the share button at the bottom middle of your screen.  Now click add to Home Screen. You have just created a shortcut to the Amazon Smile page.

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!



Happy Shopping!


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!


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.
 


From the Training Center - Ed Solutions and Office Hours

Greetings Learning Ally Volunteer Trainees!

We're in the season we call "peak" around here, but the end is in sight as the new school year begins. Peak is the time of year that we see the greatest demand from our students. New and school accounts are being set up, reading lists finalized, and book requests fulfilled. It's an especially busy time for Education Solutions.  

 

Education Solutions

School Solutions team members huddle-up.

Learning Ally is a full-service learner support system, and that means training for teachers and software solutions for them as well. You may be acquainted with how students use our software - logging in, picking books, and downloading them - but it's our Educator Portal that lets us reach whole classrooms and schools. Teachers add books to students accounts and use that system to check up on their students' reading progress.

 

As you can imagine, using that system requires support and that's one of the duties of our Customer Success teams. They build relationships with teachers. They coordinate to help them set up these systems, show them how to use the systems and best practices for them and answer questions to keep things running smoothly. Right now they are hard at work with 17,000 schools across the country, changing the educational journey for our students.

If you want to know more about our solutions and support there's an entire section of the Learning Ally website devoted to the subject.

 

 

Office Hours Meetings

We've instituted a series of Office Hours Webinars. These relaxed and casual meetings are meant to give you more opportunities for facetime with Learning Ally trainers and staff, without the structure of our Volunteer Nation events. During Office Hours, you set the agenda. Bring your questions and comments to us, and we'll even let you use your microphones to ask them! You'll find the Office Hours meetings announced in the Communication section of your course on the Voltraining Website. When it's meeting time you'll find a link there to join in. 

 

 

 

Congratulations To Our Training Graduates

Crawford A., Nancy C-J., Etienne D.,  Mary D., Terry F M., Ariana G., Joseph G.,  Justin G., Lorraine G., Jan H., Marcia H., Scott H., Jaimi J., John J., Nick J., Janette K., Jordan K., Laura M., Sean O., Sandy P., Stephanie P., Kathy R., Richard R., Alison S., Bob S., Elizabeth S., Gary S., Jackie S., Rachel W., and Tom W.