RELEASE: BookNook and Young Authors Publishing announce new partnership to get diverse content in the hands of thousands of students

RELEASE: BookNook and Young Authors Publishing announce new partnership to get diverse content in the hands of thousands of students

OAKLAND, Calif. and ATLANTA, Ga. — and BookNook, organizations focused on furthering the potential of students across the United States today announced a new partnership that will allow stories written by diverse young authors to be distributed to thousands of students daily on the BookNook platform.

By partnering, Young Authors Publishing is gaining a new digital distribution channel that increases its reach significantly, and BookNook will increase the quality and diversity of texts in the BookNook text library.

“This new partnership allows us to live deeper into our core vision of believing that all kids are story-worthy,” said Leah Hernandez, founder of Young Authors Publishing. “We want students across the country to be reflected in the books they read and to know that they too can be storytellers.”

“There is a dearth of good books that reflect the diverse communities in America. One of our values as a company is ‘We are Our Community’ – where our technology and our curriculum reflect the communities in which we serve. This partnership allows us to further our reach into our communities because these stories actually reflect many of the populations we serve, and we couldn’t be more excited about the potential of distributing these books to the thousands of students who read BookNook daily.” said Michael Lombardo, Founder and CEO of BookNook.

The new titles from Young Authors Publishing, [If I Were President, The Helpful Duo, A Day Inside and Never Give Up ], are written by students through an 8-week Experience Program that teaches students how to write their children’s book & the fundamentals of  financial literacy. royalties from Young Authors Books go into a savings account for each young author. 

BookNook will digitize the books and write scaffolded and rigorous comprehension and vocabulary lessons, and then load them into their platform where they can be accessed by the thousands of students who use BookNook in school and after school each day.

About BookNook
Based in Oakland, California, BookNook helps students dramatically accelerate their reading progress with a collaborative and adaptive digital platform for K-8 reading and language.

About Young Authors Publishing
Young Authors Publishing is a not-for-profit children’s book publisher that exists to share the stories of children, many who live in undeserved communities. We believe that  all kids are story worthy, and we make it our mission to share those stories.

Press Contact:
Nate Strong, nate@booknooklearning.com

Diversifying the Literary Canon of Children’s Books

Diversifying the Literary Canon of Children’s Books

There’s a constant need to address diversity in literature, specifically in children’s books. During their most impressionable years, it’s important that children are able to see reflections of themselves throughout their environments, which, when taking a holistic approach, includes the literature they consume. However, until recently, there has been a stark contrast in the representation of marginalized characters in stories compared to the demographics of their readers. Not only does this lack of inclusivity negatively affect the worldview of young readers, it systematically catapults them into reducing their self worth, as their mere existence is deemed “unimportant” enough for adequate representation. 

According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), only 9% of children’s books published in 2017 contained African or African American characters. While this is an improvement from the 5% in 2014, the numbers remain disproportionately low. Not only is the representation lacking, but there is another pressing issue equally as important: the vast majority of books containing marginalized characters are not written by marginalized authors.

Regardless of genre, when referencing diversity, we rely on the validity of children’s books to accurately represent the characters they contain, as a means of creating authentic, genuine stories. However, this is an exceptionally difficult task when the authors of said books do not share the experiences of their characters. When addressing diversity in literature, the need for genuine experiences is at an all time high. Children should be accurately represented in literature through the lenses of their own experiences, and not through the perceptions of others on how those experiences affect said communities. This is why the newly-formed partnership between Young Authors Publishing and BookNook, two organizations focused on diversifying children’s literature, as well as making it accessible for children everywhere, is yet another step in the right direction. 

Young Authors Publishing is a not-for-profit children’s book publisher in Atlanta, GA that exists to share the stories of children, by children, many of who live in underserved communities. For their 2019 cohort, Young Authors published 13 children’s books that not only accurately depicted the experiences of young African American men, but were also written by them as well. Their books include a range of topics from science and bullying to politics and grief, gifting children the ability to choose literature that best interests them, outside of the most generalized topics many, if not all, black books contain. Young Authors Publishings’ partnership with BookNook makes diverse literature accessible to thousands of children.

Based in Oakland, California, BookNook helps students dramatically accelerate their reading progress with a collaborative and adaptive digital platform for K-8 reading and language. Through this partnership, BookNook will digitize all 13 books and use them to develop rigorous comprehension and vocabulary curriculum for thousands of students who use the platform both during and after school each day. The diversity of this literature will not only provide students with a peak into the lives of others, but will also broaden their exposure to experiences outside of their own. This inclusivity is a large step in broadening the literary canon of children’s literature.

“This new partnership allows us to live deeper into our core vision of believing that all kids are story-worthy,” said Leah Hernandez, founder of Young Authors Publishing. “We want students across the country to see more students who are like them and know that they too can be storytellers.”

“There is a dearth of good books that reflect the diverse communities in America. One of our values as a company is ‘We are Our Community’ – where our technology and our curriculum reflect the communities in which we serve. This partnership allows us to further our reach into our communities because these stories actually reflect many of the populations we serve, and we couldn’t be more excited about the potential of distributing these books to the thousands of students who read BookNook daily.” said Michael Lombardo, Founder and CEO of BookNook.

Read the full press release about our new partnership here.

BookNook Wins MIT Competition for Digital Research in Education

BookNook Wins MIT Competition for Digital Research in Education

We are thrilled to share that the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (JPAL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has selected BookNook for its second round of groundbreaking social science research projects. The full press announcement is here.

With our selection comes both a financial grant and technical assistance to help us work with one of our strongest implementation partners, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, to plan a rigorous randomized control trial research (RCT) project for the 2020-21 school year.

As a dual bottom line company, we are committed to ensuring that our programs don’t just delight students and help make teachers’ lives easier–we want to see that they are driving significant reading improvement for students.

While we are excited to have seen such a large effect size in the quasi-experimental design study we released in the spring, RCT is the ‘gold standard’ in social science research and will help us to better understand how students are benefiting from their time using BookNook.

We are grateful to the JPAL team at MIT for selecting us, and to BGC Greater Houston for signing on as our partner for this research–and most of all for our students, whose effort and engagement with our platform are what make all of this possible!

Read the release from MIT here.

BookNook Spurs Parent Volunteer Program, Produces Great Results

BookNook Spurs Parent Volunteer Program, Produces Great Results

About 10 miles south of the Wisconsin/Illinois border, Carrie Modra is hard at work with her students. As a  Woodland School District 50 educator for 8 years in her role as a Speech-Language Pathologist, Carrie is an integral part of the daily ins and outs of the school day at Woodland Elementary East. In fact, she loves it so much that she has gone back to school to get her second master’s degree in  School Leadership and works directly with her Principal mentor because of her passion for education.

For the completion of her master’s degree, Carrie needed to choose a topic for her internship project. After discussions with her principal about school goals and needs, Carrie focused on third grade reading.  She was very excited to involve parents in the project, so she utilized the Woodland PTA to recruit volunteers for the BookNook program. This allowed for teachers to recommend students to BookNook and have volunteers guide the reading as an additional weekly reading support. Recruiting volunteers can be difficult, but Carrie was hoping to learn a lot through this project, and it felt like a great opportunity.

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BookNook Spurs Parent Volunteer Program, Produces Great Results

Technology in Education: Overcoming Barriers to Success

This post is the second part in a series we are doing on Barriers and lessons learned on implementing Technology in Education. Check out part one here.

Overcoming Barriers: Emerging New Best Practices

As daunting as the barriers may seem, current EdTech research is finding several ways schools can remove or at least address them in order to achieve technology integration.

Involve Teachers in Decision-Making

First, developing a shared vision and technology integration plan can help overcome the leadership barrier (Hew and Brush). “Probably the most important issue to consider when formulating a shared vision regarding technology integration,” they write, “is to address the specific relationship between technology and particular curriculum content areas because a commitment to the curriculum is a critical scaffold for technology integration.” Notably, they recommend that “the vision should not be created by just the school leaders. Instead, “teachers, in particular, should be involved in the decision-making because teacher participation has been found to be one of the ingredients for successful wide-scale integration of technology in a school district.”

Strategic Placement of Resources

If there’s a scarcity of resources, schools can “introduce technology into one or two subject areas at a time to ensure that teachers and students in those areas have adequate technology” (Hew and Brush). Technology integration almost never happens all at once, and it’s often the rush to scale-up that leads to bigger problems.

Changing Attitudes and Beliefs

One clear benefit to teachers is a school leader who provides ongoing professional development, encourages experimentation and improvement, and grants freedom to take risks and make mistakes. It is “more important to focus on the features of professional development rather than its types” (Hew and Brush).

The most effective professional development does the following:

  • Focuses on content (practical skills, specific knowledge)
  • Gives teachers opportunities for “hands-on work”
  • Is highly consistent with teachers’ needs

A New Vision of Assessment

Schools must find a balance between “considering how technology can be used to meet the current demands of standards-based accountability” and altogether reconsidering assessment approaches once technology is integrated into the curriculum. Teacher’s can’t abandon standardized testing entirely, but they shouldn’t have to invent whole new assessments to include technology. Computer adaptive testing, or tailored testing, is just one example of how the technology itself can help educators re-imagine assessment possibilities.

A Mentoring Approach

Theodore J. Kopcha advocates for a model of integration that uses “mentoring and communities of practice to support teachers as they develop skills, pedagogy and beliefs needed to integrate technology in a student-centered manner.” Mentoring, Kopcha writes, “has been found to overcome many of the common barriers to technology integration.”

For instance, mentors provide teachers with “just-in-time support while they integrate technology into lessons they are actually teaching.” Good mentoring begins with knowing teachers’ needs and setting goals collaboratively throughout the entire process of integration.

Technology as Part of School Policy

Veteran teachers Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher integrated technology into language arts classes, then began creating a technology policy to monitor its uses. Soon, the authors realized that most “technology policies focused on prohibition” rather than teaching students to use it constructively. So they created a school-wide courtesy policy that included expectations of technology courtesy, thereby fully integrating technology expectations into the whole school’s standards of behavior.

Conclusion

For as many barriers as schools face when integrating technology, there are equally numerous, as well as creative, solutions. All require deep collaboration, clear planning, and ongoing professional development and assessment. Technology integration is never quick or easy, but it can be successfully planned and implemented.

See the Source List for this article Here