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.

The challenge with involving parents as part of a volunteer program in the school is that while most are eager to help, it’s extremely difficult to find ways to help students instructionally without providing intense training.  Parents are comfortable helping with homework, but actually improving reading or math skills in a pedagogically sound way is exactly why we have trained teachers in schools. Nothing will ever replace the presence of a teacher with students in a classroom. But Carrie’s principal heard about a new edtech company called BookNook that focused on helping any educator or volunteer work with students to improve their literacy. BookNook was going to allow Carrie to recruit and lead a group of volunteers and help students. It was a win-win!

After signing up for BookNook, Carrie received training from with Daniel Ruppert, a member of BookNook’s Customer Success team. Daniel walked her through how to manage the software program and how to get the  parent volunteers up and running.

Now this veteran of education had to start recruiting volunteers.

Carrie started recruitment at Elementary East’s Back to School Night. She received lists of potential volunteers from teachers and started to reach out to the parents. But she knew that wasn’t enough, so she went to a PTA meeting to recruit additional parent and community volunteers. She also had the PTA post on their Facebook page and website.

All in all, 12 volunteers were genuinely interested in becoming BookNook guides. Once Carrie described the program further, she had 7 people committed to reading with students at least once per week, including parents of students across the district and one school board member.

To launch the program, volunteers participated in a short training with Daniel and Carrie.  Next, Woodland’s block scheduling with dedicated reading intervention time allowed Carrie to pair groups of students with a regular volunteer based on their availability.

As the weeks progressed, the volunteers became more vested in the program and students. They have subbed for each other and have expressed interest in how their students are improving.  The students and volunteers truly build positive relationships with each other.

Significant Gains for Student Progress

In terms of results, the BookNook students have made amazing progress. What’s amazing is that even though the students on Tier II intervention increased their scores more than BookNook students, they were receiving almost daily interventions. BookNook students were receiving once per week interventions from a volunteer.  “I’ve loved using BookNook, and the volunteers have loved the opportunity it gives them to connect with students and get them excited about reading,” said Carrie.

*0 score represents a baseline for the BookNook Students

When it comes to future plans – Carrie would love to continue to explore how to include more students in BookNook for the 2019 school year.  Additional goals are to work with the school level literacy team which will allow BookNook to continue to change the lives of students, one book at a time.