Online Tutors Find Purpose Beyond the Paycheck

Online Tutors Find Purpose Beyond the Paycheck

“I want to be that teacher that helps kids feel confident and enjoy learning.” Catie Symalla, BookNook Tutor and public school teacher

BookNook Tutoring has emerged as a force for good in the online tutoring world, and tutors are noticing. Says BookNook Tutor and TESOL-certified teacher Cynthia Drapac, “Working with BookNook makes tutoring feel like a noble pursuit. It shocked me. I didn’t realize this element was missing for me until I felt it.” 

Like most teachers, online tutors crave the opportunity to make a significant difference in kids’ lives. Add that to the combination of autonomy and support that BookNook offers, and tutors are finding a tutoring gig that checks all the boxes. 

No longer just for families who can afford it 

BookNook works with students who need reading and math intervention to catch up to grade level. “The learning gap was wide before the pandemic, and COVID has exacerbated the problem,” says Jason Singer, VP for Tutor Experience at BookNook. “Schools and teachers simply don’t have the capacity to address this massive need,” he continues. 

BookNook is filling this void by offering online tutoring in the form of synchronous, small-group instruction. Schools, not parents, pay for BookNook tutoring services, so it’s students who need it most that receive the extra help. “I’m so glad we’re catching these kids; otherwise, they’ll just float along, for who knows how long,” says Lynnleith Patterson, BookNook Tutor and ESL teacher. 

BookNook tutoring is about measurably advancing students’ skills , not whizzing students through lessons, just to check a box that says the lesson was completed.  “I cherish the opportunity to be fully present with the kids,” says Cynthia. “‘I am an adult who is paying attention to you.’ This alone can make a huge difference in their lives!” 

Community and support 

Often, online tutoring can be an isolating profession. As independent contractors at home working from their computers, virtual tutors aren’t regularly connecting with professional peers. BookNook tries to change that paradigm and create spaces for Tutors to chat with each other online and get support when needed. “I can connect with other teachers and Tutors in real time,” says Cynthia. “I was struck by the heartbeat of the BookNook team. ‘We want to create a community for you guys as Tutors.’”

BookNook provides live tech support and meet-ups with Tutors over Zoom for “coffee corners,” to talk about how things are going, answer Tutor questions, and provide Tutors with resources on working with BookNook’s platform. “We value our Tutors immensely. We want them to feel a sense of purpose, community and pride working for BookNook,” says Jason. 

“The BookNook personality is very bubbly and nice,” says Catie. “They’re engaging and very comfortable to talk to.”

“I like the diversity,” says BookNook Tutor Kimberlee Walter, a seasoned English-language teacher trainer and tutor. “BookNook seems really interested in our feedback.”

An online tutoring platform that’s easy to use

BookNook’s platform is designed to advance students’ reading and math levels. It starts students at their current level and meets them there, providing instruction and assessments that build and grow their literacy abilities. “BookNook feels authentically excited about stewarding the next generation of students, teachers, and teaching,” says Cynthia. “They really want to make a difference in the literacy gap.”

The combination of video and technology allows for synchronous instruction and the development of important relationships between students and Tutors. The curriculum is embedded, so Tutors don’t have to bring their own or do any lesson planning. Says BookNook Tutor Cindy Hatok, a reading coach and former public school teacher. “I love the curriculum. It’s fun and easy to work with.”

Plus, Tutors are encouraged to use their own personal teaching styles, allowing them to connect more deeply with students and come up with their own ideas for effective teaching strategies. 

BookNook Tutor Dr. Diana Carle was working with a student who was clearly bright but whose negative self-talk was getting in his way. The student’s teacher was very communicative, and Diana suggested she and the teacher work together to offer the student a reward for participating in all his tutoring sessions.

“It was night and day, the transformation,” Diana says. “As soon as he knew he had that reward, and a Tutor on one end and a classroom teacher on the other working with him, he started getting practice questions and assessment questions right. He did it, and he’s learning that he can do it, and he comes every day with that attitude. At the end of each session, I give his teacher a report, and he can praise and high five the student. I treasure him. He is my most difficult student, but I treasure my interactions with him the most.”

Says Tutor Lynnlieth, “I love the diversity of the students. I just love working here.”

Think you’d also love working at BookNook? Learn more about becoming an online tutor.

BookNook Announces New Opportunities for Virtual Teachers

BookNook Announces New Opportunities for Virtual Teachers

BookNook Inc., the largest provider of school-based virtual tutoring in the United States, today announced the launch of its new teacher application portal at Teachers who have experience in the classroom will be able to apply to become BookNook virtual tutors, working one-on-one or in small groups with students in grades K-8 on BookNook’s patented synchronous instruction platform.

“We believe in the power of live human teaching as the best way to accelerate learning for students while also supporting their socio-emotional development,” said Michael Lombardo, Founder & CEO of BookNook. “As we continue our rapid growth, we are excited to be able to invite thousands of experienced educators to help us advance our mission of promoting equity in education.”

Multiple peer-reviewed studies have shown that tutoring and small group instruction are among the most effective ways to accelerate student learning. BookNook follows the principles of High Dosage Tutoring, where students receive two to four regular sessions each week, working with the same teacher or tutor and utilizing a rigorous, standards-aligned curriculum.

The company expects to engage 10,000 virtual teachers to provide support for 80,000 students by the end of the 2021-2022 school year.  BookNook tutoring takes place both during and after-school and most teachers are expected to be engaged in a part-time capacity.

“BookNook has been such a positive experience in my teaching! It has really helped me grow as an educator as I have worked with students K-8 in small literacy groups,” said Hannah Fried, who provided summer tutoring through the MSU Urban Immersion Fellowship. “The best part of working with BookNook is my students–from greeting them and talking about their weeks to reading with them, this experience has been invaluable.”

“This is an unprecedented time for teachers and tutors alike,” said Jason Singer, Vice-President of BookNook’s Tutor Experience. “Through our partnerships with K12 schools and districts, BookNook offers mission-driven educators the opportunity to have a real and powerful impact on the academic lives of students who need us most.” 

About BookNook:
Founded in 2016, BookNook is a synchronous, evidence-based online learning platform that strives to ensure equitable access to rigorous and engaging instruction through technology innovation. A comprehensive turnkey solution that brings much-needed online support and tutoring for students, BookNook has quickly grown to partner with hundreds of schools, school districts, and nonprofits across 35 states, receiving national recognition for its impact on students’ reading ability and unique equity-based pricing model. For more information, visit

Media Inquiries:
Felicia Riley

Writing a New Chapter Together

Writing a New Chapter Together

BookNook has a new look and here’s why…

It’s been a big year at BookNook, as we’ve grown to serve over 400 partner schools, school districts, and nonprofits across 35 states. Our BookNook logo and brand have been one of the few constants as we’ve gone from 6 people working out of a converted warehouse space in Oakland to over 50 employees and contractors spread out across the US.

Much as we have loved working under the blue and white banner, we feel it’s time for a change. Our new brand identity showcases a new logo, font, and colors. But that’s not all. Beyond our logo update,  we also took a good look at our mission, messaging, and focus to better reflect the way we help meet the needs of schools and communities.

Here’s what’s changed:

  • New Tagline = Grow together We have been troubled by the deficit based mindset being used to talk about the trauma children, families, and educators have experienced during the pandemic. Because of this we chose to update our tagline to reflect a growth mindset and to emphasize the importance of meaningful person-to-person connections. It’s true that no app can teach a child alone — it takes a human touch.
  • New Multi-Color Logo  goes beyond just good style. It represents our multiple product offerings, including both our core K-8 ELA instructional program and our new remote tutoring service, which has been growing by leaps and bounds. The rainbow effect showcases that the sky’s the limit for BookNook as we prepare to support subjects beyond ELA. 
  • New Mission Statement. We feel that times of great change and growth are also times to reflect on our purpose as a company. To that end, we’ve updated our mission statement:BookNook is on a mission to ensure equitable access to rigorous and engaging instruction through technology innovation

    Legacy BookNook Logo

    BookNook’s Legacy Logo

Here’s what will
always remain the same:

  • Our commitment to serving students
  • Our belief in collaborative learning
  • Our dedication to equity

This is a very exciting time of growth for the BookNook team. We are incredibly proud of the work that we do, and are thankful for the employees, the partnerships, and the communities that have accompanied us in our growth. 

Here’s to the next chapter!

Michael Lombardo
Founder | CEO 

Creating a Literacy Rich Learning Environment Remotely

Creating a Literacy Rich Learning Environment Remotely

Recognizing reading and writing in everyday life helps children develop critical literacy skills.  In a literacy rich classroom environment, those examples are everywhere.  Children may, in fact, practice and build skills without even knowing it as they sing rhyming songs or enjoy a read aloud.  Providing access to a variety of writing materials, books, and print, also encourages kids to engage with reading and writing naturally.

As schools across the country are operating in hybrid, blended or full remote modes, creating a literacy rich environment in your classroom is no longer the only priority.  Educators need to also support parents and caregivers as they create their own print rich environments at home.  Instead of expecting them to recreate a classroom at home, provide support that makes it easy and accessible for all parents.

Student at home learning remotelyHere are some practical things you can do to help families easily create literacy rich environments at home.

  1. Have students do projects that can serve as reusable literacy resources at home.  For example, have students create posters, charts, and labels that families can hang on their walls.  You can also have students create books and to encourage more reading at home.
  2. Set up a lending library system for your class.  Help families rotate or swap books with one another or come to pick up book sets from the classroom.
  3. When you have synchronous class sessions, make time to have conversations and ask students lots of questions.  To encourage conversations at home, have kids ask their parents to tell them a family story or about a favorite memory.
  4. Share access to diverse e-book libraries, reading websites, apps, audiobooks, and videos of read alouds in multiple languages.  Confirm that every member of your class has access to a device and wifi.
  5. During your live class sessions, introduce literacy games that parents can easily play with their kids.  For example, practice listening with Simon Says, identify rhyming words by playing “I’m thinking of something that rhymes with…”, or get creative with jokes and riddles.
  6. Ask for parent volunteers to make additional literacy materials.  If it isn’t something that students can create themselves, ask if there are parents that can help out.  Some of your parents may be able to double up and create an extra one for sharing with a classmate.
  7. Help parents identify all the things already in their home that can support literacy- menus, recipes, photo albums, grocery lists, food labels, pens, crayons, paper, catalogs, flyers, coupons, TV menus, notes, cards, letters, etc, etc.

woman and daughter doing homework together

As parents navigate remote learning, it’s important to support them with exactly what they need. When we provide simple, actionable support we help parents build their confidence and the motivation to sustain their efforts.



This home environment checklist from Get Ready to Read in both English and Spanish is a great resource to share with your families.


Prince George’s County Public Schools & BookNook Announce Community Reading Initiative

Prince George’s County Public Schools & BookNook Announce Community Reading Initiative

Study after study has shown tutoring can make a huge difference for students having a hard time with reading, so BookNook is thrilled to be partnering with Prince George’s County Public Schools to deliver high quality and impactful remote tutoring to at least 4,000 students in grades K-2.

“We know what a difference this will make for students and families. Our summer remote tutoring programs saw students make 6 months of reading skill gains in 6 weeks, and 95% of families rated their experience a 10 out of 10,” says Michael Lombardo, founder and CEO of BookNook.

The buzz has just begun about the new partnership. Read our press release for details as well as a story by student journalist Dorvall Bedford in southern Maryland’s The Enquirer-Gazette.

The school district has wasted no time in kicking off the initiative, aptly named PGCPS READS. Regional community, non-profit and civic organizations have already mobilized to support PGCPS students, recruiting adult volunteers to serve as reading guides for young readers. Volunteers will spend 1-3 hours per week reading virtually to their students through the end of the school year. Access for all learners is key, with 800 different texts in English and Spanish available. BookNook provides students with instruction in basic skills, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension. Reports of student progress are also measured after each lesson. Families within Prince George’s County Public Schools can sign up for remote reading tutoring here.

PGCPS READS is a model initiative that BookNook is determined to bring to districts and schools across the country, teaming up with educators and education leaders to make a real and measurable difference for all students.

About BookNook

BookNook is a social enterprise on a mission to close the reading opportunity gap by using technology to provide every student access to world-class teaching, whether at school or online. Founded in 2016, BookNook has quickly grown to partner with hundreds of schools, school districts, and nonprofits across 32 states. It has received national recognition for its impact on students’ reading ability and its unique equity-based pricing model.

Learn more about Partnership opportunities like PGCPS READS:                         
Aaron Waters

Announcing our Distance Learning Results: BookNook Students Kept Growing

Announcing our Distance Learning Results: BookNook Students Kept Growing

Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of thousands of parents, caregivers, educators, tutors, AmeriCorps members, volunteers–and, of course, students–BookNook is proud to announce the results of our spring Distance Learning programs.

Like most in the field of education, we found ourselves facing a crisis we had not prepared for when schools began closing in March. Fears of students regressing in their reading proficiency due to a ‘Covid Slide’ compelled us to act quickly and decisively to keep students learning.


While our program was designed for synchronous, in-person learning taking place at school or in childcare settings, we were able to quickly move to a purely online format. By the end of April, we were able to migrate nearly 40% of our in-person learning students to regular online distance learning sessions.

Because BookNook collects and analyzes data in real time while students are online, we were able to measure the impact of regular usage of our program despite most of the schools and nonprofits we partner with not being able to conduct end-of-year or ‘post’ assessments on reading proficiency.

Among students who spent a minimum of just three hours using BookNook from April to June, 91% were able to maintain their level of reading proficiency, experiencing no Covid Slide at all. Better still, 57% actually advanced in their reading level during school closures, ending at a higher level of achievement in June than they were in March.


The average BookNook student gained three months of reading skills during school closures, keeping them more or less exactly on pace with what should have happened in a normal school year. Put another way, BookNook students made the same progress during Distance Learning as would be expected in the classroom.

This is particularly meaningful because the majority of our students use BookNook in the context of intervention. Our average student has been falling behind in reading by about 1/3 of a grade level per year before they start using BookNook, meaning that a typical third grader is about a year below benchmark when they start using BookNook.

When comparing our students’ previous rate of reading level growth to what they showed during school closures, we saw that our average student was progressing at a pace 2.4 times faster, more than doubling their pace of growth.

Of course, none of these results would have been possible without our partner families, schools, and nonprofits, spread out across 32 states now. We are grateful to work with so many people who are so dedicated to helping students become strong, confident, lifelong readers. Together we are making a real and measurable difference.