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

    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 

Preliminary Fall Results Show BookNook Students are Closing the COVID Reading Gap

Preliminary Fall Results Show BookNook Students are Closing the COVID Reading Gap

Since Labor Day, BookNook students have logged more than 45,000 sessions of guided reading, reading intervention, and tutoring on our platform, and we couldn’t be more proud of all the hard work they’ve put in–and the resourcefulness we’ve seen from schools and nonprofits as they navigate distance learning.

These students have shown us mastery of specific state standards nearly 15,000 times and gained a collective 1,062 reading levels, all in just 9 weeks. But most exciting of all is what we’re able to see when we analyze the progress students are making as they recover from the learning losses related to Covid-19.

How We Measure Reading Skill Growth

BookNook’s patented technology collects and analyzes data every time students log on, allowing us to understand in real time their strengths and areas for improvement. This progress monitoring is invaluable to educators, helping them to adapt to each student’s unique needs without having to conduct a formal reading assessment every time they want to check up on a struggling reader. 

Having current and actionable assessment data for reading can be difficult for administrators and educators even in the best of times, much more so during the pandemic–so having data that allows for quick adjustments to instruction has proven to be critical in successfully addressing “Covid slide.”

While we track many different metrics that predict student reading proficiency, the one we focus on the most is a student’s independent reading level as it relates to expected grade level, or benchmark. We measure both where a student begins relative to grade level and then the progress they are making while they use BookNook.

Because we are gathering data in real time, we can assess how many months of reading skill growth students are making during each month they use the program. This gives us a universal progress metric across students who have participated in the program for different lengths of time, and who had different gaps to grade level when they began.

Students are Closing Gaps to Grade Level Reading

Looking at a subset of data from our K-3 students who logged at least 10 sessions during this period, a clear picture is emerging that rigorous reading instruction can make a difference, even under the challenging circumstances of distance learning.

On average, we saw students more than doubling the pace of their reading skill growth, going from falling behind during spring and summer, to catching up while using BookNook in the fall.

The result is that students began rapidly catching up to their expected grade level in reading while using BookNook, narrowing the reading opportunity gap. This fall, our average K-3 student began using the app roughly 5 months below grade level in reading, and by mid November that had already reduced that gap to just 1.5 months.

What More Can We Do for Students?

Results like this truly take a village. It starts with determined students, eager to learn, aided by thousands of parents, tutors, caregivers, educators, paraprofessionals, AmeriCorps members, and volunteers. To date, BookNook is now in 34 states with new city and district-wide partnerships blossoming every week, from urban non-profit coalitions in Detroit, MI, to coastal schools across California, Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and Maryland–and almost every state in between. 

While we are encouraged by these results, there is still much more work to do. First and foremost, we hope to see many more students joining the BookNook community, which is why we’ve created free access for individual teachers and parents/guardians here. We also encourage families and educators to check out some of the best practices we’ve written about on our blog, such as how to create a literacy rich environment at home.

But most of all, we all need to stay focused on the importance of reading proficiency for students. The pandemic has created so many needs for children, families and educators. Our data show that with concerted effort and rigorous tools, students can make tremendous gains, so let’s keep making reading the priority that it needs to be to ensure students are successful in school, and in life.

Creating a Literacy Rich Learning Environment Remotely

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.

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
aaron@booknooklearning.com

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.

BookNook Takes a Stand With Equity-Based Pricing

BookNook Takes a Stand With Equity-Based Pricing

Equity has been one of BookNook’s core values since the very beginning of our journey. The phrase we use to define it is “We Are Our Community.” We talk about it that way both because we want our team to look like our users, but also as a reminder that when something we created becomes part of a child’s life, we by extension become a part of their community.

Recently we’ve asked ourselves some hard questions about the kind of community member we have been. Like many in the field of education, we come from a place of good intentions–our mission is to close the educational opportunity gap. On the surface, it’s easy to tell ourselves that what we are doing must obviously advance equity.

But the way we go about that work matters, and on deeper reflection we’ve come to realize that we have made choices with unintentional but very real equity consequences. We want to acknowledge that publicly and commit to taking concrete action to be a better member of the communities we serve.

The hard truth that surfaced is this: the way we structure our fees is not equitable. Like most edtech companies, we charge based on how many students are using our program. On the surface this seems logical, but when considering that the most common use of BookNook is intervention it means we are, in effect, charging the most to the schools and nonprofits who serve the most struggling students–populations that overwhelmingly skew towards children of color.

We also treat our Spanish Dual Language Learner and Summer programs as “add ons” at an extra cost, reasoning that not every school or nonprofit will want to use them, so not everyone should be charged for them. Again, the practical effect here is to charge higher prices to schools serving higher need communities.

So, starting this summer we are rolling out an equity-based pricing model. When setting out our fees for a school or nonprofit, will expressly and transparently take into account the relative privilege of that community. The higher the percentage of children who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program, the less we will charge. We will also include our Spanish Dual Language Learner and Summer programs as part of our base subscription, rather than charging extra for it.

We realize this will mean some of our partners will see an increase in what they are asked to pay to use BookNook, and that others will see a decrease. Considering the equity gaps that have been once again thrust painfully into the forefront of our national consciousness, we think that is exactly what should happen in the moment.

We’ve run the numbers on this (another of our values is “Data Rule Everything Around Me”), and we expect that the net effect with our current partners is that they will be charged less. We hope that some of those partners will decide to reinvest their savings to provide more reading supports to struggling students as part of their Covid Slide responses. But if they need to use those funds to provide other crucial services or to make up for budget cuts, that is more than understandable.

We realize that, like all actions taken individually, this alone is an insufficient response to the issues we as a nation must grapple with. So at BookNook we will continue to reflect on ways in which we can “be our community,” act on our values, and work with partners to do more for the schools, nonprofits, and students we serve.

We Are [Striving to be a Better Member of] Our Community.

Michael Lombardo-CEO