HILLSBOROUGH, N.C., March 8, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Orange County Public Schools (OCS) today announced a new effort to support students with their reading development through a large-scale tutoring program targeting over 1,000 K-8 students across the district.
Students will be tutored in small groups, three times per week beginning in early April and running through the end of June. Instruction will take place via Zoom both at home and at school, depending on individual student circumstances. Students identified by a teacher as needing additional reading support will be prioritized for enrollment.
“If your child doesn’t like to read, struggles to read, or needs to read more, then BookNook is for you,” said Dr. Monique Felder, Superintendent. “Reading is the foundation for all learning and OCS is committed to ensuring that every student has what they need to become a confident lifelong reader.”
To operate the program, OCS will partner with BookNook, the nation’s largest provider of remote reading instruction capacity for schools and nonprofits. Through its patented synchronous instruction platform for PreK-8 reading and nationwide network of vetted tutors, BookNook is able to provide an online tool perfectly suited to the needs of students for live, impactful teaching.
“Now is the time when students need the personalized touch that only real, human teaching can provide,” said Michael Lombardo, Founder and CEO of BookNook. “We are excited to see districts like OCS stepping up to meet this moment and finding innovative ways to address the opportunity gap that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.”
Orange County Schools educates more than 7,200 students in 13 schools. We are proud of and embrace the diversity of our students and families:
- 52% White
- 26% Hispanic
- 14% Black
- 7% Multi-Racial
- 1% Asian
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 35 states. It has received national recognition for its impact on students’ reading growth and its unique equity-based pricing model.
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URBAN LEAGUE LAUNCHES A LITERACY PROGRAM FOR MNPS STUDENTS
NASHVILLE, TN—Urban League of Middle Tennessee, in partnership with the web-based application BookNook, has launched a free literary initiative for kindergarten through third-grade students enrolled in three Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. The Read and Rise Literacy program provides one-hour virtual tutoring for children who attend Schwab, Amqui, and Warner Elementary Schools. A parent or caretaker can accompany children during the one-on-one session with an adult volunteer, who will teach phonics, reading comprehension and offer interactive reading games. The program also provides social emotional learning.
“ULMT recognized that Read and Rise would not only be impactful in changing the lives within underserved communities, but it was also fiscally-sound and sustainable. BookNook has proven to be effective across the country,” said ULMT CEO Clifton Harris. “The tutor and student relationship dynamic unlocks the possibility of what children can be and allows them to envision what they can have with someone who looks like them. The child’s family can be involved. Also, it allows the volunteer to give back.”
Read and Rise will run from March 1 through April 30. Individuals who are interested in volunteering may visit https://www.ulmt.org/events-1/read-and-rise-volunteer-signups-1
About the National Urban League and Urban League of Middle Tennessee
Established in 1910, The National Urban League is the nation’s oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream. Today, the National Urban League, headquartered in New York City, spearheads the non-partisan efforts of its local affiliates. Over 90 local affiliates of the National Urban League located in 36 states and the District of Columbia providing direct services to more than 2 million people nationwide through programs, advocacy, and research.
The Urban League of Middle Tennessee was chartered on April 15, 1968, by a group of diverse business and community leaders to “Carry on social service programs improving the economic welfare of Negroes.” In 2008, ULMT celebrated 52 years of Empowering Nashville and Middle Tennessee Communities and has built a strong reputation for connecting job seekers and employers together for success. Since 2004, ULMT has added up to 12 million dollars back into the Nashville economy due to successes in connecting clients with employers.
The Urban League of Middle Tennessee’s mission is to enable African Americans, other minorities, and disenfranchised groups to secure economic self-reliance, power, parity, and civil rights. Efforts focused on the following areas: Economic Empowerment – which includes workforce development, jobs, housing, and entrepreneurship; Youth & Education services focused on ensuring academic competence while preparing our young people for life, leadership and success within a global economy; Health & Quality of Life for all and particularly for the least of our citizens; Civic Engagement and empowering communities through participation in the political process; and Civil Rights and Racial Justice.
Whitney M. Young Jr. best articulated the Urban League’s need during his tenure as executive director from 1961 – 1971. He stated, “As this country sinks deeper into polarization and bitterness, the need for the Urban League’s role as a bridge between the races and as a problem-solver and a hope-giver becomes more crucial.”
By Dr. Tiffany L. Bridgewater, Head of Lower School & Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion-Louisville Collegiate School
The way we look at student and family engagement has changed during the past year. The unique challenges presented to schools due to COVID-19 have made it necessary to reimagine the way schools engage with students and families in K-12 education. This reimagination is particularly true for educators of school-age children who have had to rethink aspects of student engagement utilizing a hybrid (flexible) learning model. Many elementary schools have introduced technology to students much earlier than in previous years out of necessity to continue delivering academic content. Elementary schools have also considered new ways to address the social-emotional needs of students in a virtual world. How do schools continue to engage (academically and social-emotionally) with students in authentic ways that are transferable regardless of where the instruction is taking place? That is the single most consequential question teachers, administrators, and parents have asked themselves since the pandemic began one year ago.
This is true for all schools, private and public. Many private schools can more easily modify the delivery of their instructional content/programming because they usually operate outside of large districts. Private schools often have a smaller population of students and staff to manage, while most public schools do not because they serve thousands of students and employ hundreds of staff in multiple locations. Many private schools also benefit from discretionary funding that can be used to support unforeseen changes in content/programming in order to maintain high-quality student instruction. Despite their differences, private schools, like their public school counterparts, have grappled with a diversity of learners from different backgrounds and economic resources who are all learning during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
Notwithstanding these challenges, many private and public schools have discovered student engagement in the age of COVID-19 isn’t impossible, but it does require a different, more flexible way of thinking about student engagement. While the methods used to increase student engagement have been utilized by teachers in classrooms for years, what is different is how teachers apply these tools based on the individual needs of each student and how each student is receiving instruction, in-person or remotely. Below are a few methods/strategies to consider:
- Make students active participants in their learning. Putting students in the driver’s seat when it comes to their learning is the first step to good student engagement. First, design participation in the classroom that will allow students to connect with the teacher and their peers in-person and at home. Collaboration in the classroom, especially when hybrid instruction is necessary, is easier than ever before thanks to a variety of online resources – Zoom, Skype, Google Meet. These resources also make it easy to build and maintain student connections to help draw peers at home on the screen into discussions through pair shares, buddy reads, and classroom games. Students’ ability to learn and share with one another is limitless in the age of COVID-19. Giving students an active role in their learning is vital to student engagement and success.
- Create predictability and consistency in every routine. Predictable and consistent routines are essential for students. Establishing routines that are predictable and consistent helps students understand what they need to accomplish. Even the most complicated school schedule (like a six-day rotation schedule) should provide students with a feeling of safety and security about what comes next in their academic day. Creating routines to help guide the ins and outs of the overall schedule provides students with the safety and security they need to fully engage in their learning. When students understand what comes next, building student engagement is easy to do.
- Keep students moving through movement and play. Movement is also something that students desperately need at school and home. Throughout the academic day, provide movement breaks through play at recess and physical education classes. Create stretch breaks as a transition between content area classes. Likewise, extend your walk from your classroom to other parts of the building to keep students actively moving. When teachers and parents can incorporate lots of physical activity throughout the day through play, it not only helps to keep students engaged but it’s good for their overall health and well being.
- Build-in check-in breaks. To keep students engaged, meet for briefer periods more frequently. Also, lean into asynchronous time. Use those screen-free opportunities to check-in with your students in small groups as well as individually. These check-ins allow teachers to gauge not only their academic performance but also where they are social-emotionally. When planning your breaks, build-in breaks directly into the lesson plan. Based on the age of the child, practice brain breaks before students grow fatigued or distracted. Also important when incorporating breaks into the day is to consider the transition from brain breaks back to direct instruction. Mindfulness activities using breathing exercises may be the easiest way to move from a brain break to work. These strategies are useful during in-person and remote-instruction to help maintain student engagement.
- “Chunk” instruction to meet the individual needs of students. If you can only meet once a week, then make that time with students count. But whenever possible, chunk your student instruction three times a week for 30 minutes. Chunking instruction for upper elementary school students (grades 3-5) receiving recovery instruction may require three times a week for 40 minutes instead of once for one hour. Using break-out rooms via Zoom may be useful. This plan’s effectiveness depends on the content area and the student’s age. Therefore, make the necessary adjustments based on the individual needs of your learners. Chunking instruction is another way to meet the individual needs of students while simultaneously increasing student engagement.
- Maximize screen-free activities. Create authentic screen-free activities throughout the day for students in the classroom and at home to limit zoom fatigue. When developing these plans, consider the platforms you are using. Platforms like Google Classroom and Seesaw allow teachers to plan explicit synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Screen-free activities give students the ability to explore their creativity and curiosity. Screen-free activities are also less structured and provide autonomy based on family schedules. Moreover, create discrete options for students to explore and build individual interests. Some ideas include: taking a nature walk, creating a quiet space for independent reading, strengthening math facts or vocabulary using flashcards or journaling. With careful planning and coordination with parents, students can do these sorts of activities in the classroom and at home.
As schools navigate the unique challenges of hybrid learning during a pandemic, it is important to look at these challenges as opportunities to reimage the way we connect with students in-person or at home. No matter where instruction happens, student engagement must be a part of the lesson plan. Therefore, when:
- Students are allowed to be involved in their learning
- Students understand and can predict what comes next
- Students are provided movement and brain breaks throughout the day
- Teachers utilize the latest technology to chunk (differentiate) instruction; every student wins!
Both private and public schools can make deep connections with students (especially our young learners) in the age of COVID-19 that keep all learners engaged and ready to learn. However, it requires a different, more flexible way of thinking about student engagement no matter where the learning takes place.
Dr. Tiffany L. Bridgewater is an experienced educator, diversity facilitator, and early childhood advocate. Tiffany’s commitment to the development of policies and procedures that support the academic and social-emotional needs of students of color is long-standing. Tiffany has served in various roles including classroom teacher, middle school advisor, dorm parent, diversity practitioner, admission outreach coordinator, and adjunct professor at Belmont University in Nashville, TN, and Marymount University in Arlington, VA.
A graduate of Fisk University, Tiffany earned her B.A. in English, an M.A. in English & Humanities, an M.A. in Education both from Marymount University, and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Spalding University in Louisville, KY. Dr. Bridgewater is currently the Head of Lower School & Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Louisville Collegiate School in Louisville, KY.
Teachers who work with early readers know that these students need lots of encouragement, support, and feedback as their skills develop. A balanced literacy program includes opportunities for that type of engagement through quality whole group teaching, in small groups, and with individual reading support. Small group literacy instruction is a crucial component of this balanced approach because it gives students a low risk environment to practice and apply new skills.
Teaching small groups and guided reading isn’t as easy, though, for teachers who are teaching fully remote or hybrid. On top of the challenge of supporting these emergent readers from a distance, the reading opportunity gap continues to widen because of the lack of access and the decrease in face-to-face interactions.
Being dedicated to helping your students build literacy skills means you have to take advantage of the time you do have with them. Here are some tips on how you can get the most out of your small group instruction whether you are in person or remote.
- Have a routine. A routine helps assure that students are building on prior skills and connecting those with new concepts. Here’s an example.
- Warm up 3-5 mins. Review prior skills.
- Introduce students to new concepts through direct teaching and modeling
- Support students while they apply the skill by trying it together
- Provide encouragement and feedback while students try it on their own
- Check for understanding and close.
- Try different grouping strategies for guided reading groups. Work with small groups that are at the same instructional reading level, or pull students who need reinforcement of a particular strategy. Pair students with their classmates in the classroom, or experiment with breakout rooms. Whether you are in person or remote, use independent reading to build reading stamina.
- Balance your instruction. Small groups shouldn’t concentrate only on introducing a new leveled reader. This time is an opportunity to provide literacy intervention for a variety of skills including:
- Acquiring new vocabulary
- Understanding Science or Math through literature
- Increasing Fluency
- Building Comprehension
- Document what happens during your small groups. Assess and track student progress and achievements. Using a tool like BookNook, you can build assessments into your routine and easily monitor progress overtime. Keeping track of students interests can also help you know your students as readers and suggest books that you know will foster their love of reading.
- Find good digital text. If you’re teaching remotely, you still need to choose good literature, but you also have to think a bit more practically about the books you use. Ideally, you want to be able to display it easily while teaching and provide access for students afterward the lesson so they can build their fluency. Also remember, any good library collection provides quality literature at a variety of levels and both nonfiction and fiction text.
Small group time can be a powerful intervention for any reader. These tips can help you get the most out of your teacher-led groups. However, it isn’t just an opportunity for literacy instruction, it’s also an opportunity for you to build relationships with your students. Take advantage of this smaller setting to give you and your students a break from a hectic schedule or Zoom calls. Then tackle reading.
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.
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: