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
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.
Here are some practical things you can do to help families easily create literacy rich environments at home.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
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.
What books will you read your first week back? The first books you read with your students give you the opportunity to discuss all those “Back to School” feelings and set the tone for the learning environment you want to create with them this school year. I like a balanced mix of “Back to School” books and books that encourage values I feel are especially important in my classroom. Check out the list below for my favorite books to kick the year off!