Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement

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Now more than ever, people with learning and visual disabilities are flourishing in the classroom, launching productive careers and becoming assets in their communities. This blog spotlights remarkable individuals who demonstrate that having a visual or print disability is no barrier to educational success.


Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss! Audiobook Recommendations
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February 23, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! Dr. Seuss is considered a genius for writing content that supports early childhood reading development using word recognition through rhyme, creating a sense of fun by building on an ever-growing chaotic plot, and appealing to all audiences. Through good times and bad, his books have brought families and elementary classes many hours of fun reading. Here's a list of books (non-controversial) that we recommend you read.

 

Happy Birthday to You

Grade Level: 1-4
Lexile: NPL
Fly with the Great Birthday Bird in this fantastical commemoration of YOU And make the most of your special day, which only comes once a year.


 

Cat in the Hat

Grade Levels: Preschool - 2
Lexile: 260L
Poor Dick and Sally. It's cold and wet and they're stuck in the house with nothing to do . . . until a giant cat in a hat shows up, transforming the dull day into a madcap adventure and almost wrecking the place in the process!


 

Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories

Grade Level: K-3
Lexile:AD650L
This follow-up to The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories features familiar Seussian faces and places. this new volume of "lost" tales is a perfect gift for young readers and a must-have for Seuss collectors of all ages!


 

If I ran the circus

Grade Level: 1 - 4
Lexile: NPL
Young Morris McGurk lets his imagination run wild with his circus McGurkus. "Fun for the entire family.


Got a book list suggestion? Send your ideas to allkidscanread@learningally.org and help us get you the books you want and need to read.


About Learning Ally

Learning Ally is a leading nonprofit ed-tech organization delivering a comprehensive learning solution for struggling readers in elementary, middle and high schools. Our proven solution includes the most extensive library of human-read audiobooks that students want and need to read both at home and at school. This reading experience helps accelerate learning, enables a new level of access to knowledge and powerfully increases confidence and self-belief.

Learning Ally empowers over 240,000 students with improved comprehension, vocabulary, fluency and critical thinking skills. For over 70 years, we have helped transform the lives of struggling readers by bridging the gap between their reading capability and their academic potential as they confidently become lifelong learners who thrive in school and beyond.

Learn More About Becoming a Learning Ally Member

 

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Audiobook Recommendations to Celebrate Multicultural Week
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February 8, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

In celebration of our nation's melting pot of cultures and storytelling, we compiled a list of authors that have brought joy and delight to students everywhere. Their books highlight their own dynamic cultures and families, sharing different perspectives on everyday life. We recommend the following audiobooks, and think that students will enjoy reading them.

Andrea Cheng

 

Andrea_Cheng

Popular Book Title: Year of the Book

Children’s book author and educator Andrea Cheng, authored books with an intercultural and intergenerational focus. Cheng was born in El Paso, Texas in 1957, the daughter of Hungarian immigrants. Cheng grew up with her two siblings and extended family living together under one roof. Inspired by her family, a young Andrea enjoyed writing her own stories throughout her years in elementary and middle school. Andrea married Jim Cheng, who was also the son of immigrants.


 

Author Meg Medina

Popular Book title: Mango, Abuela, and Me

Meg Medina is a Cuban-American writer of young adult fiction, who grew up in Queens, New York, where she met her husband Javier Menéndez. Medina's parents both emigrated from Cuba prior to her birth, her family's stories serve as the inspiration for her writing. 


 

Matt de la Pena

Popular title: Last Stop on Market Street

Matt de la Peña born in San Diego, California received his BA from University of the Pacific which he attended on a basketball scholarship. He then received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University. To date, de la Peña has written 15 books, the latest being Last Stop on Market Street which won the 2016 Newbery Medal. He currently resides in Brooklyn where he teaches creative writing courses at New York University.


 

Tracey Baptiste

Popular Book Title: Jumbies

Tracey Baptiste was born in Trinidad; she grew up on local folklore and fairy tales, and decided to be a writer at the age of three. Her debut, a young adult novel titled Angel’s Grace, was named one of the 100 best books for reading and sharing by New York City librarians. Tracey is a former teacher, textbook editor, ballerina, and amateur librarian. She is now a wife and mom and lives in New Jersey, where she writes and edits books for kids.


 

Frank Cotrell Boyce

Popular Title: Millions

Frank Cottrell Boyce was born in Liverpool and studied English at Oxford University. In 2004, he wrote a book for children based on his own screenplay - Millions - and this book won the 2004 Carnegie Medal. It was published as a play in 2010. His second children's novel, Framed, was shortlisted for both the 2005 Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year Award.


 

Shaun Tan (Illustrator)

Popular title: Trapped

Shaun Tan is an Australian artist, writer and filmmaker. He won an Academy Award for The Lost Thing, a 2011 animated film adaptation of a 2000 picture book he wrote and illustrated. In 2006, his wordless graphic novel The Arrival won the Book of the Year prize as part of the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards. The same book won the Children's Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year award in 2007.and the Western Australian Premier's Book Awards Premier's Prize in 2006.


Got a book list suggestion? Send your ideas to: allkidscanread@learningally.org and help us get you the books you want and need to read.


About Learning Ally

Learning Ally is a leading nonprofit ed-tech organization delivering a comprehensive learning solution for struggling readers in elementary, middle and high schools. Our proven solution includes the most extensive library of human-read audiobooks that students want and need to read both at home and at school. This reading experience helps accelerate learning, enables a new level of access to knowledge and powerfully increases confidence and self-belief.

Learning Ally empowers over 240,000 students with improved comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, and critical thinking skills. For over 70 years, we have helped transform the lives of struggling readers by bridging the gap between their reading capability and their academic potential as they confidently become lifelong learners who thrive in school and beyond.

Learn More About Becoming a Learning Ally Member
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North Carolina Struggling Readers Are ‘Reading to Learn’ With Access to Audiobooks
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February 8, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

Learning Ally, a leading K-12 ed-tech reading solution, provides students with dyslexia and print disabilities in NC public and charter schools with access to more than 80,000 quality ‘human-read’ audiobooks to strengthen their reading comprehension skills to ‘read to learn.’ 


February 6, 2018 - Princeton, NJ – Middle and high school students in the Mitchell County Public School District, NC are keeping better academic pace with their peers thanks to a partnership with Learning Ally, a leading K-12 ed-tech reading solution. The nonprofit enjoys a rich history of serving struggling readers by providing high quality, human-read audiobooks as well as a suite of teacher and student resources that easily integrate into the school’s instructional environment.

Kristie Autrey, Curriculum Director for Mitchell County School District credits her state for its leadership in providing accessible books for students who need them. Autrey has a Masters in Reading and is an expert in the Orton-Gillingham instructional method for teaching students with dyslexia. 

Mitchell County middle and high school students have some of the highest usage of Learning Ally in the state. Students can easily download audiobooks to their devices for English, history, biology and other academic subjects. 

NC Students in Class using audiobooks“Too many students fall behind and some drop out because they can’t keep pace with grade-level assignments,” says Autrey. “These kids are smart and have the desire and intellectual aptitude to be high achievers. By the time they reach upper elementary, they feel defeated. Learning Ally has helped us to reverse this course.” 

An eighth grader in her district, diagnosed with dyslexia in the fourth grade, is now able to read books on par with his intellectual ability. He attends upper-level classes, loves literature and shows pride in his achievements.

Research suggests that one in five students has dyslexia in the U.S. and may benefit from a multisensory reading experience in which text can be seen and heard simultaneously through highlighted words on a digital device, like a smartphone, tablet or computer. Autrey believes that human-read audiobooks take learning engagement to a higher level than computer voices.

In 2017, NC passed SB 149 House Bill requiring that the North Carolina State Board of Education ensure professional development opportunities are available for the identification of and intervention strategies for students with dyslexia or other specific learning disabilities and that information is made available electronically to provide information on the characteristics of students with dyslexia and educational methods.

During her district implementation, Autry met with educators in seven schools in her district to discuss Learning Ally. Teachers and librarians embraced the library quickly to find audiobooks for students based on grade level, intellectual ability or personal interests. Autrey mailed letters to parents describing the benefit of audiobooks, especially for students who did not have Internet access at home. She wrote, “Your children can download a book in school and read it at home.”

Autrey has also shared her observations with colleagues. “Today our students are reading more independently. They have improved their fluency, comprehension, vocabulary and critical thinking skills. They complete their assignments on time. Their morale has improved. These are all strong indicators of a beneficial education reading resource.”

For more information about Learning Ally, contact your district Exceptional Children’s Department or Madelyn Dabbs, Education Engagement Manager at mDabbs@LearningAlly.org - 609-520-8038.

To request a demo call 800-221-1098 or sign up for a demo at: www.learningally.org/educators/demos.

Other NC schools with high usage include Watauga County and Buncombe County. 

Learning Ally partners with state education departments in NJ, FL, NC, MA, IL, CA, VA, IN, and TX.  
                        

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Shaping the Future of ‘Reading to Learn’ Using Data, Science and Automation
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February 5, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

by Andrew Friedman, President and CEO, Learning Ally

 

It is apparent that the ed-tech community remains vigilant in tackling both the age-old problems in public education and the rapid shifts that compel our industry forward -- to develop the best products and services that will significantly benefit our students and the educators who teach them.

There are many challenges to overcome before a “nirvana” in public education can occur, but the one that remains consistent is the vast reading crisis in America. A failure to read for any student is never an option and their inability to read has far-reaching consequences for all -- from the school administrator to the teacher, student, their family, our industry and our nation. Reading challenges affect all student populations, yet those at the highest risk are children born into low-income households and students who have gone undiagnosed with a learning disability, like dyslexia for many years of their education. These students have and will suffer a great tragedy and many may never reach their true academic potential.

When we look at the research about reading in the U.S., it signals an alarm. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2015 results reports among the 10,000,000 kindergartners entering school this year, (2016) 6.4 million of them will not be reading at grade level proficiency in four years. These students are 400% more likely to not receive a high school diploma than their peers. The statistics show the lack of reading proficiency in our nation is a key reason why an estimated 8,000 students drop out of school each day limiting their financial potential and ability to compete in the workforce. By 2020, the U.S. will face a shortage of 1.5 million workers with college degrees.

How are we to tackle this critical issue so that more students can break through the cycle of poverty, learn at the same pace as their peers, and be active learners? There is never a silver bullet, but we must continue to bridge the gap for more struggling learners and support the many school leaders and teaching professionals who work in this endeavor.

The Key is Better Understanding Our Students

Just the sheer diversity of a U.S. school classroom today bodes many challenges of a rapidly traversing learning landscape, but we must remain even more focused to devise personalized learning strategies that can improve educational outcomes. Learning Ally believes that we are at an inflection point …and approaching the point where science and technology can help us to better understand our students and how they learn.

Through successful partnerships with State DOE’s, Denver Public Schools, the University of California at San Francisco Dyslexia Center, LAIP California Northridge, and many leading research experts in neuroscience and instructional design, we believe that every student should and will be able to receive a personalized learning plan. This will be the “new norm” for education excellence – customization, personalization and automation.

The result of many partnerships and the data we have been able to collect over our 70-year history of developing human-read audiobook solutions have provided great opportunities to study the reading patterns of all types of learners, all ages, all grades, all demographics and socio-graphics.

Emerging partnerships with neuro-researchers are now allowing us to better understand and identify root causes for the students we serve. We have seen shifts in educational (and we believe social and emotional) outcomes when we can engage struggling readers to read for more than 30 days consecutively in the school year. We know that continuing on this path will give us more insight into what engages specific types of learners.

To that mission, we are committed to all of you in our ed-tech and education communities to help to remove more barriers to learning so that every student will receive the environment and instruction that is best suited for them. This will ultimately help more students to reach their true academic potential in school and to lead lives that are more productive in all walks of life.

Learning Ally NAA Winners

Article originally published in the 2017 Voices of Industry column for MDR's EdNET.

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Learning Ally’s “Science of Reading Engagement” Emphasizes Education Gamification Best Practices to Build Stronger Reading Habits in Struggling Learners
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January 23, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

The lack of reading proficiency in the U.S. is prompting more educators to explore innovative ways to strengthen the reading habits of struggling learners. Learning Ally has developed a set of education gamification best practices to help to define the “Science of Reading Engagement,” and to demonstrate its effectiveness in U.S. schools through its annual reading competition -- The Great Reading Games.  


January 22, 2018 - Princeton, NJ

Students with CertificatesAs more K-12 educators search for proven ways to bridge the reading achievement gap for students of all ages, Learning Ally Labs, a division of Learning Ally, is using meta-data analysis and education gamification to define the “Science of Reading Engagement.”

Learning Ally is an ed-tech nonprofit working with 13,000 U.S. schools and districts to support students who may display high intellectual potential but lack the ability to read and comprehend grade-level text due to a learning disability, like dyslexia.

An intervention, such as a reading accommodation using human-read audiobooks designed for a school environment, can make a significant difference for these learners to build stronger reading habits, such as reading stamina and fluency, and to strengthen comprehension, critical thinking, and vocabulary skills.

The Great Reading Games, Learning Ally’s signature reading competition, is popular among K-12 teachers who are curious about using education gamification to unlock a child's full reading potential.

Last year, 1200 U.S. schools participated in the competition with over 17,000 students reading more than 5.3 million pages. Over 7 weeks, students were three times more likely to excel in reading frequency and 300% more likely to achieve levels of reading success that ties directly with students’ academic, emotional, and social behavior.

Jeff-HoJeffrey Ho, VP of Learning Ally New Product Development says, “Through data analysis, intertwined with classroom observations, and teacher input, we know that educators are constantly looking for ways to engage their students through new and innovative experiences. We have structured The Great Reading Games to help them achieve that through the integration of education gamification best practices proven to motivate students to read more books.”

 

The structure of the Great Reading Games include:

  • A clear explanation of the rules such as how students accrue points by reading books in a fair and consistent manner.
  • A visual leaderboard highlighting student performance motivating them to read frequently and to ignite a passion for reading.
  • The ability for teachers to uncover deeper emotional attitudes that their students have toward themselves as learners and to personalize student’s goals by applying this insight toward systemic classroom learning.
  • Rewards and prizes for students and teachers and recognition for their school.

Teachers who saw the greatest impact on students’ reading habits integrated the Great Reading Games directly into their class instruction, rather than in isolation of the school learning environment.

One teacher shared, “My seventh grader was practically in tears after finishing his first book EVER. This is when you realize you just received the biggest prize of all.”

Penny Moldofsky, a middle school teacher at Woodlynde School in Pennsylvania said, “This competition has motivated more than 90 of my students to access books and to enjoy a positive, comfortable, and enlightening reading experience.”

These are the types of positive outcomes our organization expects to achieve in all aspects of our reading solution, adds Mr. Ho.

This year, Learning Ally will continue to share its research findings on the Science of Reading Engagement with K-12 educators and administrators. At the 2018 Florida Education Technology Conference (FETC), Andrew Friedman, CEO and President of Learning Ally will participate in a discussion panel, "How Ed Tech Can Fill the LD Gaps,” on Thursday, January 25 at 10:00 am in South 331 CD-Orange County Convention Center.

For more information, call 800-221-1098 or visit www.learningally.org/educators.


About Learning Ally                                             

Learning Ally is a leading nonprofit ed-tech organization delivering a comprehensive learning solution for struggling readers in elementary, middle and high schools. Our proven solution includes an extensive library of human-read audiobooks that students want and need to read at home and at school, along with a suite of teacher-focused resources that ensure student success. This reading experience helps accelerate learning, enables a new level of access to knowledge and powerfully increases confidence and self-belief.

Learning Ally successfully partners with more than 13,000 U.S. schools, districts and leading state education systems across the country to empower over 240,000 students with improved comprehension, vocabulary, fluency and critical thinking skills. For over 70 years, the organization has helped to transform the lives of struggling readers by bridging the gap between their reading capability and their academic potential to become confident, lifelong learners who thrive in school and beyond.

Read More about Learning Ally’s “Science of Reading Engagement” Emphasizes Education Gamification Best Practices to Build Stronger Reading Habits in Struggling Learners