K-12 | Read to Achieve


Welcome to Learning Ally’s blog. You've come to the right place if you are an innovative teacher who wants to transform more struggling readers into grade-level achievers.

Three Powerful Ways Reading Data Helps Teachers Enhance Personalized Learning
three teen boys walking in school hallway

March 18, 2019 by Valerie Chernek

It’s no surprise that personalized learning is a prime topic for educators. The world and the way we learn is aggressively changing. Some educators believe personalized learning is the “heartbeat” of what works well for a particular learner like audiobooks for struggling readers.

According to Patrick, Kennedy, and Powell (2013), personalized learning means tailoring learning for each learner’s interest, strengths and needs, encouraging flexibility to support mastery and enabling learners to influence how, what, when, and where they learn.

That’s pretty much what educators who rely on Learning Ally believe. Our audiobook solution is not only a vast database of digital textbooks, classics, literature and fun titles it is an important information hub for teachers to gain real-time reading metrics and insight into students’ personal reading preferences. This automated data saves teachers precious time. It enhances teachers’ ability to personalize achievement goals and make course corrections. This data also gives teachers the proof to celebrate every students’ reading efforts.

How can Learning Ally reading data be effective for you?

1. Set personalized learning goals for each student

We recommend 20 minutes a day for 33 days to make reading habits stick. The educator portal takes the laborious work of tracking each student’s reading progress on paper, to a digital dashboard tracking time on task, number of days a student reads, number of pages and books completed. Teachers tell us that by drilling down into individual student usage they gain insight into students’ preferred genres and favorite authors. This is useful knowledge to spark reading interests and encourage independent reading.  

2. Progress monitor and course correction  

The ability to make adjustments in a students’ reading program at any time during the semester is a tangible benefit. In the educator portal, teachers can quickly identify students that need additional support in accessing and using the Learning Ally app effectively to build stronger reading habits and pinpoint improvement areas in reading. Some teachers use the data in a more holistic approach to engage students in meaningful discussions to help them feel more supported and empowered to keep reading.   

3. Celebrate small and large successes

Learning Ally data can also lead to improved social-emotional well-being. Teachers appreciate the data they see about a students’ reading progress and use that data to support student recognition and to celebrate the successes of the most vulnerable readers – a notable effort.

Strengthen Your Reading Environment with Personalized Data

With the right data, educators can be more confident that they are reaching each student individually and helping them to make progress according to their learning potential. The ultimate goal is to motivate students who don’t like to read to help them enjoy more books and thrive in the classroom. This is the heartbeat of personalized education and when this happens, there is no greater gift for the student and the teacher.

Let’s get you signed up for Learning Ally!  

Schedule a demo to see how Learning Ally delivers an immediate impact for your struggling readers and how the reading data dashboard works. For more information about a school subscription, call 800-221-1098 or email programs@LearningAlly.org.

Read More about Three Powerful Ways Reading Data Helps Teachers Enhance Personalized Learning

Best EdWebinars of 2018 for Educators and Administrators Supporting Struggling Readers

March 11, 2019 by Valerie Chernek

As part of our ongoing commitment to support classroom teachers and administrators, Learning Ally hosts several edWebinars each year with an emphasis on professional development and CEU credits. With this in mind, we want to share four of the best EdWebinars in 2018 presented by an incredible lineup of education thought leaders. These experts discuss their challenges and share best reading practices, research-based strategies, and models of success to enrich your knowledge.

What Dyslexia Red Flags Look Like for Different Students in Different Grades

Presented by: Kelli Sandman-Hurley, Ed.D., Co-Founder, Dyslexia Training Institute; and Tracy Block-Zaretsky, Co-Founder, Dyslexia Training Institute

sign that says don't ignore the flagsWe know that dyslexia occurs on a continuum and the red flags in one student might not be the same as the red flags for another student.  In this edWebinar, the presenters use case studies to uncover the red flags across different grade levels to illustrate the many ways dyslexia can manifest in students. By understanding the warning signs, teachers can begin to provide interventions and accommodations that help to close the gap between a student’s decoding capability and their ability to comprehend grade-level content. When these warning signs go undetected, students develop an academic and homework gap that grows as they move from elementary to middle to high school. Don’t let this happen to your students.

This edWebinar is especially appropriate for state, district, and school administrators and teachers of all grades and topics. You may also enjoy reading this blog, “Decoding vs. Cognitive Ability - Automaticity


5 Things to Give Up So Your Struggling Readers Won’t

Presented by: BeLinda Martin, Fifth Grade Reading/ELA Teacher

photo of belinda martin and text make reading comfortable and fun for studentsOnly half of Ms. Martin’s incoming class of fifth graders were reaching or exceeding levels of reading proficiency. She had to think differently and find new ways to address their gap in reading abilities. Her first step was to give up these beliefs:

  • Thinking that direct instruction was the only way to reach and engage students
  • Designing the environment first without thinking about the needs of the students
  • Believing that students were stuck in their level of reading proficiency
  • Believing the myths that audiobooks are cheating
  • Teaching to the test and not with the needs of students in mind

This edWebinar is especially suited for elementary and middle school general and special education teachers, reading and dyslexia specialists and ESL teachers. You may also enjoy reading Ms. Martin’s blog on this topic.


Mrs. Reyes sitting with a student in class. He has headphones on and is reading a tablet.Strategies and Ideas for Creating a Dyslexia-Friendly Classroom

Presented by Nelda Reyes, Dyslexia Interventionist, De Zavala Elementary, San Marcos CISD, TX

Last year, Mrs. Reyes attended an edWebinar by Kristy Mathieu titled “45 Ways to Support Struggling Readers,” and became inspired to make changes in her own classroom and school. Her goal was to embrace a culture of learning and literacy for dyslexic students. She made swift changes to ensure that as she planned her academic instruction for dyslexic students. She also took into consideration their social and emotional needs. This edWebinar discusses her journey and some excellent ideas to stimulate reading growth and learning confidence.

This edWebinar is suited for elementary level general and SPED teachers, reading specialists, speech language pathologists, librarians, guidance counselors, principals, SPED directors, directors of assistive technology, and directors of curriculum.

You may also enjoy these blogs, “Spring into Reading and Grow as Learners,” and Mrs. Reyes post blog, “Reading Strategies to Create a Dyslexia Friendly Classroom” about this edWebinar.  


Motivation Matters: 10 Research-Based Strategies to Motivate Struggling Readers

Presented by Terrie Noland, V.P. of Educator Initiatives at Learning Ally

Young boy at desk with a printed books, hands on head, troubled lookResearch shows that an alarming number of students hate to read. This is a painful realization for teachers. Through an extensive review of current literature and research, Ms. Noland reveals what educators can do to counteract this decline in student motivation through strategies that will not only boost motivation but will have a positive, powerful impact on reading achievement. Whether you are an administrator, specialist, or classroom teacher you will walk away motivated to integrate a number of the ten different strategies discussed in this session. 

Learning Ally Audiobook Solution helps educators transform the lives of struggling readers. 

We provide access to grade-level content to bridge the gap for students with learning differences who can cognitively comprehend information, but cannot read on grade level. Our high quality, human-read audiobooks, coupled with a suite of teacher resources, is a cost effective solution for your school. Schedule a demo today!

Read More about Best EdWebinars of 2018 for Educators and Administrators Supporting Struggling Readers

Spring into Reading with Milk and Bookies or Chips and Chapters
Students sitting around a table reading their tablets

March 5, 2019 by Cher Ware

Spring is almost here. With warmer days, blooming flowers and the feeling of new beginnings in the air, it’s the perfect time to renew your students’ interest in reading by starting a book club. Whether your students are reading with Learning Ally or traditional text, a book club builds excitement around reading and encourages discussions. Students in elementary school through high school benefit enjoy the social aspects of book clubs and the opportunity to read books that appeal to their interests. When engaged in a book club students also:

  • Increase understanding of the text through rich discussion with peers
  • Start to develop lifelong reading habits and an appreciation of reading through positive reading experiences in a book club
  • Develop literacy skills such as fluency, comprehension and vocabulary

Boy sitting at a table. He has headphones on and is reading a graphic novel.

Choose a fun theme like Milk and Bookies or Chips and Chapters to build excitement about participating in the book club. Students will see the book club and an opportunity to read and socialize with peers. Use the Featured Books list to find selections for your students to read. Be sure to develop questions for discussion that are open-ended, get students to share their opinions/ideas, and get students talking.

When selecting books for the book club, choose books that are:

  • on-grade level books
  • spark interest in your students
  • lead to rich discourse
  • develop critical thinking skills

Start a Milk and Bookies or Chips and Chapters book club in your class! 

  1. Decide where, what time and for how long the club will meet. 
  2. Create a book club “trailer” for students to watch in order to build excitement and promote the book club. 
  3. Email parents and other educators to inform them about the book club and have their support as students read. 
  4. Empower students to make book selections by having 3-4 book titles for them to choose from on a sign-up sheet. 
  5. Have a book club kick-off meeting and consider letting the students pick the book club’s name. 
  6. Discuss book club etiquette and expectations. 
  7. Model good discussion and question asking techniques. 
  8. Meet regularly with the book club to discuss the reading selection.
  9. Wrap-up: Watch the movie version of the book (if available) or have a Book Club Social where students can discuss their experiences in the book club and their opinion of the books overall. 
  10. Log in to set up your students with books for Milk and Bookies or Chips and Chapters. Share your activities and learn from others using #springreadingfever and tagging @Learning_Ally. 

Need a Learning Ally school subscription to spring into reading?

Join a demo or learn more about Learning Ally's audiobook solution that turns struggling readers into grade-level achievers. Call 800-221-1098 or email programs@LearningAlly.org.

Read More about Spring into Reading with Milk and Bookies or Chips and Chapters

2018 Lone Star Reading List
student reading with tablet

March 1, 2019 by Jenny Falke

Learning Ally is thrilled to provide in our human-read audiobook library this list of highly renowned titles curated by school and public librarians. This list was created with students in middle grades in mind, but many other age levels, besides just teens, will enjoy them! The following are just a handful of the books completed from the 2018 list of titles.

The Unbeatable Squirrel GirlThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World
by Dean Hale
Grades 3-7 | 700L

Fourteen-year-old Doreen Green must start at a new school, make new friends, and continue to hide her tail. Yep, Doreen has the powers of ... a squirrel!

Piecing Me TogetherPiecing Me Together
by Renee Watson
Grades 7+ | 680L

Jade believes she must get out of her poor neighborhood if she's ever going to succeed. Her mother tells her to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. And she has.

by Garth Nix
Grade 7+ | 840L

Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother's new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss.

Between Two SkiesBetween Two Skies
by Joanne O'Sullivan
Grades 7+ | HL650L

Hurricane Katrina sets a teenage girl adrift. But a new life -- and the promise of love -- emerges in this rich, highly readable debut.


Beanstalker and Other Hilarious ScarytalesBeanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales
by Kiersten White
Grades 3-7 | 630L

Once upon a time, a girl skipped into the forest and became a zombie. Wait, no, that's not how this story is supposed to go. Let's try again. Once upon a time ...

More books from the 2018 List:

Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Warcross by Marie Lu
Last Day on Mars by Kevin Emerson
Well, That Was Akward by Rachel Vail
Short by Holly Goldberg
Refugee by Alan Gratz
Four-Four-Two by Dean Hughes
Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen
The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks
Impyrium by Henry Neff
The Inquisitor's Tale ... by Adam Gidwitz
Heartless by Melissa Meyer

The Lone Star Reading List is curated by school and public librarians who are part of the Young Adult Round Table in the Texas Library Association and the 2018, 2017 and 2016 titles are made available to Learning Ally readers through the generous support of the Reading Resource Fund of Communities Foundation of Texas.

Bring Learning Ally's Audiobook Solution to Your School

Learning Ally is a cost-effective solution to help your students who read below grade level boost their vocabulary, comprehension and test scores. Our extensive library of human-read audiobooks includes core content, is easy to set up, and fits into your existing curriculum.

Learn how you can transform the lives of your struggling readers. Sign up for a demo, call 800-221-1098, or email programs@LearningAlly.org.

Public and charter Texas schools, visit: LearningAlly.org/Texas.

Read More about 2018 Lone Star Reading List

Winning Schools Announced in 2019 Great Reading Games, Learning Ally’s National Reading Event

February 26, 2019 by Valerie Chernek

For Immediate Release                                                                                    

Media Contact Valerie Chernek                               

Winning Schools Announced in 2019 Great Reading Games,

Learning Ally’s National Reading Event


February 26, 2019 - Princeton, NJ - Learning Ally has announced the winners of the 2019 Great Reading Games, adding the latest chapter to an inspiring story. 

The New Jersey-based educational solutions organization, whose mission is to empower students with learning differences to succeed in the classroom and beyond, initiated the Great Reading Games four years ago as a way to motivate and engage struggling readers, and has seen it grow in size and scope every year since.

“The Great Reading Games is a fun, competitive way to promote reading nationwide,” says Terrie Noland, VP of Educator Initiatives at Learning Ally. “This event gets everybody going, especially struggling readers. Our data shows that students who participate read twice as much and three times as often.”

The goal of the event is to get students reading with frequency, which Learning Ally defines as reading for twenty minutes a day for thirty-three days, a critical tipping point shown to lead to improved academic and social-emotional outcomes.

This year, more than 37,000 students from 1,600 schools competed in the Great Reading Games, and they read a record-breaking 12 million pages during the seven-week event.  Top student performers win Chromebooks, headphones and gift cards. Teachers win prizes and recognition for their schools.

Here are the first-place winners:

  • Academy at Nola Dunn – TX
  • Barton Middle School – TX
  • Cameron Elementary School – VA
  • Canales Elementary School – TX
  • Ector Prep Success Academy – TX
  • Goodnight Junior High School – TX
  • Holy Family School – NY
  • Little Elm High School – TX
  • Mt. Zion Christian Academy – FL
  • Rafael Cantu Jr High School – TX
  • Spring Valley School - AL
  • West Belmar Elementary School – NJ

To view a complete list of winners, visit LearningAlly.org/GreatReadingGames

“We want to thank everyone who participated in this year’s Great Reading Games,” said Noland. “Congratulations to the students for beating last year’s record, and congratulations to their teachers for working tirelessly to support their students and instill in them a passion for reading and learning.”

The Great Reading Games takes place in January and February to coincide with the National Education Association’s Read Across America event. To celebrate this year’s participants and reading in general, Learning Ally will host a livestream webinar with Kwame Alexander, an American poet and best-selling author on Friday, March 1, 2019 at 11:00 am EST.


About Learning Ally

Learning Ally is a leading education solutions organization dedicated to transforming the lives of struggling learners. Our proven Audiobook Solution includes high-quality, human-read audiobooks that align to schools’ curriculum in grades 3-12 and a suite of educator resources to help students who struggle to read due to learning differences succeed in school and beyond. Today, Learning Ally is successfully used in more than 16,000 schools nationwide. To learn more about our solution, visit LearningAlly.org.


















Read More about Winning Schools Announced in 2019 Great Reading Games, Learning Ally’s National Reading Event