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.
April 16, 2020 by Learning Ally
Princeton, NJ April 16, 2020 - Learning Ally, a not-for-profit and leading education solutions organization serving emerging and struggling learners, is responding to the COVID-19 crisis with a relief program to schools across the country. The program includes the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution that helps students with reading deficits, a Distance Learning Resource Site for both educators and parents, and the Square Panda School to Home Engagement Program for emerging readers. The program offers complimentary access to these proven literacy development solutions effective immediately through August 1st, helping to keep students reading in this crisis and providing a platform that educators nationwide can consider as a component for ensuring distance learning literacy progress, continuity, and equity in the future.
Learning Ally aims to get and keep students reading, engaged, and learning from home as long as school closures continue and through the summer and beyond. Whether they are at-risk PreK-1st graders or students already diagnosed with reading-based learning differences like dyslexia, these students have tremendous educational challenges in traditional school settings and conditions. Now, they are even more at risk of "slipping through the cracks." Statistics show that for these students, falling behind can have dire consequences. Distance learning puts additional burdens on these students and on the educators and parents that support them.
Learning Ally's COVID-19 Relief Program aims to assist an additional 500,000 students and 30,000 educators with a suite of solutions and resources that support distance learning:
Learning Ally solutions are designed for "anywhere access" on personal devices, and are well suited to serve as a distance learning solution, especially under these difficult circumstances.
"Learning Ally solutions have always represented the critical difference between isolation and integration, between frustration and pride, and between struggle and success," said Andrew Friedman, Learning Ally CEO and President. "We have a key role to play while schools are closed, to ensure at-risk learners, educators and families are supported in their continued efforts around reading, learning and succeeding."
In the few weeks since Learning Ally made the announcement, there has been an enthusiastic response. Learning Ally staff are mobilized to help schools onboard and have already expanded services to nearly 100,000 schools across the country.
For more information please visit www.learningally.org or call 1-800-221-1098.
The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a multi-sensory reading accommodation that levels the playing field for students who struggle to read due to a reading deficit, providing them the opportunity achieve in school and in life. Gaining access to the books they want to read—and the books they need to read—in an easy-to-absorb format can be a game changer. Sign up for a demo or get more information today to experience the satisfaction of seeing students who have never before experienced reading success blossom, with improved grades, higher test scores and increased confidence and self-esteem.
Categories: Activities, Curriculum & Access, Education & Teaching, Educators, In the news, Press Releases
April 10, 2020 by Learning Ally
In our best moments as humans, we offer our strengths to our neighbors. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, people around the world have used their skills to lighten the load of others. At Learning Ally, what we do best is enabling and encouraging children to read. In an effort to share what we have with you (in addition to offering our library of human-read audiobooks with schools for eligible students for free through August 1st), we're proud to share a catalog of home-based distance learning activities to encourage reading during these unprecedented times.
The activities in the catalog are free to use, and can be used by any child, whether they use Learning Ally Audiobooks Solution or access to texts in some other way. Activities are available for students in preschool all the way through high school, and can be customized by teachers or families to meet the needs of their unique children. Each activity seeks to engage learners in reading and help them to find books they love, especially ones that focus on the resilience of humans, and the love and care of our neighbors. Now more than ever, it is important for children to see their strength and tenacity reflected in literature, and we've structured many of our activities to focus on just that.
We know that children thrive on routine, and that your children are dealing with tremendous amounts of change and upheaval. We also know that teachers and families are working around the clock to try and maintain some sense of normalcy in spite of monumental challenges. It is hard, but crucial work. We see you, and we deeply value all that you are doing. In trying times, it is always a comfort to escape into a good book -- we hope that we at Learning Ally can help your child to find that comfort as we all navigate this new educational landscape.
Click here to get started.
Categories: Curriculum & Access, Education & Teaching, In the news
March 25, 2020 by Julie Heaton
As we navigate this new normal of being distant, but together, it is essential we continue the powerful connections we make with our students and colleagues. Books are the bridge, allowing us to preserve our community and connection through reading.
Want your students to know you are thinking of them? Send them a personalized book recommendation! Through the Educator Portal you have the ability to add a book directly to a student's bookshelf. Students who are using an iOS or Android device receive a push notification (opt-in only) to let them know that a new book was added. Think of how excited your students would be to know you remembered they really loved cars, and have added a book recommendation accordingly! Want guidance on how to access a book? Watch this short video.
One of the greatest joys of teaching is having a shared experience around a story, hearing a student's predictions of what will come next, a connection to a character, or simply learning a new word they discovered. Within the Learning Ally Audiobook App students are able to bookmark portions of text, look up words in the dictionary, and make citations, reactions or questions through the notetaking feature. Students can email their vocabulary list, bookmarks, and other notes to a teacher, parent, or fellow student (with a valid email address). Students can also download their notes and share them as needed. Hear from a student on how to maximize their Audiobook App experience. If you need additional guidance on getting started with the Audiobook App, visit our Getting Started Guide, available in English/Spanish.
Educators need access to information that can help answer the ongoing question of, "how are my students doing?" Educators can utilize the Learning Ally Educator Portal Dashboard to see a snapshot of class progress, having access to up-to-date data which shows Reading With Frequency, pages read, days read, and time spent reading. Educators can also gain insight into the reading progress of the individual student as well by accessing the individual student report. This report indicates which books are currently on a student's bookshelf, when it was added, who it was added by, and the number of pages read within each book. This individual student report gives insight into a student's reading habits and preferences, allowing a teacher to see if a student is continuing to read while apart. This video gives guidance on how to navigate the Educator Portal.
For educators, this is an unprecedented time in their teaching careers and a support network of colleagues will help navigate these uncharted waters. Learning Ally is here to guide you in connecting with your network of colleagues and peers through the following channels:
Categories: Education & Teaching, In the news, Learning Ally “How-To Use”
March 17, 2020 by Lindsey Hamilton
Every day brings new developments related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19); we know your first priority is the health and safety of your students, staff and their extended families, just as it is ours. That’s why we’re taking steps now to ensure that the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is an essential component of your emerging distance learning plan and helps you to provide equal access to educational opportunities for all your students.
Here are the three steps we recommend to ensure your students continue to have access to the books they need and love:
1. Review the eligibility guide so you can identify as many eligible students as possible. Remember that students do not need an IEP or 504 plan to be eligible.
2. Ensure all of your educators who need access to Learning Ally Audiobooks, have access, can log in, add key curricular texts and literature to your student’s bookshelves, and monitor students’ reading progress remotely.
3. Keep students reading at home by providing their parents with this Parent Information Packet. It includes instructions for both parents and students, system requirements, a detailed guide for using the audiobook app (in English and Spanish), and even a list of featured audiobooks.
As we all prepare for what is to come in the weeks ahead, please know that Learning Ally wishes the best for you, your educators, and the students and families you serve. We will be keeping a close eye on the situation and doing all we can to continually support our customers and the students we serve!
If you or your parents have questions please do not hesitate to contact us for assistance:
Learning Ally Customer Care Center
Categories: General, In the news, Learning Ally “How-To Use”
February 24, 2020 by Julie Heaton
Last October, middle school English teacher, Cathy Hatcher, decided to do things differently in her classes. She gave up some instruction time so her middle schoolers would have more time to read independently; then, she challenged them to read for thirty-three days. Her students' reading scores tripled. Their reading habits improved. Students could more easily recognize their own reading interests, and as importantly, they felt really good about their reading progress.
“Giving up precious instruction time is a decision that teachers do not take lightly,” shares Ms. Hatcher. “Yet, the value of giving up my time, increased my students’ love of reading, as well as their self-esteem.”
Cathy Hatcher is a seasoned teacher in secondary and higher education. For the last three years, she has worked with 7th and 8th English Language Learners at Folsom Middle School, Folsom-Cordova USD in California.
For her students with reading deficits, like those with dyslexia, and with IEPs requiring a reading accommodation, Hatcher chose access to the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution. “I wanted to test the theory that if students read for 20 minutes a day for 33 days, they would improve their reading habits and it worked!” Her students experienced considerable growth.
Students began to see a pay-off from reading human-read audiobooks. Their fluency skills improved. Upon taking the standard iReady diagnostic exam, Hatchers’ students’ reading scores tripled thanks to the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution. Students were reading one and a half grade levels above their baseline. Hatcher knew she was on to something big! "We were completely overwhelmed with their reading progress," said the teacher.
Hatcher also saw positive changes in her students’ learning confidence and self-worth. “They were excited about reading on grade-level. They read daily and on weekends. They read audiobooks of interest and understood what they read. They felt accomplished."
Hatcher affirms that middle school is a critical time for students to have positive feelings about themselves as learners. “At this age, children are still eager to please their teacher and explore new ideas,” she shares. “They aren’t shutting down, like many older students who struggle to read. They liked the autonomy of selecting books on their own. They liked the trust we had in them to access the Learning Ally digital library of more than 80,000 human-read audiobooks 24/7, 365 days a year.”
One of Hatcher’s students, an 8th grader, who decoded words on a 3rd grade level, became completely absorbed in the Raider’s Night, by Lipsyte Robert through the human-narrated audiobook. This book is fairly large and listed at a 9th grade reading level. Hatcher said, “It would have stalled a struggling reader. When he saw how thick the book was in print, he became so impressed with himself. He never would have read that book on his own.”
For class instruction, Hatcher downloads core textbooks and novels from Learning Ally. She encourages students to browse the audiobook library for additional reading assignments and titles that interest them.
In addition to students reading independently, they listen to a selected audiobook for whole class discussions. Students recently read Kwame Alexander’s novel, The Crossover. “It was a big hit!” adds Hatcher. “They really related to this book. They enjoyed the figurative language. We analyzed the characters and looked at the poetic nature of Kwame’s writing style. They loved the reading assignment.”
Hatcher’s students also participate in Learning Ally’s Great Reading Games, an annual 7-week national reading challenge. Her class won 4th place in the nation.
Hatcher says her students no longer use delay tactics to avoid reading. They put on their headphones, press play on their devices, and are quickly absorbed in an audiobook. “They aren’t hung up on trying to decode words that slow their comprehension,” she says. “Their cognitive skills are more intact because their frustration to read is minimized.”
Folsom School District is in the early stages of developing equity training to ensure that every student receives the right kind of support, like the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution, to address their unique needs, and Cathy is leading the charge. “We want all students to believe that they will learn English and pass the ELPAC exam,” she says. “It starts in believing in yourself. Adding independent reading time into my class schedule was a win/win. It enabled my students to improve their reading habits and their learning confidence. Learning Ally’s prescribed formula of reading for 20 minutes a day for 33 days was successful. No teacher will say “no” to this kind of reading progress.”
Note: Since writing this article, the Principal of Folsom Middle School has moved to the elementary campus, Navigator Elementary, a Title I School. After seeing the reading success of Hatcher’s middle schoolers, he implemented the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution so that younger students with reading deficits would have the earliest opportunity to access human-read audiobooks and improve their chances for academic success.
Categories: Audiobook Library, Books, Authors, & Movies, Education & Teaching, Educators, In the news, Reading Strategies for K-12