The Wicks family has a limit on screen time – 20 minutes, then the computer goes off.
This summer, however, Livy Wicks heard an excuse from her kids that she was glad to accept:
“But Mom, I’m reading!”
The Edmonds family was among many that joined a first-ever online summer reading program offered through the Edmonds School District.
Kids were encouraged to log into the myON reader program over vacation to read stories and books offered by digital education company Capstone Digital.
Students can continue to access the program until Sept. 15.
So far it’s been free to the district. Administrators are now in talks with Capstone Digital about whether to purchase access to the program and integrate online reading into classroom curriculum. “Then we will need to process with our community and board to determine next steps,” Superintendent Nick Brossoit said.
Some school administrators say they hope it pans out.
“We’re always looking for resources that put books – electronic or real – in kids’ hands that they’re reading,” said Chris Lindblom, principal at Lynnwood Elementary School.
Like other online reading programs, the myON reader lets kids select their interests and favored genres, then makes suggestions based on those choices. Quizzes track their comprehension of what they read. An optional audio function narrates stories. A built-in dictionary can be pulled up for kids to learn unknown words.
Books can be read on a computer or on Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Other platform capabilities are expected to be added.
The myON reader program was launched in January 2011 by Capstone Digital and surpassed 1 million students within 18 months, a success the company credits to a shift toward e-book platforms. More than 2,500 titles are in the online library, from picture books and nonfiction titles to young adult novels and Shakespeare.
Madelyn Wicks, 10, is her family’s reader and said she enjoyed adding the online titles to her summer reading list.
The idea of using it during the school year, too?
“I would like that a lot. It would be fun,” she said.
That said, the fifth-grader at College Place Elementary School said she still likes “real” books best.
“In myON it shows pictures, but reading real books you can flip the pages and imagine the pictures in your head,” Madelyn said.
Her mom, Livy Wicks, said she’d like to see more technology integrated into classrooms, including an online reading program like this.
“I know everything’s going toward technology with Kindles and iPads – that’s where we’re headed, so I think it’s great for them to learn that,” Wicks said. “But I also still want them to hold a book and read, because I’m a nerd like that.”
Schools saw varying levels of participation in the summer trial.
In an early report, the number of titles read at each school ranged from 43 to nearly 1,200. In all, students read nearly 22,000 titles, logging more than 3,000 hours.
Lynnwood Elementary School saw the highest level of participation. Classroom teachers promoted the program. But families also were already geared up thanks to the school’s longtime use of another online reading program, called Raz-Kids, said Lindblom, the principal.
A handful of teachers already integrate online reading into their classroom curriculum, he said. Teachers can set boundaries to what kids can select as well as track their progress.
“So as teachers are working with a group, they know that these students are staying on task, reading something of interest, and it has a comprehension piece to check as well. When they’re at home, parents can do the same thing,” Lindblom said.
College Place Elementary School fell in the middle for participation in the summer reading program, which Principal Justin Irish calls a win for his largely low-income community.
“If we keep this program up, I know it’s going to be a huge success for our kids,” he said. “Kids prefer things online. … In our days dioramas were cool. Now they want to make a movie.”