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National Summer Learning Association to Enhance Reading With Digital Books

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The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) recently announced that students in summer programs run by the Boston Public Schools, Baltimore Public Schools, Pittsburgh Public Schools, and four other summer program providers will get free and unlimited access to enhanced digital books this year from the online reading service myON.

The summer program providers—the others are the Washington, D.C., Richmond, Va., and Wausau, Wisc., public schools and FKO AfterSchool in Maine—belong to NSLA's New Vision for Summer School Network, a group of 30 school districts interested in building full-day summer programs that provide academic instruction and enrichment activities for all students in Title I schools.

A business unit of educational publisher Capstone, myOn maintains an online library of 7,000 books that's accessible by computer, tablet, and smartphone. The myON technology platform matches students with books based on their reading levels and interests and gives them comprehension quizzes along the way.

"In the summer, there's such a range of programs," Sarah Pitcock, chief executive officer of NSLA, told me. "There are school district programs that are staffed by teachers who know how to move the needle on literacy. But there are also a lot of programs that are not staffed by teachers. We're seeing more and more that those programs want to play a role in preventing summer learning loss." 

With access to myON, students at a summer program at a recreation center, for example, can be steered towards books appropriate for their skill level, even if there are no reading specialists on staff, she noted.

That's important, Pitcock said, because research shows that students improve their reading faster when they read books that match their ability level and have their comprehension monitored and guided.

MyON also tracks each student's progress, collecting data on time spent reading, number of books read, and assessment results. Data can be viewed by school districts and parents.

NSLA hopes the technology will help students maintain or even improve their reading skills over the summer. "What we want to do is bridge the gap from school year to school year," Pitcock said.

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