School Name: Journey Middle School
School District: SD#62 Sooke
Inquiry Team Members: Dana Savage: firstname.lastname@example.org, Kat Abell: email@example.com, Andrea Millen: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7), Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Reading
Focus Addressed: Differentiated instruction, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning, Universal design for learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Investigating what impact access to audiobooks and/or eBooks could have on the engagement and interest in reading for “reluctant readers”.
Scanning: We noticed that there are many students at our school who struggle with reading and therefore disengage and become frustrated. Sometimes these students will read graphic novels, but those can be at too high of a reading level as well; we believe these students want to be reading like their peers, but often become shut down and their confidence decreases.
Focus: We wanted to explore accessible books to see if we could make a difference for these students and make our library collection more inclusive for all styles of readers. We believe that this project had, and continues to have, the potential to impact students across all grade levels, abilities and target languages (English and French Immersion programs) in our school. We believe this could transform non-readers into readers, opening up more doors.
Hunch: We do not have a large collection of accessible, high interest books at the school for students who are not reading at grade level. Without providing students multiple access points for reading, students become complacent and disengaged.
New Professional Learning: We completed research on audiobooks in the curriculum and audiobook access for adolescents, to confirm our suspicions about the difference accessible reading materials could make. We also completed research into different technologies to choose the best option for our needs and our students. Finally, we completed research into the best sources of audiobooks and eBooks for students – for example, overdrive accounts through the school district and using the public library’s catalogue.
– We explored options for accessible books (Overdrive – Libby/VIRL & Sora/school, CELA) to see if we can make a difference for these students and make our library collection more inclusive for all styles of readers. We are currently having students access books through Libby and their public library card. Most students listened to audiobooks, however, a couple of students read eBooks. These students said they like reading on their phones, which isn’t allowed at school, and were looking for a similar experience.
– We explored tablet/eReader options to find the cheapest option that would provide the basic functionality we needed. We chose to buy Amazon Fire Tablets. They have a parental password and are locked down to only the following apps: Libby, Sora, Dolphin Easy Reader.
– Once the tablets (10) were purchased, we worked with target students to either bring their library card to school or to get signed up for a public library card. We considered using the tablets to help students engage in literature circles; however, we ended up implementing the tablets for independent/choice reading.
– We signed up for a school Overdrive account to be able to purchase book requests for students (still in progress).
– Our Teacher-Librarian regularly promoted listening to audiobooks and teamed up with the local youth public librarian to promote audiobooks and Libby. A campaign was launched in the school to recognize and celebrate all ways of reading, by asking staff and students to identify as a reader and share a quote about what makes them a reader.
– Our Teacher-Librarian spent time with each student who signed up for a tablet to teach them how to log into the Libby app and search for/borrow books.
– Students completed an initial questionnaire to indicate their feelings and thoughts about reading and if they had tried reading audiobooks or eBooks before.
– Our Teacher-Librarian regularly checked in with students using tablets to see how it was going and to help with problem solving/technical support.
– As of May 11, 2021 all 10 tablets were in use in 4 English classrooms.
Grade 6 – 1
Grade 7 – 8
Grade 8 – 1
– On May 18, 2021 participating students and their teachers were asked for reactions, reflections and opinions about the experience.
Checking: Our goal was to open up the world of reading to students, increase their engagement and improve their attitudes towards literacy. We feel as though we met this goal for a small group of students and that this pilot project was successful, despite the limitations and challenges we experienced.
The school and the staff as a whole were very supportive of this project. We didn’t encounter any pushback about students listening to audiobooks instead of reading print books during literacy. We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from student participants and from their classroom teachers. Every student reported an increase in enjoyment of reading at school and wants to continue using the tablet to access audiobooks and eBooks. One student said they will be downloading the Libby app on their phone so that they can continue reading at home. Given that we experienced challenges in implementation and we had to change the culture of traditional understandings of what reading is, we are very pleased with the progress we were able to make.
For one class in particular where 6 tablets were in use, there was a complete culture shift in general attitudes towards reading for all students.
Quotes from student participants:
“It makes it easier to get a story done.” (listening)
“I like being able to change the speed” of the narrator “if it was too fast or too slow for me.”
“I like reading eBooks better than reading paper books.”
“Chapter books are easier when I listen because when I read a paper book I might miss a sentence.”
“This is awesome! I don’t have to read anymore!”
“Audiobooks are really fun, I like them!”
Quotes from Classroom Teacher reflections:
“It’s been magical!”
“Their motivation is higher. They have become excited to read and aren’t fighting the teacher to get started anymore.”
“They feel like they are getting away with something, so even on their worst audiobook listening day they seem more engaged than before.”
“I feel like the best thing is that it is helping to connect their digital world with their school world.” (This has directly affected this student’s willingness to engage with reading in the classroom.)
Student “was a little overwhelmed by the length of the book at first, but would independently ask to listen once they got comfortable.”
Two students would “stop what they were doing and ask to read” during independent work blocks. (This was a new behaviour for both students.)
Student “seemed more engaged in reading, became quicker to start reading, and seemed to want to read more and for longer.”
Student “is more willing to read because he enjoys being able to multitask” for example doodling while listening.
Reflections/Advice: We learned that making reading accessible to students works and can make a big difference for readers of all levels. However, just as with reading paper books, we need all staff to support and be a champion of the project as that can make all the difference. We plan to continue to grow this project by adding more tablets and beginning to purchase audiobooks for the school so that we ensure students are getting the books that they want to read. We also plan to continue promoting audiobooks and normalizing listening to audiobooks for staff and students. Finally we plan to collaborate with the French Immersion teachers to identify and remove barriers to student interest and participation.