South Orangetown Central School District

Growing readers and writers is a primary goal for elementary schools. But as meeting the needs of in-person and remote students strain school and classroom libraries, educators are building digital resources to expand the educational experience.

“At the start of the school year, we sent home a number of books with each student so that they would have a selection to choose from. It has been challenging to keep up with the number of books we need to circulate because so few have been returned,” explains K-5 Instructional Literacy Coach Kristy Nadler, who collaborates with the District’s library media specialists and members of the Rockland County Curriculum Council to pool resources. “Many of the online tools that were free in the spring aren’t free anymore, so we’ve developed resources to share with colleagues within our district and across the county. Frankly, we wouldn’t be able to do as much as we do without others.”

The District also relies on web-based platforms to provide audio- and digital books for students in grades K-12. Nadler and the District’s library media specialists have recently launched an online collection through Sora, a web app which syncs with Google Drive and allows teachers to create text-specific vocabulary lists. “We’re in the process of uploading all the leveled books so that students can log in and find them in one place,” notes Tappan Zee High School Library Media Specialist Patty Eyer. In terms of investment, a key advantage is that the District can own the titles in its Sora collection.

In addition, schools are utilizing MyOn Reader, an online platform that utilizes STAR assessment results and interest surveys to generate personalized book recommendations for students. “MyOn offers high-interest and at-level books, integrates with Fountas & Pinnell and includes a comprehension check feature,” Nadler says. “Teachers College is a partner and has created bookshelves within MyOn so that our students can quickly and easily access books aligned with what they’re learning.”

While digital books, audiobooks and online activities can be powerful tools, physical books are still important, too. William O. Schaefer Elementary School and Cottage Lane Elementary School urge families to return books that are no longer being read so that others may enjoy them. School library books should be stamped; classroom library books, often purchased personally by teachers, should be labeled with the teacher’s name. Drop-off boxes are located in the lobbies of WOS, CLE and South Orangetown Middle School (for sixth-graders to return books borrowed from CLE last year).

Girl reading graphic novel