Downloading literacy at Tahoe-Truckee: digital books for digital learners | SierraSun.com
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Downloading literacy at Tahoe-Truckee: digital books for digital learners

Katja Dahl
Special to the Sun
A North Tahoe High School student enjoys the digital library e-book collection.
Courtesy photo |

TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — Fostering a love of reading in our students is a priority of virtually every teacher, parent and principal you talk to and a major part of the curriculum at schools.

Reading promotes creativity, boosts imagination, provides entertainment and is an essential life skill virtually everyone needs to succeed.

The trick is to teach children and young adults that reading can be an enjoyable and necessary part of every day life and provide ways for them to truly enjoy reading.

Libraries play a critical role in providing reading materials and improving student learning and achievement.

They are quiet places with comfortable spots to relax and read. They offer stacks and stacks and rows and rows of access to fantastical and imaginative stories, factual and historical resources, and interesting biographies.

The possibilities are endless and it can create great excitement for the young reader.

The emergence and popularity of rapidly changing and evolving technology has challenged traditional institutions such as libraries because people are increasingly inclined to seek out information via computers, tablets and smart-phones.

Fortunately, this challenge also provides an opportunity to expand libraries and adapt to technology to offer an ever-evolving way to access books.

It also offers students who may not respond positively to paper books or digital learners a way to connect to reading and learning in a new and technologically different way.

In response to these changes in technology and following similar programs in other districts, in 2013 a group of librarians, from the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District applied for a grant from the Excellence in Education Foundation to strategically and comprehensively expand the district’s digital library.

The foundation subsequently granted the district $20,000 to be used to purchase numerous Nexus 7s and a wide array of e-books to be utilized by the educational communities of North Tahoe High School, North Tahoe School, Alder Creek Middle School and Truckee High School.

“What we were finding was that more and more technology was coming into the district and we felt it was important to make the link between the technology and curriculum,” explains North Tahoe School Librarian Rachel Wright. “The digital library is a singular access point to both fiction and non-fiction titles and can be used by teachers inside and by all others outside of the classroom.”

The comprehensive program utilizes the Nexus 7s, divided among all sites, to allow access to students without a computer or personal device and also includes training and education for students on how to access the library via their district-issued Chromebooks and personal computers and electronic devices and home.

The initial purchase of digital reading materials included a balanced and extensive collection of enticing popular fiction and curricular-rich Common Core nonfiction titles.

The librarians considered the needs of Language Arts, Social Studies, Science and Math and have a long-term plan for the future maintenance and expansion of the library.

“Young adults, in particular teens, are a key predictor for how technology use is evolving and the trend is strongly leading to a higher demand for e-books,” shares Wright. “In order to capture the imagination of our students and keep them interested in reading we have to try to stay current and provide the experiences and access that interests them.

“I truly believe that there is a place for both the traditional library and digital bookshelf in a student’s educational experience and a careful combination will lead to greater student achievement.”

A 2005 study of the Illinois School Libraries shows that students who frequently visit well-stocked and well-staffed school libraries end up with higher ACT scores and perform better on reading and writing exams.

Interestingly, the study points out that access to digital technology plays a strong role in test results, noting that, “high schools with computers that connect to library catalogs and databases average 6.2 percent improvement on ACT scores.”

Now in use for over a year, the digital library is proving to be increasingly successful. There are over 650 shared titles in the library. What Wright has noticed is kids are trying a wider variety of titles, and it has been easier for the librarians to customize what is available to students by age and grade.

“The digital portion of the library has de-mystified the book selection process for many students and has provided access to students at their convenience and not just when the library doors are open,” she said.

North Tahoe eighth-grader Tia Williams has been enjoying the new digital access.

“I constantly checked out books from the digital library last year,” Williams said. “It is nice because you can search by title and author and I like the selection of books available; they have lots of sci-fi books now.”

The digital library is available to all students, staff and parents in TTUSD.

If you would like more information about how to access the library, contact Wright at rwright@ttusd.org.

Katja Dahl is an Excellence in Education board member. Visit exined.org for more information.


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