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Chicago Schools Push Summer Reading with Digital Libraries

A competition put on by Chicago Public Schools has encouraged students to read — even during the summer months — and pushed school librarians and teachers to take professional development on a number of digital technologies.

The contest — PLUS Tech (personalized libraries to uplift students) — ran from October 2012 through January 2013. To enter, librarians worked through instruction on Google Apps, mobile devices, Web 2.0 tools, social media, and professional learning. The first 200 people to finish at least four modules received a one-year subscription to the Capstone myON set of digital books. Also, after each module, they'd take quizzes. Scores were tallied, and the top 25 scorers earned hardware, including Nooks, document cameras, projectors, and iPad 2s.

Other teaching staff were also encouraged to do the professional development without participating in the contest.

The myON book sets include access to 5,000 titles from 30 publishing partners catering to elementary school readers and middle school and high school readers. The digital books include audio, text highlighting, and an embedded dictionary.

The students at one winning school, Florence Nightingale School, have read nearly 10,000 books since gaining access to myON. Across the district, 9,200 students have logged into myON and accessed almost 85,000 books.

"Reading because one has to or is told to does not have the same effect as a student reading because they enjoy it," said Barbara Stewart, a Nightingale librarian who, along with colleague Erin McDonald, won access for their school. "myON reader provides students a personal literacy environment they are comfortable in that can be accessed both at school and at home. Watching my students' skill level and love for reading grow has been immensely rewarding."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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