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LightSail Education’s Reading Challenge Inspired Tens of Thousands of Students to Read Over 300,000 Digital Books

Digital books come in a variety of applications, shapes, and sizes. The programs they are available on offer a variety of features and activities that enhance and encourage the reading process. As e-book technology becomes more ubiquitous, schools are developing digital libraries of their own, and app makers like LightSail Education have added thousands of popular titles to their digital library that keeps kids' eyes on the digital page. To encourage reading and literacy skills, LightSail Education had a K-12 reading competition in October of 2017, that tens of thousands of students in the U.S and Mexico participated in.

The students read over 300,000 digital books, and the competition logged each student’s reading minutes to evaluate their school’s chances of winning. The reading log time for all students who participated totaled 5.1 million minutes. Three schools were awarded the top prizes: Indian Land Middle School in Lancaster County, SC, Middle School 390 in Bronx, NY, and Forest Brook Elementary in Hauppauge, NY.  Winners received digital copies of books for their school's digital libraries. The top schools include students from diverse backgrounds, indicating that access to reading materials is a critical necessity in inspiring a passion for reading.

(Teachers and Students show off their reading achievement awards at Forest Brook Elementary in Hauppauge, NY)

LightSail Education is a company that created a literacy application, in addition to maintaining a digital library. Their application can be accessed on various reading tablets including Google Chromebooks, and Apple iPads.  Their reading platform features individual student profiles that automatically log their progress, similar to other reading applications, but with more literacy centric tools.

Using an adaptive approach, LightSail’s application keeps track of a student’s reading level, and suggests new content that matches their abilities. The program utilizes prompts for vocabulary learning, short-answer questions, other comprehension tools, and encourages students to keep reading, but not in an overly aggressive way. Teachers can monitor student levels to ensure the program matches their curriculum goals for the class. The program also includes teacher/student communication tools that allow students to talk to their teacher about a specific story, page, or activity in a private one on one manner.

One of the benefits of this adaptive reading program, which should help pave the way for future providers, is that the books are featured in both English and Spanish, helping ELL students feel connected to the group while the class reads from their tablets.  Should competitions be used more to encourage reading in the classroom and at home? Similar initiatives in the past, and that continue to this day - like the Pizza Hut Book It! Program, which is the biggest, and longest corporate run reading program - have proven to be successful motivators. With the accessibility of tablets and increased use in the classroom, digital books will become more common, and provide a different opportunity for reading and literacy education. And sometimes there’s no better inspiration than friendly competition!

Article by Melissa Pelletier, Education World Contributor