Goleta Valley Junior High School is proving that challenges can help us grow by pushing us out of our comfort zones. Amidst all the teaching and learning challenges of the past year, these students and teachers have maintained their commitment to their literacy program and embraced new forms of digital learning! We recently got to chat with Rachel Hatcher-Day, teacher librarian at GVJHS, and she shared how her school made the transition.
Were GVJH students always avid readers? How did you get them interested in audio for their literacy practices?
Students were reading, but they weren't really interested in digital products before. When the pandemic started, I began doing one-on-ones with students and specifically offered digital books in addition to paper. We're lucky that the vast majority of our students have stable wifi at home and we're also one to one with iPads - so they have the tools. Just by offering (or maybe reminding) students that they have access to this digital resource of over 10,000 audio titles got them intrigued. Now, 75% of the kids want digital access to stories.
It's awesome that the students are so excited. How do the teachers feel about audio?
These days, teachers are really interested in a broader definition of reading. Distance learning has encouraged everyone to be more open minded about learning, what constitutes literacy practice, and supporting students' different needs and interests. Now, all the teachers are in agreement that reading can look traditional (with a book) but it can also look like web comics, articles, and importantly - listening.
Did you have to do any special encouragement to get teachers to understand how listening can support literacy?
Initially, it started because the kids were telling me they were getting tired of what they were into before (genre-wise). They used to be really into dystopian stories, but that's just not been keeping their interest lately. I thought that changing up the format in addition to the content might help to re-engage them, and it worked! Sometimes students need a little variety to help them stay interested and that seems to be the case with consuming stories. With listening, they're getting the vocabulary, and they also get pronunciation which is different support from reading text. Besides, reading is comforting. For most of us, memories of being read to invoke feelings of warmth and coziness. Think about how you were read to as a young child. Audiobooks can provide that same comfort and we can all use that.
So true about the comfort of listening! We're working on a post focusing on that for later. What other thoughts can you share with the community?
Remote and distance learning are tough. In particular, it's a perpetual struggle to tell if kids are really doing what they're supposed to be doing. Having unique accounts for each student so they can choose their own stories, on demand, is great for getting them in and willing to do it for themselves, and on their own terms. Rather than being a chore that's part of their homework, they're really enjoying it.
Thank so much to Rachel for taking time to chat with us and share her school's journey to embracing audio for their literacy practice! Has your school embraced digital learning? Want to share your story? Send us an email! In the meantime, you can read other schools' stories at the link below. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with the latest additions to the ever-growing library!