This is a guest blog by Christine Lupia-Fugere, Librarian at Troy Hills School in Parsippany, NJ. Thanks for writing this teriffic post!
For the last two years my students and I have had the privilege to have access to Tales2go. I must give credit to an extremely wise media supervisor who found/advocated for it and my very generous school district who purchased enough licenses for all ten of our elementary schools and two middle schools. And, it really is a privilege, because there are SO MANY amazing stories, songs, poems, even meditation guides and SOUNDS are available, all you really need is the time to LOOK! There are many great ways to look: the regular search and advanced options feature, and topics like my kids’ favorites: “new and different” and the “character and series” searches in the browse tab. You can download the full catalog here.
Last year it took some time to figure out the genius of signing on in school and then accessing our student accounts at home (we LOVE that we can choose one dedicated device at home and we REALLY love using the bookmark feature). Our staff was given an online webinar to do on our own and then the librarians and our administrators received a live group session. Both were very informative. Then began the process of introducing Tales2go to students and staff. Some bought into it right away, others have taken longer to get accustomed to it, a few still aren’t sure it’s the best modality for experiencing literature for themselves or their students. And then there are the addicted ones…
Student Usage at School
For instance, last year I had one class of fifth graders at my home school, Lake Parsippany School who could not remember to return their library books each class, but, would you believe, they had their ear buds EVERY single week! And, they would ask to listen to Tales2go: while they practiced keyboarding, while they waited for other students to finish checking out their library books, they even asked for it back in their homeroom during their Daily 5, during independent reading time, and when they had inside recess due to inclement weather. They were simply addicted, they loved to listen to stories, and they loved the varied choices of literature Tales2go gave them. They were concerned our district might not renew the subscription, and so they wrote persuasive Google docs and shared them with the new media supervisor expressing their concern and also their love for Tales2go. And our subscription was renewed! Students continued to use their accounts over the summer and logged stories into the public library reading incentive program as well as that of our elementary school.
This year, at my new home base, Troy Hills School, again I have a fifth grade class who quietly but faithfully brings their earbuds to media each week. And they ask for Tales2go. They use it in every spare minute I am not instructing, they even seem to be able to practice exercises in “hour of code” while listening to stories. This particular class has MANY different ability levels for reading, but when they are listening to literature, the playing field is leveled! Those who might stumble over decoding get the benefit of hearing vocabulary read correctly and with great expression to them in every story. If they keep listening and reading, long after they leave our elementary school, they will surely close the #wordgap! And, each student uses their own laptop with ear buds, so if he or she chooses to listen to a selection on their reading level (and it’s not the highest one in the class), it’s private, so they do not show as much anxiety or stress as if they were carrying a physical book that others could see and, they fear, judge. Many times I will provide the students with a graphic organizer or ask them to sketch the setting, main characters, or anything notable in Google Drawings. I can easily see how much they are retaining and how the stories make an impact on them. I can see their love for literature grow as they listen during every media class.
We have had days when we needed to share or completely give the media center over as a testing site, for Kindergarten orientation, or Junior Achievement. Tales2go to the rescue! Our students can access Tales2go on our district Chromebooks, Macbook laptops, even iPads that we bring on a cart into the homeroom. For the younger grades, I will play a literary work they or I have selected on my Macbook and they have the opportunity to listen as a group, and then discuss what they heard- and the students are amazing at picking up on all different threads, concepts, parts of the story. In speaking of standardized testing, the students work so hard to perform their best, and so, after the session is done for the day, they really do enjoy relaxing with a story, either altogether or independently. Even 5th grade has been known to settle in and color a page from the calming or “color me” books that are so popular now among adults, while they are listening to Tales2go. It just proves to me, over and over, that everyone loves a good story, everyone loves to be read to, no matter how old you are.
Lake Parsippany School over the last 2 years has been fortunate to have an author visit due to our generous PTA. Last year we met Lauren Tarshis and this year Dan Gutman visited! For 2 years I have asked Tales2go to add audiobooks from these authors so the ALL the students could have access to their literary works, and Tales2go came through for us! We didn’t have to worry if we had enough money to buy print copies (book budget has to be spent early in the fall) or how to get them into the hands of our students in time, we simply had to ask for the digital titles and Tales2go delivered. Their customer service is amazingly responsive every time!
Experiences with Tales2go at Home
Parents love using Tales2go at home, too! One parent at Troy Hills has 4 children in different grade levels, and she was able to use the very helpful instructions from Tales2go to load the app easily onto her children’s iPad. Now, they all get a turn to listen to something new or continue a story they started in school. Having Tales2go adds such a bounty of different titles and subjects so the children have access to additional literature (or multiple copies) way beyond our print collection in the media center and the classroom collections. When they complete their school-wide incentive reading program logs and the summer reading log from the public library, they have been exposed to such diverse stories that their paperwork really shows it!
I am addicted to Tales2go, I will admit. As are my husband and children. We began listening to stories in the car, because it quieted the bickering and fidgeting as we completed the mindless errands we just need to get done every weekend. Last summer, we traveled by car to DisneyWorld and Tales2go kept us entertained from the littlest ones listening to “Froggy wants a Doggy” to my husband, the late night driver, enjoying Gordon Korman’s “The Hypnotists” series. We didn’t need dvds to fight the boredom, there was no blinding light or blaring sound keeping everyone up at night, no one got motion sick, well, almost. Nothing is perfect when you travel almost 24 hours straight, I guess! But we had practically perfect reception everywhere we traveled. I would like to say that we always take turns choosing what to listen to, so the little kids can get picture books, too. But, that doesn’t always happen and they have shown that they can listen UP to stories the 4th grader enjoys. They even use vocabulary they have heard from the stories in the correct context; they just seem to pick it up. Truly, they are becoming better listeners, so I know, they will eventually be confident and proficient in their reading when they are ready!
All in all, Tales2go is a wonderful enhancement to any library media collection! It’s got something for everyone: students, staff and parents! You can listen by yourself or as a favorite family pastime, like we do! Tales2go can be accessed on any digital device and the best part is that it keeps your favorites and bookmarks in memory for you! Using Tales2go is so simple because you just login and pick up wherever you left off and start listening again. It has never been easier or more affordable because there is a free trial opportunity and there are also grants to help you acquire the service for your students and staff. Try it today, you will just, never, ever want to stop! And, that can be a very good thing!
Thanks again, Christine! You can find Christine on Twitter: @LakeParSchoolMC