Literacy is an inclusive, community imperative that extends well beyond the schools and campuses of Mission Consolidated Independent School District (MCISD), located in western Hidalgo County, Texas, just across the Rio Grande River from Mexico.
MCISD serves close to 16,000 students in pre-K–12. Of these students, 99 percent are Hispanic, 32 percent are English Language Learners, 83 percent are economically disadvantaged, and close to 62 percent are considered at-risk.
The district is meeting students’ literacy needs and working to address the 50 percent illiteracy rate among adults in the county through Mission CISD Reads, a community-wide literacy partnership with the neighboring cities of Alton, Mission, and Palmhurst.
“We take the high illiteracy rate to heart and want to convey the importance of reading not only to our students, but to the whole community,” says Executive Director for Elementary Education Francisca Sanchez. “We want to transform our community not just by doing our job in the classroom, but also by reaching out to every key stakeholder in our community.”
Renaissance solutions are a key component of MCISD’s school and community literacy initiatives. The district has been using Renaissance Accelerated Reader® with students for over 25 years, as well as its own extensive print library. Two years ago, MCISD added Renaissance myON® and daily news articles from Renaissance myON® News, to provide additional resources and further engage students in reading. District leaders saw both as the perfect complement to Accelerated Reader.
“myON enriches what we’re doing with Accelerated Reader and steps it up a notch,” Ms. Sanchez explains. “myON caters to the interests of our students and provides engagement opportunities with digital books and relevant news articles that fit the learning styles of our students, who are digital natives and enjoy that style of learning.”
By addressing needs within the classroom while supporting the home-school connection, myON makes a 24/7 difference in the availability of reading materials for students. At school, devices are available for student use in classrooms and libraries. For those students who do not have the same accessibility at home, they can easily use their parents’ Smartphone to access the digital library, says Ms. Sanchez.
“myON has changed the literacy dynamics in our district,” says Lolly Pena, District Coordinator for Instructional Technology and Library Media. As a result, the district has experienced a significant increase in reading among students in pre-K–8.
“myON has more than tripled the number of books our students have access to and are actually reading,” Ms. Sanchez adds. “During the 2017–2018 school year alone, students read 539,726 digital books. That is more than half a million more books that our students are reading now than in past years. Our hard-copy circulation was about half a million books, then we added myON and they read another half a million books—over one million total books! We all know what research says about how impactful that can be.”
“myON enriches what we’re doing with Accelerated Reader and steps it up a notch.”
Executive Director for Elementary Education – Mission CISD
Unlimited access to digital reading resources for everyone
Every elementary and junior high school student in the district has an account on the myON platform. Each account provides students with unlimited year-round access to a personalized library of just-right digital books that match their interests and reading levels, along with a set of embedded tools to foster the development of strong literacy skills.
Optional reading scaffolds, including professionally recorded audio, provide a huge advantage to struggling readers, making the entire reading experience less threatening and more enjoyable for them, according to Ms. Sanchez. The availability of thousands of books and the option for readers to choose from a variety of topics and genres were important considerations in the initial decision to bring myON into MCISD. So, too, was the availability of titles in both English and Spanish for this dual-language district.
Authentic, authoritative daily news articles written specifically for students in grades K–8 are also available in English and Spanish on the myON platform. Every article is reviewed by a child psychologist for age appropriateness. “It is comforting to know that students are made aware of current events in a very developmentally appropriate way,” Ms. Sanchez says. “They can be in tune with what’s going on, but we’re not scaring them.”
Mission CISD Reads also provides free access to myON books and news articles through special shared accounts for community members of any age, whether they are learning to read or just looking for a good book. Families are encouraged to begin reading with their children at birth, to help them develop early literacy habits and a solid foundation for lifelong learning. In all, community members have read an additional 79,657 digital books over the past year.
“Optional reading scaffolds, including professionally recorded audio, provide a huge advantage to struggling readers, making the entire reading experience less threatening and more enjoyable for them.”
Executive Director for Elementary Education – Mission CISD
Reading pep rallies and student recognition
The MCISD team works year-round to ensure that students and families are supported, and pay close attention to the summer months when the summer slide can rob students of gains they made the previous school year.
Each May, more than 7,000 students are bussed to the Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium in Mission CISD for a themed reading pep rally that helps build community awareness and kicks off summer reading. Families and community stakeholders also participate in the lively, student-centered event that helps bring books to life through activities like choral reading and dressing up as favorite book characters. Featured speakers include local community leaders and dignitaries who share the importance of reading and how it contributes to their success.
The district also provides incentives throughout the year to keep students engaged. Top readers are often awarded Kindle Fire devices. Principals and district leaders use a telephone program called SchoolMessenger to record and send regular messages to students and families reminding them to keep reading when they are out of school. Campus-based parent liaisons ensure that families are involved with the district’s myON learning community.
“We strongly focus on the importance of reading at home, at school, during lunch, whenever possible,” Ms. Pena adds. “We encourage our students to read for recreation, for enjoyment, and for a lifetime.”
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