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Local children have consumed thousands of digital books this summer

Reading entertains. It educates, and it opens doors to opportunities.

Or as Dr. Seuss said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn the more places you’ll go.”

Undoubtedly this will hold true for local students who have been participating in the myON summer reading project by Renaissance.

Geared to help curb the reading slump that can occur over the summer, Vicksburg was chosen as one of five pilot communities to participate in the project, United Way of West Central Mississippi Director of Marketing Kami May said.

“The program gives every pre-K to third grade student in Warren County access to a personalized literacy environment to help them learn and build their love for reading,” May said.

The program also offers more than 6,000 digital books for children to choose from, and it can be accessed anytime, anywhere and is available online and offline with mobile apps.

“Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a critical milestone toward high school graduation and success later in life,” May said. “It marks the transition from learning to read to reading to learn.” For those students who have not mastered reading by this time, she added, the chance of becoming a high school dropout increases.

As of July 22, Warren County students had read 2,505 books totaling 45,007 pages and 17,200 minutes with myON.

Warren County, along with Indianola, Jackson, Lafayette County and Lee County were all chosen to participate in the summer reading program, May said, because they are part of the Mississippi Campaign for Grade Level Reading.

The local United Way became active with the Mississippi CGL Reading, which is a collaborative effort to improve reading proficiency, early learning and early school success for children, in March.

United Way of West Central Mississippi Executive Director Michele Connelly said after receiving word Warren County had been chosen as a pilot community she reached out to the Vicksburg Warren School District to see if they would be interested in partnering with the United Way.

The answer was strong yes.

“We didn’t flinch. We are always happy for anybody to come along beside us and support the work we are doing, and of course United Way is one of our favorite partners,” Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Chad Shealy said. “I’ve actually used myON before and it is an incredible tool that allows students to self pace with self selected interest.”

Shealy said one of the unique features of myOn is the audible component that goes with the text.

“You can hear it and see it,” he said.

Furthermore, when used at a previous school where Shealy served as a principle, he said, “There was tremendous independent use from kids. You didn’t have to make them read, they just began to read.”

The program not only provides an opportunity for students to have access to thousands of digital books, it also allows the United Way instant access to data, which includes the total number of students using myOn, and what grade level is using the digital reading platform the most.

In Warren County, data shows third graders have been accessing the reading program the most so far.

At the close of this school year, Connelly said, most students in the participating grades were given a user name, which would allow them to access the digital books.

“If you have a child who is enrolled in a private or public school in Warren County and in pre-K through third grade and did not receive a code to access myON,” May said, “call the United Way office, at 601-636-1733 to get the student’s username and password.”

Once logged in, the child will take an interest inventory and a short ability test. Books fitting the child’s interest and ability will then be available to read, Connelly said.

Also at the end of each book the child will have the opportunity to take a comprehensive Accelerated Reader practice test.

“It’s is not an AR test that counts for their points for school, but it allows them to practice,” Connelly said.

“Anniya enjoyed reading and using the program,” Courtney Doss said. “And I was impressed with the benchmark tests that were given to see if her Lexile level (reading ability) increased or decreased.

“I would love for her to continue to use the program after the summer months.”

The myON summer reading program is free, Connelly said.

“Parents did not have to pay anything. The United Way did not have to pay anything and the school district did not have to pay anything,” she said.

For those who have yet to take advantage of the myON reading program, it is not too late.

The program will continue through Labor Day and Connelly encouraged parents to get their students reading.

“Our community is extremely fortunate to have been chosen as a pilot program by the Mississippi GLR and Renaissance (the company that developed the AR software),” Connelly said. “The program provides our children pre-K through third grade with a fun interactive and personalized digital platform to read throughout the summer months, and it is our hopes at the end of this journey, we will be able to say the children in our community experienced a very minimal summer slide because of their opportunity to read during the summer.”

She hopes the data collected from this pilot program will show education leaders continuing the program locally has value.

“As partners with the Vicksburg Warren School District, it is our hope that this pilot program will provide enough data to support active student engagement so that the school district can make an informed decision regarding the continuation of this digital interactive reading platform,” Connelly said.

“Anything we see results in catches our attention,” Shealy said.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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