News From Beanstack: DC Schools Challenge Students to Read 3 Million Minutes

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45,000 Students, 6,000 Teachers to Participate in District Wide Reading Challenge Using Beanstack, Online Platform for Reading Programs, Early Literacy Initiatives and Book Clubs

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We’re excited to work with all the public schools of the local Washington, D.C., area to motivate young and old alike to get out there and read.

The District of Columbia Public School System (DCPS) today announced it has launched a citywide reading initiative challenging the DCPS community to read more. “Read Across the City: The Three Million Minute Challenge” starts this month and includes all 115 public schools, encouraging kids, teachers, staff, and parents to read every day, giving them online tools to track books read and the time spent reading them. The goal is to hit three million minutes by April 2018.

“One of DCPS’s strategic goals to ensure all of the district’s K-2 students can read on or above grade level by 2022,” said DC Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson. ”Building skills in reading takes practice. This challenge makes reading in class, at home, or out in the community even more fun and helps to build habits that will create life-long readers.”

While the challenge is district-wide, each school library has its own individual website where students can track their reading. DCPS is using Beanstack, software that gives libraries tools to facilitate reading programs and makes it easy for users to track how much they’ve read on any computer or mobile device. The online tool also offers book recommendations based on reader preferences.

Each school’s reading goals are based on student enrollment. More than 45,000 DCPS students already have accounts set up through the software so they can easily sign up and start participating. With 6,000 teachers and staff participating and parents encouraged to join in as well, expectations are high. In addition to the “Read Across the City” challenge, schools can use the software to design their own reading initiatives like Marie Reed Elementary School’s “Reed Reads” program, with each school’s minutes being added to the collective total. Individual readers can earn virtual badges specially created for this program based on local landmarks like the Washington Monument, the Big Chair, and the Chuck Brown Sculpture.

Though the goal is three million minutes of reading, the true objective is to enable students to discover the joys of independent reading. Studies show that kids who read more perform better academically; reading just 20 minutes a night can put students in the 90th percentile on standardized tests*. There’s an emerging consensus that giving students agency to read what they want — comics, fiction, fantasy, or any other subject — keeps them motivated, building a culture of reading that will help them be more prepared and even successful in life.

“A big part of promoting literacy is building their knowledge and interest in a range of topics. Not just math, social studies, and science, but whatever interests them,” said Jennifer Boudrye, the director of Library Programs for DCPS. “School should be a place where students are encouraged to choose what they read and explore new topics. Reading is fun! It’s important kids realize that early on.”

The three­month program will also support DCPS’s recently unveiled strategic plan, “A Capital Commitment,” which calls for all district students to read at or above gradelevel by grade 3. By incorporating caregivers along with their children, the reading challenge also promotes one of their stated priorities: deepening partnerships with families, so that the entire community is engaged and involved in children’s learning.

Felix Brandon Lloyd, co-founder of Beanstack, is proud the company's online tracking tools will make it easy for everyone to be part of such a bold initiative. “Beanstack was created to help kids and their families find great books and inspire them to read,” he says. “We’re excited to work with all the public schools of the local Washington D.C. area to motivate young and old alike to get out there and read.”

Thirty challenge winners will receive a 50-new book kit filled the industry’s best books from Junior Library Guild (JLG) from Media Source, Inc. In addition, each school will be awarded a one-year subscription to JLG—a $1200 value—and can choose from over 75 categories of PreK-12 grade fiction and nonfiction books for their schools.

“We are so pleased to be supporting the DCPS’ citywide reading initiative and partnering with Beanstack to fuel literacy, learning and community,” said Steve Zales, CEO of Media Source, Inc. “Our mission is to help educators provide equitable access and equal opportunity to literacy and learning. Providing the challenge winners with exceptional books is just our way of saying thanks for furthering the pursuit of developing lifelong learners.”

The first school specific programs launched on December 1, with more rolling out throughout the city over the whole month. The “Read Across the City: Three Million Minute Challenge” began on January of 2018.

*SOURCE: Nagy, W. E., R. C. Anderson, and P. A. Herman. 1987. Learning word meanings from context during normal reading. American Educational Research Journal 24: 237–70.

ABOUT BEANSTACK
Beanstack (http://www.beanstack.com) is an online platform for local families to participate in reading programs, early literacy initiatives, and book clubs. The service provides tools to track reading and earn incentives, as well as sending personalized emails or text messages recommending a book or upcoming event. For libraries and schools, Beanstack makes it easy to register patrons, create reading and activity challenges, and produce detailed reports. The entire experience is set apart by the software’s easy usability and customized, mobile­first design. In 2018, Beanstack plans to launch a first­of­its­kind mobile app designed to encourage reading all year long.

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Lisa Wolfe
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