By: Brian Byrne. Communications Specialist.

Located in the coastal plains of North Carolina, the Lenoir County Public Schools (LCPS) serve more than 9,000 K-13 (early college) students across 17 schools. A high-poverty district with 70 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, LCPS has a proud history of partnering with families and the community to achieve its mission: Educating all students to be successful in an ever-changing world.

To that end, LCPS in 2011 began exploring digital reading platform options.

“Our primary goal has always been to offer our students and staff diverse and quality reading materials across all grade levels, available both at home and at school at any time,” Media and Technology Coordinator Charles White said.

LCPS had a number of key factors to consider when reviewing potential digital content partners, with a device-agnostic solution at the forefront. The district at that time was BYOD, allowing students to bring their personal devices like Kindles, NOOKs and iPads to school.

“We needed a product that was not dependent upon any one device,” White said.

Other requirements included breadth and depth of available content, including current popular titles, and offline access to content to serve students without a home internet connection. Lenoir also needed an easy-to-use interface. “We knew that if the service was difficult to use, our students and teachers wouldn’t use it,” White said.

Choosing a digital partner

After careful review, LCPS selected OverDrive, the partner of more than 12,000 districts and schools worldwide, as its digital reading platform for its ability to deliver its must-haves.

With OverDrive, content is available on all major devices, including laptops, eReaders, tablets and smartphones. “That was a huge selling point for us,” White said. LCPS can choose from an unrivaled catalog of more than 2 million eBook, audiobook and streaming video titles spanning all subjects, genres and levels to meet all its reading and learning needs. eBooks offer flexibility at every grade level NC district finds success with BYOD & 1:1, library & classroom use. Students and staff can download titles for convenient offline use anytime, anywhere. LCPS’ digital collection is accessed through an easy-to-use, customized website that’s available 24/7/365 via the industry’s leading app or the browser-based OverDrive Read and OverDrive Listen, which require no software or downloads. LCPS’ OverDrive-powered digital reading platform went live in March 2012.

“We’ve just kind of fallen in love with it ever since,” White said.

Expanding the digital footprint

LCPS’ digital library has experienced impressive results. Users have steadily climbed every year since its launch, as have checkouts, with a new record expected in 2016 that equates to multiple checkouts for every student in the district.

“I’ve been really pleased with the service,” White said.

Although focused on popular fiction (“reading for reading’s sake” as White calls it), LCPS’ growing collection of 1,130 digital titles has a little bit of everything, from biographies and classic literature to graphic novels and humor. A good mix of eBook and audiobook options are available, including Read-Alongs, eBooks for developing learners featuring professionally recorded narration that plays while students read highlighted text.

Shifting to 1:1

While the district was BYOD at the time of its digital library adoption, it’s now in the third year of a 1:1 iPad program for all students K-13. OverDrive’s universal device compatibility has allowed for uninterrupted access to the digital collection, with usage increasing at an even higher rate.

“I’m super excited about it,” White said about the reading and learning opportunities presented by the 1:1.

Digital Class Setsclass sets

The 1:1 also opened the door to the introduction of digital class sets across all grade levels in spring 2015. As the name suggests, digital class sets are eBook versions of the titles that serve as a cornerstone of the ELA curriculum, and they’re growing in popularity for the advantages they present over traditional print texts.

“Our teachers just love them,” White said.

Fourth-grade teacher Nikki Sasser recently went digital for her classes’ study of Louis Sachar’s There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom, which included projecting passages for group read-alouds.

“I believe my students are more engaged due to having it in digital form,” she said. “They seem to pay attention more and enjoy the digital experience of a book. It’s different and fun.”