By: Christina Samek, Outreach Specialist.

It’s another year, another beginning, and another opportunity to discuss the merits of digital in today’s age with all of you. The first time I did this, I used helpful and trusted statistics to support my idea. Numbers never lie. The second time, I used personal testimonies from our partners, from you, and while people sometimes lie, it’s rarely about things they love. So, here we are for a third time and as they say, the third time’s the charm. Taking that literally, I am going to attempt to charm you. I can’t think of a better way to do that than with our new student reading app, Sora.

As it says on many of our promotional resources, Sora is brought to you by your school, and built with 💕 by OverDrive. Sora is built with heart. Our dedicated team of developers collected feedback from us, from you (librarians, media specialists, teachers, administrators, coordinators, and IT specialists) and lastly, from students, the most important user group in all of this because Sora is for students.

What does built with 💕 mean?

We started with ease of use and made it a one-tap reading experience, no more extra downloads or new tabs opening.

We added achievement badges because incentives go a long way in the eyes of students, especially if there is room for healthy competition.

We added reading stats that stay with the student as they use Sora, allowing the student to track their progress as they aim to become a better reader.

We moved these stats to the student profile level so that the student could confidently and confidentially share this information with whomever they choose: parents, teachers, etc.

We improved upon the already revolutionary notes and highlights feature—allowing students to add markups in the title as they’re reading—saving those annotations to the student’s home page in Sora, making them continuously discoverable and exportable to PDF, CSV, Google Drive, and more. They added a log of defined words to the homepage so that students can track and continue to improve their vocabulary.

We included an Assignments feature that displays assigned books (that expire on due dates set by you, the educators!) automatically.

Lastly, we tied it back to the library, the foundation of OverDrive’s continuous innovations. With Sora, students can browse, search, and borrow books from their public library. But even with all that, all the new and exciting perks, at the end of the day, the tagline rings true: Open a world of reading. The goal was to help more students, every kind of student, read.

Reading is reading

So, why digital? More specifically, why digital reading? I have a bookshelf at home that is straining under the weight of all the books I’ve tried to make fit there. I still love print books. I think most digital readers still have room in their hearts for the original. But, I think back to when I was 10 years old puzzled over the word “awry” and what it meant and how for years I pronounced it wrong. I think how nice it would have been to have a define feature at my fingertips. I think of my best friend, the smartest girl I know, who hated reading. Who was 14 when she found out she had dyslexia and that it finally made sense why the words wouldn’t stick, why she’d stumble from page to page. I think how nice it would have been for her to change one setting and have a whole dyslexic font made available to her, how perhaps she wouldn’t have hated reading after all.

It’s just reading. If you could improve literacy in students, every student, no matter their strengths or weaknesses, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you give that gift to anyone you could?

Happy Holidays to all the readers out there!