Contributed by: Keira Pride, Manager of Library Services at Stratford School

Stratford School is an independent private school with 1,200 middle school students across eight campuses in California.

For the past two years, Stratford’s library team has been using the Sora reading app for our middle school students with great success. When schools across the nation moved rapidly to a distance learning program due to the COVID-19 Shelter at Home order, we were determined to create a way to keep all of our students interested in recreational reading. We thought that hosting a virtual book club with Zoom over our Spring Break would be fun.

I contacted Sarah Wilsman, our Content Specialist, and Ty Sugick, our Account Manager at OverDrive, for some ideas on books to use. Sarah let me know the great news: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was set to unlimited simultaneous access for all students!

#HarryPotterAtHome takes virtual book clubs to the next level

On the first day of Stratford’s Spring Break, we began our Harry Potter Reader’s Club. The club was an instant success! Each day, we had nearly 200 fourth through eighth grade students virtually attend this one-hour book club. We used the time to share our passion for the Harry Potter series and simply connect with each other as we sheltered at home. We pre-prepared questions, allowed students to recap chapters and then assigned a fun craft to make that evening for show and tell the next day. Craft examples included creating Harry Potter-inspired DIY wands, designing house crests and drawing characters from the series.

The Club was so popular with Stratford students that we brought it back after Spring Break, meeting twice a week for one hour via Zoom. As an added twist, we created “Hogwarts Houses” for each meeting, with membership determined by the student’s Zoom screen name. Library team members and volunteer Stratford Middle School students took on roles as house leaders. The teams competed to earn house points, just like in the book series. We used Zoom breakout rooms for quizzes on the chapters and awarded points for crafts and participation.

Stratford’s virtual Harry Potter Readers Book Club was successful by creating a safe, engaging and fun experience for our students as they sheltered at home through the end of the school year. It was a time when students could be with other Harry Potter fans, talk about reading and, most importantly, see their Stratford friends and perhaps meet new ones. We are very grateful to have had access to the book!

Ebook & audiobook checkouts soar amid remote learning transition

Throughout the transition to Stratford’s distance learning program, and the implementation of our story times and readers book club, we have seen a renewed interest in recreational reading through Sora. Since March 15, more than 8,373 books were checked out and Stratford students spent an incredible 7,221 hours reading over an eight-week period.

Recreational reading continues to engage our young readers and helps alleviate boredom for students. Thank you, Sora, for being our partner and inspiring the joy of reading in Stratford students.

For more on how OverDrive’s school partners have used Sora to ease the transition to distance learning, check out this post.