Sora Spotlight: Chris Haught, Media Specialist at Southwest Educational Development Center (UT)
By: Kristen Hein, Product Support Specialist
In this recurring series, we’ll feature a different librarian, media specialist or educator who’s become a Sora champion at their school, impressing us with their innovative methods for implementing the reading app and engaging with their students. We’ve asked them to share their thoughts and ideas here so that we can all be inspired and identify new ways to reach students and help them fall in love with reading.
Today, we’ll hear from Chris Haught, a media specialist at Southwest Educational Development Center (UT).
Describe your position and your school.
I am the Media Specialist at Southwest Educational Development Center, or SEDC, which provides services requested by our member schools (six districts and eight charter schools) in order to better serve the students in southwest Utah.
How many years have you been active with OverDrive?
What are you currently reading?
Chris’ Sora Story:
Why do you love Sora?
The reason we started with OverDrive/Sora was to offer equitable access to books for pleasure reading in our most rural districts, where students do not have access to a public library or well-developed school library. I love the fact that our most underserved, isolated students have the same choices as our students in more developed areas.
What unique things have you done to help increase student engagement with Sora?
I provide a lot of video tutorials, visit the schools, and present at conferences. But our librarians are the secret to our success! Some of the things they have done:
We are doing a challenge to see who has the most minutes read on Sora. The 5th graders are quite into it. I’ll have them show me their minutes at the end of the quarter and the winner gets a little prize.
Last year, during our science festival, I had a booth and also had Sora up on my projector screen to help parents that wanted to learn Sora. I also handed out bookmarks.
When I do a class presentation, I pass out your bookmarks and your “library cards” that you make for us. A letter explaining about Sora and how to access it is sent home to the parents.
In what ways has this been successful?
Teacher responses like this:
I recently watched the “Sora eBook Library” YouTube video done by Chris.
I watched this talk because it relates to the Sped [special education] field. I learned several helpful hints. My students are at different reading levels. On this site they can choose books at their reading level. Some of my students are required to read 200 pages per quarter and do a book report. This is made easy because the books can be read to them and it keeps their spot. I have already had a few students complete their reading because of Sora. They hate reading, but this app made it seem less impossible because they read along with it.
I loved how Chris has lessons ready to go with a few books and can get more as we need them. I also love how the books are returned automatically and are never lost. I plan on having the student take notes as they read and also highlight words they didn’t know so we can review this as we complete the book report.
I also love how the app has the ability to annotate and teach it to our kids. I know there is the ability to link the Sora app to the local public library. This is another helpful feature. I got on Sora and played around with the public library. I was amazed by the variety of books.
-A Sped [special education] Teacher
Anything else you want readers to know about your implementation of Sora or your library/classroom?
The team at OverDrive has been instrumental in our success, from helping us to build collections to providing resources and webinars.
Get to know Chris
In your opinion, why is digital reading important, especially to student readers?
I think reading is important, period! But having access to Sora allows students to choose from a diverse selection and adapt better to their own reading level. This has been very true for our high school students with low reading levels. They have access to books they can enjoy digitally (and privately) that would not normally be in a high school library. As well as access to higher level books for elementary students.
If you could have your students read one book and one book only, what would it be and why?
Can’t pin it down to one book, maybe Winnie the Pooh! Kindness matters!
What is your favorite book of all time, and why?
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! The quotes remind us that all things are possible.
What is your favorite “reading” moment with a student?
While not necessarily a “reading” moment, I was showing a teacher the dyslexic font in Sora and she called over a student who had dyslexia and struggled to read. We showed the student the font and she was overjoyed. It opened a whole new world for her, and that is what I want our library to do for students!
What is the most important thing you hope your students take away from reading/education?
That reading, exploring, learning can take you places all over the world, no matter where you are!
What advice do you have for new educators/librarians with a digital collection?
Take advantage of all the resources available! There are great groups of librarians on Facebook, the resources in the Marketplace, and most important, let the students be part of the book selection process.
If you want to be the next Sora Spotlight, please reach out to us with a brief explanation of what you’re doing in your school and how you’re making an impact with Sora!
Interested in learning more about Sora? Get no-cost access today!
About the Author:
Kristen Hein is a Product Support Specialist working with schools to integrate digital into their libraries and classrooms. She herself has experience as a history teacher working with students grades 8-12 focusing on U.S. history and government. She generally spends most of her free time chasing around her hyper-active pup Romeo, hiking, practicing yoga and trying out the best Cleveland restaurants.
Check out how other educators are using Sora to increase student reading:
- Sora Spotlight: Meet Shawn Maas, Media Specialist at Cypress Bay High School (FL)
- Sora Spotlight: Dr. Linda Verge from Tahanto Regional Middle/High School
- Sora Spotlight: Mary Thomas from DC International School
- Sora Spotlight: Patti Jimenez, Media Center Director at Sunnyslope High School (AZ)
- Sora Spotlight: Daniela Prando, Librarian at World International School of Torino (Italy)