Sora Spotlight: Christina Chatel, Library Media Specialist (MI)
In our recurring Sora Spotlight series, we 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 Christina Chatel, a library media specialist for Boulan Park Middle School and Smith Middle School in Troy, MI.
Describe your position and your school.
I am the school library media specialist for two middle schools in Troy, MI —Boulan Park and Smith. We have grades 6-8 in our middle schools. I teach lessons and do book talks for all three grades, but a lot of my focus is on 6th grade and getting them ready for research. I also make sure that they are set up with our library catalog app and the Sora app. I started my career teaching high school English for 10 years, then moved to the middle school media center for the past 9 years after I finished my MLIS. My schools are comprised of BIG READERS!
When the pandemic hit, I was so glad to have already set my students up with the Sora app and had shown them how to hook Sora to Troy Public Library. We have seen our Sora checkouts go through the roof ever since March 2020; our students love the ebook and audiobook options that they can get on Sora.
How many years have you been active with OverDrive?
What are you currently reading?
Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon
Christina’s Sora Story
What do you love most about Sora?
I love that it gives me another way to QUICKLY get books in kids’ hands. Often, if a book that a student wants is checked out from my media center, it will be available on Sora, either in our district collection or from the public library. This student can immediately access the book instead of waiting for me to try to get a copy sent over from another school.
What unique things have you done to help increase student engagement with Sora?
I created a video tutorial on how to log in to Sora, how to use the app and how to connect the app to a public library account. Teachers have really appreciated this, and it’s become part of their beginning of the year “things to do” with their classes. Additionally, I’ve celebrated Read an Ebook Day (Sept. 18) by inviting classes into the media center to learn more about Sora. On World Read Aloud Day, I invited classes to listen to audiobooks from Sora in the media center. I promote Big Library Read and Sora Sweet Reads through Schoology, our learning management system, as well as signage in the library.
I really like how we can take students directly to collections or to titles on Sora through grabbing the URL and creating a QR code or sharing a link — I’ve made displays with QR codes that students can scan with their iPads to get to a particular title.
In what ways has this been successful?
The big change that I have seen is the sheer number of students who go to Sora now to look for a book. I also have seen a change in the teachers’ perspectives—they were nervous at first to let students read on their iPads, but now it has become part of the culture.
Due to COVID-19, schools have been presented a lot of unique challenges in the past few years. In what ways have you accommodated these challenges, and how has Sora helped with this?
I think that Sora was crucial to keeping students reading while they were at home.
Anything else you’d like readers to know about how you’re using Sora?
Our middle school media centers have hosted a reading program for the past 22 years that we call Troybery, after the Newbery Award. This year, in addition to purchasing paper copies of the Troybery books, we purchased five ebook copies of each book in Sora.
To our surprise (and pleasure), those books have almost ALL been checked out all school year, with long waiting lists for all of them! I created a sign to post on the bookshelf so that students would know that they could find the Troybery books on Sora, too. In Sora, I created a collection that shows up at the top of the Explore section, so students can find it easily.
Get to know Christina
What is the most important thing you hope your students take away from reading/education?
I hope that my students leave middle school with a lifelong passion for reading. My goal is to connect them with books that they will love and books that will inspire them to keep reading.
What advice do you have for new educators/librarians with a digital collection?
It takes some time to learn how to leverage Sora with your readers. Make sure that you first train your teachers on how to use it, so that they can advertise Sora to their students and can teach their students how to use it. Try to get Sora training embedded in the beginning-of-the-year activities to get students going on it right away.
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? Join a live product walk-through to see it in action!
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.
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