“Grow a love of reading”: How a TN librarian teaches lifelong learning & reading skills with digital [Sora Spotlight]
By: Kristen Hein, Account Manager
Each Sora Spotlight profile showcases educators who’ve become Sora champions at their school, impressing us with their innovative strategies to implement the platform and engage students. We’ve asked them to share their stories so that we can all be inspired to find new ways to reach more students with reading.
Today, we’ll chat with Kate Lewallen, Head Librarian at Webb School of Knoxville (TN).
Describe your position and your school.
Webb is an independent school in Knoxville, TN that serves grades preK – 12, and as Head Librarian I manage the middle and upper school libraries, grades 6-12. Day to day I work most closely with the upper school students and teachers, and our middle school librarian handles the day to day in that division. I’ve been at Webb for eight years, and before that I worked in a university library. I collaborate most closely with teachers on research and information literacy, and I also work closely with our English teachers to help our students grow a love of reading.
How many years have you been active with OverDrive?
What are you currently reading?
Aces Wild by Amanda DeWitt.
Kate’s Sora Story:
Why do you love Sora?
I love that students can access it wherever they are, and across multiple devices. Many of my students have a personal device in addition to their school device, and it’s great that students can not only use any of their devices with Sora, but that it will sync across those multiple devices as well.
I also really like the Sora magazine collection. I got rid of all my physical magazines during the pandemic, and I was so excited to be able to offer my students and teachers magazine access through a platform they already knew. With the variety of types of magazines, I also make sure to let my teachers know which magazines fit their subjects for possible class use.
What unique things have you done to help increase student engagement with Sora?
In our middle school, we have categories for “Read an audiobook” and “Read an ebook” as part of our 20-book challenge, and we make sure that Sora is pre-loaded onto the students’ school devices. We also create Sora collections for each of the other categories in the challenge so students can quickly find any book they need. In the upper school, we get most students into Sora initially by advertising that we have the audiobook versions of their class texts.
We also tell students that if they request a book, we can get an ebook or audiobook in a few hours instead of waiting a few weeks for a physical book to arrive. We also have our Sora Showcase playing on one of our announcement screens in the library so that students can always see what books and resources we have.
In what ways has this been successful?
Both teachers and students really appreciate that we make the class text audiobooks available for any student who wants or needs it. Once students use Sora for that class book, they almost always find something else that they want to read on their own.
In what ways have you utilized social media to reach your students? What is the impact of this?
We have a pretty active Instagram, and we highlight our Sora resources a lot on social media. We often do #FirstPageFriday posts on Fridays and we’re almost always highlighting a Sora ebook so that students who see the post Friday night can still access the book over the weekend. We can even link to the exact book in an Instagram story.
We also try to highlight ebooks and audiobooks when we do posts for heritage months and book-ish holidays, like National Cookbook Month or National Hobby Month (the magazine collection was a great resource for highlight hobbies).
Get to know Kate
What is your favorite book of all time, and why?
My favorite book as a kid was Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – I loved that she was strong and independent and saved herself. My favorite more recently is The Rose Code by Kate Quinn – it’s just a beautiful book with a nice mix of action and intrigue.
What is your favorite “reading” moment with a student? (One of those memorable teaching moments that has stuck with you)
Anytime a student comes back to tell me that they finished the book I recommended and really loved it, those are the moments that are really sustaining. Most recently, I recommended Truly Devious to a student at the beginning of the year, and they told me just a few days ago that they loved it so much they have since read the entire series.
What is the most important thing you hope your students take away from reading/education?
That learning and reading are life-long skills, not things that stop once you finish school.
Want to be featured in the next Sora Spotlight? Contact us and briefly explain how you’re making an impact with Sora in your school.
Learn more about Sora – join a live product walk-through to see it in action!
About the Author
Kristen Hein is an Account Manager 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:
Browse blog and media articles
Public Library Training
K-12 Library Training