By: Kristen Hein, Account Manager

Each Sora Spotlight profile showcases educators who’ve become Sora champions at their school, impressing us with their creative strategies to get more students reading digitally. We’ve asked them to share their stories so that we can all be inspired to find new ways to reach learners across our communities.

Today, we’ll chat with Julie Ferrer, Federal Programs Manager at the Georgia Cyber Academy.

Educator Stats:

Name: Julie Ferrer

Describe your position and your school.

I am the Federal Programs Director at the Georgia Cyber Academy. We are a virtual public charter school that serves students across the state of Georgia. We are a Title I school with an 85% poverty rate.

I started in education as a first-grade teacher. It has always been a passion of mine to teach reading and to see students take off and enjoy reading for themselves. A book can take you anywhere and everywhere. Understanding the needs of our students encourages me to make our virtual library a place they want to be.

How many years have you been active with OverDrive?


What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading the Chronicles of Narnia with my family.

Julie’s Sora story

Why do you love Sora?

I love Sora because it makes the library accessible to our students 24/7. Sora allows readers to binge on their favorite series unlike having to visit a brick-and-mortar library. The features in Sora are always improving, making the library more easily searchable and customizable for every reader.

How have you engaged your students with Sora?

One of the ways we have increased student engagement with Sora in our school is by creating a monthly newsletter for each grade band that focuses on reading initiatives and features monthly collections in Sora. Our newsletter is called the High Flying Readers. Each month, we share featured Cultural Collections in the newsletter and provide the students an opportunity to “Earn Their Wings” by completing a survey with a book recommendation from the collections. We then add the student’s recommendations in the next month’s newsletter.

One of the most unique ways we have used Sora was for a Speed Book Dating event for our high school students. I created a bundle of books that had an assortment of genres of books for our contestants. The bundle feature allowed me to reserve the titles for this event.

I created a slide deck with the book jacket and the first three pages of each book. During the event, students would get five minutes to read one of the books they thought looked interesting, and then we repeated this three times. By the end of the event, the students were able to borrow the book in Sora that they had “fallen in love” with.

What about in the classroom?

I collaborate with our district’s curriculum team to provide training to our teachers to showcase how they can use Sora in their classrooms. A great way that we have been able to increase [the number of] students logging into Sora for the first time is by assigning required reading from our digital collection. The teachers have been creative in using the bundle feature to support student achievement in their classrooms and after school clubs.

What is something you’ve done that has helped make Sora successful?

The first thing we noticed when introducing Sora to our school is that the mascot, Turbo, does not represent a library to those scrolling past it on the Clever app. It has been my mission for the past couple of years to connect Turbo to the library for our students and families. We take Turbo and put it in different seasonal settings and paste it on our newsletters and PowerPoints as much as possible. We introduce Turbo in our Title I meetings for parents to see what icon they need to look for when accessing our library. Over the past couple of years, we have seen a consistent growth of users and checkouts.

How has Sora been beneficial to a virtual school?

As a virtual school, Sora has been an incredible asset to our students. We didn’t have a library before Sora. As a Title I school and understanding low-income families, I have learned they often do not have access to paper, including books. It’s common for them to believe libraries are a privilege they don’t have access to. By providing a virtual library, we can remove barriers and make libraries accessible to these deserving students.

In what ways have you utilized social media to reach your students?

We use the graphics available in the Resource Center to remind students of the library, especially during school breaks. May is “Get Caught Reading Month.” In our April, we published a survey for staff and students to submit pictures of themselves reading. In May, our social media team member posted the submitted pictures throughout the month on all of our social media platforms.

As you look to the school year, do you have any exciting ideas you want to try?

We are really excited about the new feature, shelf talkers. We have published a survey for our students and staff to submit book recommendations. We look forward to creating a more engaging virtual library.

Get to know Julie

What is your favorite book of all time, and why?

My favorite book of all time is Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes. It’s a remarkable memoir of a young boy’s journey from poverty in Ireland to America and all that he went through to overcome his circumstances in life. I had an English teacher in high school recommend it to me and I loved it all the more because it was a personal recommendation.

What is your favorite “reading” moment with a student? (One of those memorable teaching moments that has stuck with you)

I taught the foundations of reading to first graders for many years, and it never got old to see a student that struggled at the beginning of the year to become a proficient reader. They would just look up at me after reading fluently and just have that face of pride in themselves. Teaching a child to read is giving them something money can never buy. It’s freedom from circumstances and gives you an opportunity to learn anything your heart desires.

What advice do you have for new educators/librarians with a digital collection?

I recommend diving in yourself first. Find out what you love about it so when you share the digital collection with others, your passion shows through, making them want to check it out all the more.

Learn more about Georgia Cyber Academy.

You could be our next Sora Spotlight!

It’s easy – simply contact us and briefly explain how you’re making an impact with Sora in your school.

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 as a tool for student literacy: