The Sora Spotlight series profiles educators who’ve become standout 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 Stephanie Mills, Library Media Specialist at Park View Middle School in Cranston, RI.

Educator Stats:


Stephanie Mills

Describe your position and your school. 

I was an 8th grade ELA teacher before becoming a library media specialist in 2007.  I have worked as both an elementary and middle school librarian and was Rhode Island’s School Librarian of the Year in 2020.  I am the library media specialist at Park View Middle School in Cranston, RI.  Our school serves over 700 students in grades 6-8.  At Park View, every book has a reader, every reader has a book!

How many years have you been active with OverDrive?


What are you currently reading?

The 2024 Read Across RI selection, Solito by Javier Zamora.

Stephanie’s Sora Story

What do you love most about Sora?

Sora is what I call “the library within the library.” Today, school libraries have both limited budgets and limited space but yet the book series and titles students want come out weekly! Sora allows me to expand what I can offer students – especially manga series with many volumes and audiobook options for students who enjoy following along with a hard copy of a book.  Sora gives students another place to go for options beyond the walls of our school library.

What unique things have you done to help increase student engagement with Sora? 

A few ways I have worked to increase student engagement with Sora include:

  • A digital bookshelf with our state book (RI Middle School Book Award) list nominees. The covers of the books were on shelves and they linked directly to the title in Sora. We used this as a summer reading kick off since all the RIMSBA books are on our summer reading list. In addition, our summer reading list was hyperlinked to Sora so students could access it directly from the page. I also used a RIMSBA scramble as a fun game the last week of school- students had to click on the book cover in Sora to read the description of the book and match it to the riddle (Example: The riddle for the book Freestyle was “There will be yo yos!”)
  • Magazine Scavenger Hunt: The magazine package is underutilized and a fabulous resource. To help students learn about the 200 magazines available, I created a scavenger hunt for students to look in Sora for magazines that matched the clues.
  • A couple of years ago, in an effort to beef up usage, Barrington Middle School (a school about 20 minutes from us) and Park View collaborated for a friendly competition to increase minutes read and titles checked out of Sora. We gave students six weeks and challenged them to “beat” the other school. Students could submit a Google Form to log the books they read in Sora and Overdrive generously donated swag to hand out as prizes to students. Even though Park View was not the winner, we saw a large increase in circulation and usage.
  • Another middle school librarian created beautiful visual book list templates on her website. I was then able to redo the templates to match books available in Sora. I printed them and placed them in sheet protectors and they are in a binder for students to browse.
  • Google Classroom “advertisements” showcase new books added to Sora
  • In the past three years, we have worked with the public library to get over 200 students library cards. We then link them to Sora for more borrowing potential.

In what ways has this been successful?

The most success I have had in generating interest in Sora is giving students time in class to look at what is available. We have Sora integrated in Clever so there is never a need for usernames or passwords. Having 10-15 minutes of class time to browse garners interest in series or titles they did not know were available.

Is there anything you did to kick off the school year to roll out and introduce Sora to your students or staff?  

Students and staff receive training and information about Sora. Each team of students comes in with their ELA teacher to watch a presentation about Sora. After the orientation, students are given time to use the library Chromebooks to practice logging in, borrowing a book and/or place a hold on a title they are interested in.

In what ways have you utilized social media to reach your students?  What is the impact of this?  

I used X for a very long time to promote Sora, but I found that the platform had less interaction than other mediums. Now, I utilize our parent and student listserv as well as Google Classroom because it reaches each student and family in our community.

Do you have any exciting ideas you want to try or anything upcoming that you’re looking forward to with Sora?

I’d like to work to highlight audiobooks more often. I’m still thinking of ways to generate interest!

Have you worked with anyone in your building to use Sora for curriculum?  Are there any ways that you’ve found to get teachers and students using Sora in the classroom?

YES! Our 8th grade ELA classes on the Patriots Team does a mock Sibert award. I have asked Sora to add the titles of our contenders so that students always have access to the books. Adding the titles was easy, timely and made our project run so much smoother. New England weather is unpredictable as well as illnesses running through classrooms and having the books available has come in handy because students don’t fall behind if they are our sick or we have a distance learning day.

Is there anything else you want readers to know about your implementation of Sora or your library?

We live in a very visual and fast-paced world. Our students live on their devices. Showing them another way to access books that aligns with something they have with them all the time is a helpful way to raise the next generation of readers.

Get to know Stephanie

What is your favorite “reading” moment with a student? 

I have seen students enter our school with an attitude that reading isn’t worth what little free time students have outside of the school day – so I’ve worked to create reader’s advisory lessons like Blink Date with a Book and StarBOOKS Cafe that open students’ eyes to books they may not have looked for or known about.

What is the most important thing you hope your students take away from reading/education?

I think middle school is a fragile reading space. It’s a time that most parents have stopped reading out loud to kids at night and a time that teachers feel pressure to cover all the curriculum. However, working to have 5-10 minute of book talks or giving kids time to discuss what they have read with each other builds a community of readers and a culture of reading.

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

Becoming a new librarian or educator is a daunting and an arduous task. It’s easy to get lost learning curriculum, student needs, school routines – but one thing that is invaluable to any classroom or library is a routine that sparks a little love for books. Whether it’s “First Chapter Friday” or “Classroom Book A Day”…don’t underestimate the 10-15 minutes of showing your love and spark for reading. It’s hard for kids to ignore it when the adults around them show them how much fun being a community of readers can be.

Are you our next Sora Spotlight?

It’s easy to get featured – 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: