Students shine in the myON Reading Program in Hemet Unified’s S.A.F.E./ZONE Program | Renaissance

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California (CA)  |  Community & Engagement  |  ELL  |  Literacy  |  Reading Practice  |  Success Stories

Students shine in the myON Reading Program in Hemet Unified’s S.A.F.E./ZONE Program

Hemet Unified School District

Hemet, CA

Hemet Unified School District’s vision is to make an impact on our future by creating exemplary educational experiences for students by providing multiple paths of learning and a foundation of excellence.

Hemet Unified School District

Challenges

  • Getting high-interest books and reading materials in the hands of students
  • Encouraging students to read over the summer months and after school

Solutions

  • myON

Benefits

  • Engaged students who want to read and grow
  • Improved Lexile reading levels and more time spent reading

The S.A.F.E/ZONE Program operates at nineteen different school sites throughout Hemet Unified School District, including the areas of Idyllwild, Anza, and Winchester. The S.A.F.E./ZONE Program serves more than 2,100 students in grades K–8 on a daily basis.

Hemet itself is about 80 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles and is home to more than 78,000 people. Hemet is known for being the home of The Ramona Pageant, the state’s official outdoor play, and one of the longest-running outdoor plays in the US. Hemet Unified is home to more than 21,000 K–12 students and has 28 schools spread across 650 square miles. The district has a large Hispanic population and is known for its music, agriculture, and athletic programs.

In 2002, The After School Education and Safety Program Act, also known as Proposition 49, was added to the ballot in California, asking voters if funding for before- and after-school programs should be increased. It passed and created the foundation for Hemet Unified’s S.A.F.E./ZONE Program. In the time since, School Education and Safety Coordinator Scott Payne, in coordination with his team of 120 plus employees, has worked hard to create an exemplary program. The program offers literacy, academic enrichment, and engaging after-school activities in a safe and fun environment for students. Major focus areas are supporting and aligning with the district’s goals and meeting student needs. Hemet Unified’s vision is to make an impact on the future by creating exemplary educational experiences for students by providing multiple paths of learning and creating a foundation of excellence through multiple systems of support.

The challenge: Connecting students with engaging books

Getting high-interest books and reading materials into the hands of students was an identified challenge of the program, as well as a goal that supported the district-wide literacy goals. The program also wanted to encourage students to read more after school and in the summer months.

Prior to implementing the myON digital reading platform in the after-school program, the S.A.F.E./ZONE Program used different resources to support literacy. Students were encouraged to bring their own books, and some books were available at the school site for reading. Students would sometimes forget their books, not have access to purchase their own books, or not be interested in the books the school site had available. Sourcing high-interest books for students was tough—revealing the need for easily accessible digital, high-interest content designed for students.

That led to a search for a digital reading program that fit the needs of the S.A.F.E./Zone Program’s students. It was important that any literacy program selected could be easily and faithfully implemented by program staff.

“Overseeing an after-school program, a lot of us don’t have an educational background. There’s a lot of non-teachers working in the S.A.F.E. and Zone Program,” noted Payne. “It was important that any one of us could get a digital reading program up and running smoothly for the students.”

“It was important that any one of us could get a digital reading program up and running smoothly for the students.”

Scott Payne
School Education and Safety Coordinator, S.A.F.E./ZONE Program

During the search, myON kept bubbling up as an option among leaders at Hemet Unified. So, the S.A.F.E./Zone Program decided to pilot myON with some of their students. The Fruitvale Elementary School S.A.F.E./Zone Program was picked to pilot myON, and students were able to try out myON during the last three months of the 2018–19 school year.

The results: Engaged students who want to read and grow

Student feedback was crucial, so the students completed a survey about myON before leaving for summer vacation.

“We simply asked students if they liked myON or if they didn’t like myON,” recalled Payne. “We wanted our students to be comfortable with the technology they’re using. The vast majority of our students let us know that they really enjoyed myON because there were so many different reading choices and it was geared toward what they like to read—from outer space to monsters.”

“The vast majority of our students let us know that they really enjoyed myON because there were so many different reading choices and it was geared toward what they like to read—from outer space to monsters.”

Scott Payne
School Education and Safety Coordinator, S.A.F.E./ZONE Program

That positive feedback, as well as improved reading scores, led to a full rollout of myON the following fall. Since myON is available to different schools in the district, each school is given the freedom to track what makes the most sense for them in myON. For example, some schools track minutes, some track pages, and some track books. It depends on how the school wants to look at their students’ reading data.

Numbers that speak for themselves

Since myON was introduced in the S.A.F.E./ZONE Program, the numbers have been impressive. During the 2019–20 school year, S.A.F.E./ZONE students in the myON Reading Program spent a collective 678,000 minutes reading, read 149 million words, and finished almost 87,000 books. Plus, the top reader alone spent 4,875 minutes reading and read 91 books!

Even during the shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic in late March to the middle of May, students spent 16,200 minutes reading and read more than 2 million words—despite just 20 percent of students reading at that point, while the district worked to provide devices and Wi-Fi hotspots to families. The most impressive part? Of those 16,200 minutes, 43 percent of them were spent reading outside the normal school hours.

Those in the district could not be happier. Since Hemet Unified first invested in myON, students have read more than 102,000 books and spent more than 744,000 minutes reading.

Asked why students gravitate toward myON, Payne points to the words of a colleague.

“Someone mentioned that it just seems like the students are enjoying reading a lot more,” said Payne. “myON is geared toward their individual levels, so they’re not just picking up a book they can’t read. It’s what they want to read.”

“myON is geared toward their individual levels, so they’re not just picking up a book they can’t read. It’s what they want to read.”

Scott Payne
School Education and Safety Coordinator, S.A.F.E./ZONE Program

The future: More myON reading fun!

Despite the pandemic forcing things online, the S.A.F.E./ZONE Program has been able to continue literacy enrichment and continue to provide resources for students and families through their website and via virtual check-ins. Students and families can visit the program’s website for program information, updates, activities, and resources. In fact, some of the top myON readers were featured on the website recently!

While what this fall will look like is still up in the air, the S.A.F.E./ZONE team plans on continuing the myON program online, encouraging students to read, explore, and have fun. After all, what is a better solution for distance learning than a digital reading program?

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