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Moreland, GA – Moreland Elementary is a rural school that serves 468 students in grades PreK-5. While the community sits just 45 minutes from Atlanta, life there is different than what you might find in the city. “Most of our kids don’t have access to the Internet in their homes,” says Media Specialist Jo Nase. “Our kids mainly have access to the Internet at school or where they can get free WiFi.”

Moreland also is a Title I school with limited funding, but it strives to provide students with access to tools for building 21st century knowledge and skills. Every student in grades 3-5 has 1:1 access to a Chromebook, and students in grades K-2 can use computers from ChromeCarts during class. Those devices have unlocked new learning opportunities for students — particularly when it comes to reading.

Big Universe Stands Apart from Its Competitors

“At the end of the 2015-16 school year, my principal asked me to look into adding eBooks to our library selection,” says Ms. Nase. “She wanted students to have more experience reading online since we were switching to online testing.”

Ms. Nase reviewed many digital library options. Big Universe offered several advantages — all of which played into the decision to purchase a school subscription for the 2016-17 school year.

  1. The price. Many digital libraries offer physical books plus bonus digital copies. Other options allow schools to purchase single eBook copies that can be checked out by only one student at a time. The school didn’t think either was a cost-effective use of their small budget and wanted any child to have access to an eBook regardless of the number of students reading it. “We knew we were not going to get anywhere near as many eBooks elsewhere for the same price as we would with Big Universe,” Ms. Nase says.
  2. The content. For the price of the digital library, educators at Moreland found the quality of the more than 10,000 eBooks unbeatable. “The books that are on Big Universe are titles that the kids are interested in,” Ms. Nase says. She explains that students also have access to another reading site that was purchased for every elementary school in the county, but they prefer Big Universe because of the stories they find inside.Educators, on the other hand, appreciated that students would have access to thousands of high-quality, high-interest nonfiction text. Of Big Universe’s more than 10,000 titles, 7,000 are nonfiction, helping educators satisfy the increased demand for research-based reading and writing instruction.
  1. The features. Big Universe also offered features that integrated well within Moreland’s classrooms. The school uses Lexile and Accelerated Reader, so students can search for eBooks in these categories and access quizzes on content. Because it’s digital, text can project onto classroom ActivBoards while students follow along on their devices. The built-in writing tool also was appealing since it can strengthen keyboarding skills in addition to writing skills — essential for students testing in a digital environment.

Big Universe Proves to be the Best Fit

Since Big Universe was introduced in November, reading has become a popular pastime at Moreland Elementary. Students have read more than 10,000 eBooks since January, ranging from 1,200 to 5,500 eBooks per month.

Teachers enjoy using Big Universe for independent reading. “I think the teachers might revolt if we don’t get the subscription next year,” jokes Ms. Nase. When students are done with their work, or when teachers allow extra time for reading, students open their Chromebooks and choose an eBook from the digital library.

They aren’t just logging in during school hours, either. Kids are reading after school and during holiday breaks as well. “I’ll get a report and see that 400 books were read this week, and we weren’t even at school,” Ms. Nase says. Even if they don’t have Internet access at home, students are finding ways to read outside of school — a testament to Big Universe’s power to increase student engagement and motivation to read.

More from Ms. Nase

Ms. Nase is so pleased with Big Universe, she has plans to create a competition similar to Shannon Ryan’s next year. Read more about Ms. Nase’s experience with Big Universe on her blog.

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