Digital book

State program provides free access to digital books

Tony Thurmond, State Superintendent of Education, speaks at the Marin Communications Forum at Terra Linda High School in San Rafael, Calif., Thursday, August 29, 2019 (Alan Dep / Marin Independent Journal)

Students at Marin Public School have free, unlimited access to a library of digital books during the holidays as part of a program offered by the state.

The program, which started Wednesday and runs through Jan.31, is a tool to boost literacy among students in Kindergarten to Grade 12, state Superintendent of Education Tony Thurmond said.

“This is a great opportunity for our families to share the joy of reading and establishing routines that support the growth of literacy for our students,” Thurmond said Tuesday.

The plan, a partnership with the company Renaissance.com, gives students 24-hour free access to thousands of digital books and news articles on the company’s myON platform. Thurmond said the arrangement was part of his efforts to ensure that all children in the state are able to read by grade three – a goal he said he intends to achieve by 2026 .

“One of the hallmarks of Superintendent Thurmond’s tenure has been to laser focus on what’s best for children, with particular emphasis on the importance of literacy,” said Mary Jane Burke, Superintendent schools in Marin.

“This program is another example of its ability to work with business partners to ensure that all students have access to the materials they need,” she said.

In the Mill Valley School District, district librarians “will review the documents and make recommendations based on their findings,” spokeswoman Anna Russell said.

“Of course, we are excited to see what is available to share with our staff and families,” she said. “We are also very fortunate to have a strong public library system with staff working with our school librarians. Students can only benefit by having more opportunities and material to read.

Itoco Garcia, superintendent of the Sausalito Marin City school district, said he was not familiar with the specific content of the myON program, so he did not comment on its effectiveness.

“That being said, I think anytime students have more access to literacy – especially nights, weekends and vacations – it’s a good thing,” Garcia said.

According to Thurmond, myON offers low-bandwidth and offline playback options, as well as natural vocal audio narration.

Audio storytelling “is particularly useful for young learners and encourages reading aloud and reading outside of school,” Thurmond said.

Chris Bauleke, CEO of Renaissance, said the free online access plan “strengthens Renaissance’s mission to accelerate learning for all children, in partnership with the California Department of Education.”

“We are thrilled to support Superintendent Thurmond’s bold vision for literacy and access to books for every student in California,” said Bauleke.

Other parts of Thurmond’s literacy efforts include a pledge to help 100,000 students get their first library card by 2026 and a campaign to provide 1 million books to students and families in need.