Can eBooks help bridge achievement gaps?

DPS teachers are accessing professional development digitally as well, tapping into multimedia presentations and lesson plans aligned with Michigan’s science standards for grades 6-12. The goal? Helping teachers differentiate instruction more successfully.

Similar efforts are under way in Indiana, Wisconsin, Connecticut, California, Ohio, New Jersey, Texas, and a host of other states.

While state governments and school districts pilot electronic book programs, some enterprising teachers and community volunteers are striking up partnerships with book publishers, bookstores, and online charities to put more reading resources in classrooms and student homes.

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Programs like Adopt-a-School and Donors Choose, for example, fuel online donations to worthy classrooms and teacher-developed projects. And rotary clubs, professional associations, alumni organizations for fraternities and sororities, faith-based organizations, and other community groups are developing literacy-based partnerships with schools.

Armed with willing volunteers, these groups are more than willing to provide reading buddies, tutors, media center assistants and mentors, as well as free books, for schools serving poor neighborhoods. Someone simply needs to ask them to help—and provide some guidance, coordination, and an occasional thank you.

As the study, “Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations,” indicates, having 500 books in the home can make the difference between completing high school or dropping out, or graduating from college versus merely attending for a year a two.

If we want to bridge the educational divide between the haves and have-nots, reading—whether electronically or the old-fashioned way—is a great place to start.

Award-winning eSchool News columnist Nora Carr is the chief of staff for North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools.

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