Johnson City School's greedy readers enjoy both digital and paperback books

Students in the classroom

It doesn’t matter how kids are reading these days, whether it be a physical book or a digital one, it merely matters that the students are reading on their own. That is the message that Supervisor of Secondary and Instructional Technology Dr. David Timbs had as he toured schools throughout the district on Wednesday. Timbs was in search of readers for the Tennessee Department of Education #GotCaughtReading social media campaign to promote Imagination Library Week in the state.

During his ventures, Timbs and other school officials saw numerous students engaged with books, in both digital and traditional paperback copies. 

“This is the time you can hook kids and we can give them options,” Timbs said. “We are teaching a generation that is very different and use to assessing information in many different formats. So whether it is electronic or a real book in their hand, it’s giving students choices and a chance to enjoy the books they like to read.”

School officials toured Fairmont, Lake Ridge, Woodland and South Side to find different readers, but they had a special presentation to make during their stop at Lake Ridge.

Lake Ridge Librarian Maria LaBarbera and Lake Ridge Principal John Phillips were given a $100 gift card for the library on behalf of MyON - a digital literacy program that Johnson City Schools uses – because the Lake Ridge student body logged the second most hours in the state during the summer. Johnson City’s Fairmont Elementary was also among the top schools in the state as well for hours spend reading on MyON this past summer.

“I think this is important because it shows what they are doing when we aren’t making them read inside of our school,” LaBarbera said.

MyON representative Jessica Hernden, who also toured the schools to see how the program was used, presented the gift certificate to Lake Ridge. She also received plenty of good feedback from teachers and students during her time.

Timbs and Instructional Technology Coach Dr. Carleton Lyon said they have been very pleased with MyON since the school system started using it in the summer of 2016.

“MYON has greatly expanded our libraries, if there is a really popular book that everyone wants to read, in a traditional classroom everyone would have to wait their turn, but with Myon, everyone can read it at the same time,” Timbs said. “That really allows us to bring a lot of equity to our district, where all students can access all of the same books as the same time.”

Accessing books that are interesting to students is important, according to Fairmont Principal Carol McGill.

“It’s all about getting those habits when they are young and sustaining that reading habit, so that as they grow in school, they can do the kind of sustained reading they are use to,” said McGill, who also mentioned if MyON isn’t working, the students let her know pretty quickly. “The digital access (on MyOn) stimulates their interest levels in a visual way. And you can also hear the books, so it speaks to all of their senses that they learn with.”

Many third and fourth grade teachers also said they enjoyed using the MyON program for social studies lessons, especially when it involved Tennessee history.

MyON expands the classroom for teachers and students by providing unlimited access to a collection of more than 13,000 enhanced digital books with multimedia supports, daily news articles, real-time assessments, and a suite of literacy tools. Each student in the Johnson City System has access to the MyON program at home or in school (see photo above).

Timbs said that the program has been very popular at the elementary schools and it provides a way for the community to see how the system is using devices.

“It really shows how the investment that Johnson City has made in our digital transformation is translating into real impact in academics,” Timbs said. “It shows that the students don’t just have devices, they are actually using the devices for day-to-day, class-to-class activities.”