Memphis schools join with Methodist Le Bonheur, BookNook for second grade reading focus


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County School System has some new partners in the push for second grade literacy: Methodist LeBonheur and a program called BookNook.

“Memphis is poised to be the largest implementation of BookNook across the country,” says Stacy Smith with Methodist Le Bonheur.

BookNook, a national reading program, has been quietly tested out in Shelby County Schools since last February and picked up steam as the pandemic played out and virtual learning kicked in.

“You are actually working with a volunteer, a tutor or a teacher who is helping you through the assignment, but you are also doing that using technology. The students have a tablet, the adults have a tablet,” says Smith.

Students get tutoring at school or virtually. BookNook is in 32 states and hundreds of schools. In 2019 it launched at 17 community sites in Memphis.

“It went really well and so Shelby County Schools invited us to expand the program into its SCS sites,” says Smith.

“Part of the importance of the partnership is to  make sure our students are ready to participate meaningfully in third grade,” says Monica Jordan with Shelby County Schools Office of Academics.

It’s unclear how this national initiative will impact local reading programs already in place. One of the most prominent is Arise2Read, which trains reading volunteers to work in schools.

While SCS says those type partners will still be utilized, they say the state now mandates all volunteers pass state training to make sure everyone is working with students in the same way.

“The benefit of the relationship with BookNook is they already came in with that knowledge of foundational skills their training is based on that, that’s how they train their tutors, that’s how the application works,” says Jordan.

They said 40 schools are using BookNook but there are approximately 100 elementary schools in the district so there is still plenty of work to go around to support the children.

Methodist LeBonheur says since literacy affects health, this is  about making sure students don’t  suffer.

“We are really at the precipice of what we hope to be clear demonstrable change in our literacy numbers,” says Smith.

Shelby County Schools says currently, about 7,000 of its students use BookNook and on average those students are more than doubling their rate of learning.

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