10 Ways To Promote Ebooks and Audiobooks to K-12 Students

With students learning from home, Denver Public Schools' ebook and audio checkouts topped 51,000 in April. Here's how librarians are making that happen. 

Janet Damon with participants in the Burning Through the Pages book club, now meeting virtually.

Libraries, already the heartbeat of a learning community and the hub for print and digital resources, are also anchors for human connection, discussion, and mental relief during the current stay-at-home orders. Like school libraries across the country, libraries in Denver Public Schools (DPS) are finding new ways to support our 93,000 students and their families, and almost 6,000 teachers, during the remote learning experience. We've come up with 10 tips for promoting your ebooks and increasing circulation.

Make sure your collection reflects your community. Put equity first. Our Sora ebook collection offers more than 30,000 titles available in eight languages, including Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, totaling 170,000 copies. Just over 75 percent of our students are people of color, so our collection development team curates literature with a focus on #OwnVoices titles that reflect that diversity, promoting an awareness of our interconnected communities during this time.

Harness leadership and district support. Our superintendent, Susana Cordova, and district school board members including Carrie Olson and Jennifer Bacon, all former classroom teachers, celebrate reading engagement. They also promote resources like Sora that bridge equity gaps by providing all students access to a culturally responsive, linguistically diverse collection.

Take time to train everyone. The DPS educational technology and library services team trained more 3,260 teachers, coaches, and school leaders for remote learning in one week. The impact on student access to books was immediate: Ebook circulation soared to 51,853 in April, up from 34,067 in February and 40,033 in March.

Create connections. Librarians are experts at this, and those at DPS are stepping up. Andrea Rothstein, library paraprofessional at Isabella Bird Elementary, nicknamed herself the “Lockdown Librarian” and launched video craft projects for families, sharing via Youtube. Julia Malek, librarian at Manual High School, posted an Instagram video with the school nurse to help students be healthy and wise during the pandemic. Nick Bleckley, teacher librarian at Cheltenham Elementary School, hosts a virtual storytime on his new YouTube channel, Mr. B and Friends Read Aloud. Mariana Mendez, associate educator of library tech at at Sandoval Elementary School, posts videos of authors hosting read-alouds to her website with discussion prompts for students. Nichole Garrard, librarian at West Campus Early College, hosted a haiku challenge for National Poetry Month. Deb Romero, DPS library coordinator, offers virtual resources on Día del Niño, Hispanic Heritage Month, and Reading Is Fundamental.

Use social media promotions. Now is the time to make your expertise known on various platforms so teachers and families can engage in the incredible experiences that authors, illustrators, and publishers are offering. We share these on our social media and are also are sharing a curated list for library staff and Family and Community Engagement team. One librarian hosted Rochelle Strauss, the author of One Well: The Story of Water on Earth for an inspiring virtual author visit and conversation with students. (We are also collaborating with the Family and Gamoly and Community Engagement Team on our summer reading initiative.)

Make a teacher’s life easier. Offer virtual office hours for teachers and students that include reader advisories. Librarians are amazing thought partners and can support teachers with planning a virtual field trip, finding a guest speaker, and curating a list of booktalks. Gail Axt, librarian at Polaris Elementary is curating read-aloud recommendations using storylineonline. Our library services department is purchasing digital formats of titles that align with our language arts curriculum, including audiobooks to support students who benefit from hearing text out loud.

Read: What Are Kids Reading Now? Follett Reveals the Top Ebook and Audiobook Checkouts

Lean in where needs are greatest Prioritize the needs of ELA and SPED learners to ensure they have the support they need to be successful. Our educational and technology and library services teams provides ongoing support using digital tools such as Google Read&Write. Montbello Campus librarian Julia Torres is developing collections and programming for her linguistic minority populations including Marshallese, Amharic, Arabic, Tigrinya, and French-speaking West African students. We are also partnering with DPS translation services to create Sora tutorials for families in English, Spanish and French.

Jason Wilson, a coach for Denver Public Schools and the Park Hill Pirates football team, promotes reading among student athletes with the Pirates Literacy Program.

Support community-led initiatives online. DPS high school teachers Nina Conley and Shirmeca Littlejohn began hosting a Burning Through Pages book club for students at school and the local Boys and Girls Club. Continuing online, the group read Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High. “One of our students went to Mexico to help her family, but she still called in to participate in the book club,” says Littlejohn. “It was that important to her.” We have also continued our Intergenerational Book Club at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College. A partnership with the local Park Hill Pirates Youth Football team ensure players can access ebooks and read 20 minutes a day using Sora. Players now at home will also receive a book donation from Kenneth Vaughan, founder of Black Dads Read, and Jonathan McMillian, a local author and literacy activist with Project Proud Fatherhood.

Partner with your public library. Leveraging public libraries’ array of virtual programming, you can increase and amplify the work of libraries as a whole. Helping families connect with virtual storytimes, bilingual classes, and guest speakers benefits the whole community. Our district collaborated with Denver Public Library (DPL) to provide all students with access to DPL’s ebook collection.

Keep summer in mind. Due to COVID-10, youth might not have a summer filled with camps, sports leagues, and swimming pools, but partnerships can help as families pivot on summer plans. We promote DPL’s Summer of Adventure programming, and this year we are kicking off a Wilderness Book Club with local environmental groups including BlackPackers, Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), and Generation Wild to promote safe, fun outdoor experiences and literacy all summer long.

Janet Damon is a library services specialist at Denver Public Schools



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