Archive for Scholastic
Scholastic recently released the results of one of its many annual surveys, this one aimed at understanding the reading habits of kids across different age groups. The news was upsetting: there was a significant decrease in the amount of time kids spend reading self-selected texts for fun. The good news, though, is there was a correlation between the amount of time parents spend reading aloud to their children–something the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends parents do from birth, even before the development of oral language comprehension–and the amount of independent pleasure reading that kids choose.
In light of this important finding, children’s ebook service FarFaria has announced some good news of its own: the amount of time that kids spend interacting with their “read to me” feature, and the numbers of titles that kids are reading through the platform each day, are on the rise. Ajay Godhwani, CEO and co-founder of FarFaria, spoke to Good e-Reader about this increase, and what it can mean for developing a lifelong habit of reading for enjoyment.
“We start for a very a young reader. Preschool readers can learn sight words and be introduced to reading in FarFaria, but they can go well above that. We cover books up to age fourth grade, and with the read aloud feature, these kids can beyond their ability and be introduced to a higher level vocabulary.”
One of the aspects of the Scholastic study that demonstrates the need for read aloud time is the ability to convey higher order vocabulary words with proper pronunciation. This alleviates the “skipping over” hard words that can lead to comprehension deficits, which can then lead to readers abandoning the process for something less arduous.
“The study shows that children with access to broader spoken vocabulary in their environments learn a broader vocabulary themselves. We’re excited that FarFaria is a part of that.”
The company has tracked the usage of its ebook platform and knows that 70% of users engage with the optional read aloud feature, meaning young readers have access to that important oral vocabulary, but what was even more interesting is the numbers of adult respondents who say they use the read aloud feature even with their children. Rather than treating the ebooks and tablet as a built-in “babysitter” to do the reading for them, parents are curling up with their kids and taking advantage of the professionally recorded voices and sounds within the stories, as well as the light-up feature that highlights sight words as the voice reads.
FarFaria works within two distinct models; the first is an all-you-can eat subscription model for a low monthly fee, but the free model allows access to one title per day per user account. Even without the cost associated with the model, FarFaria is providing the same engaging content with the same educational features, regardless of ability to subscribe. Within this context, studies have shown that young readers on average who enjoy reading for fun read an average of five and a half books per month, but FarFaria’s numbers show their users read an average of nine and a half books per month, regardless of pricing model.
“Even when Mom and Dad are there, the read to me feature is still engaged. They’re using FarFaria as part of the daily routine, getting the daily habit of reading going. The child likes the way our voices read and the fun voices they put on, and Mom and Dad prefer it to reading themselves. It’s fun, and that’s what it’s all about, making reading fun.”
Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of children’s content and innovators in kids’ digital reading, has released the findings of its Kids & Family Reading Report, the purpose of which is to “explore the reading attitudes and experiences that most influence children’s reading habits, including reading aloud at home, independent reading at school, presence of books in the home, and more.”
There has long been an established correlation between reading in the home, and children’s academic performance and their lifelong association with books. This home reading isn’t limited to parents encouraging or requiring their children to read, but also to how reading is modeled from the parents, how much emphasis is placed on shared family reading, and other factors. This family attitude towards reading is so prevalent, in fact, that this year’s survey actually included parents of children who are far too young to hold a book, let alone choose one for themselves.
“Key findings reveal predictors of reading frequency, the importance of reading aloud to children at various ages, how frequently children have opportunities to read for pleasure at school and much more. For the first time, this year’s survey also includes data from parents of children ages 0–5 to shed a light on the role parents play in children’s literacy development before they enter school.”
The obvious results of the survey indicated that the more often a child reads, the more books he will read in the course of a year. That might not seem too profound, but there were more important findings, such as the correlation between how often the parents read on their own and how children view reading.
But what makes a child an avid reader? Across the different age groups, there were unifying factors. The most simple answer is obviously access to books; no one can become a successful reader without access to titles, either in the home, at school, or through the library. But other factors include access to results of reading level tests, support from parents in locating interesting titles to read, and a startling emphasis on reading aloud, both as a reader and as a listener.
Interestingly, older students who have access to ebooks reported reading more books, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. The ability to browse and download new titles instantly, often at a significant savings over print, keeps the habit in motion as compared to waiting for access to a print title.
This year’s survey also included a focus on reading for fun in the learning environment, and found that when students have access to books and are provided with time to read for fun during the school day, their frequency and their desire to read increase.
“Parents, teachers and librarians all want to help children develop into frequent readers, and the latest edition of the Kids & Family Reading Report provides important insights on how a child’s reading experience can be guided both at home and at school to help develop a lifelong love of reading,” said Francie Alexander, Chief Academic Officer at Scholastic. “Our research shows that providing encouragement and time both in school and at home for children of all ages to enjoy books they choose to read will help them discover the power and joy of reading. These tactics will also help to motivate kids to read more books, which will improve their skills and open a world of possibilities for them in the future.”
A more in-depth look at the survey and its report can be found at Scholastic.com/readingreport.
Scholastic, the award-winning powerhouse in children’s publishing, made a announcement today that their ebook reading app Storia would be closing, making way for a bigger focus on its Storia School Edition subscription reading program. In a cryptically worded graphic on their website, a lot of unanswered questions were alluded to, particularly that the ebooks parents have already purchased for their young readers as part of the platform “may soon no longer be available,” and that consumers “may be able to continue using your eBooks by making sure to open them on a bookshelf at least once by October 15.”
While that may leave consumers with even more head-scratching than understanding, a more confusing offer of a refund on all titles purchased is both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, parents who act by
August 1st can have a refund on their ebooks, but if they don’t ask for a refund, their content might still work.
The industry has been very forgiving of Scholastic’s recent drops in revenue by acknowledging that the company simply can’t produce a Hunger Games trilogy every year. Just how significant was the series for Scholastic? Given that at one point all three books were in the top spots on various bestsellers lists and that the movie franchise is still in production, it’s easy to see what a monumental percentage of revenue it was. At the same time, Scholastic can’t continue to rest on its publishing laurels and excuse a drop in revenue due to not producing another blockbuster. A recent shareholder presentation outlined the areas where improvement has been steady, as well as sources of decrease.
All in all, it means that Scholastic is smart to fund its drive in a market where it’s possibly most well known with consumers, and that’s in education. As ebook subscription models continue to gain ground with consumers, keeping a student-centric model in motion through classrooms instead of only through private consumer subscriptions seems to be the smarter approach. With the recent announcement of Lee Peters as the new SVP of Strategic Marketing in the education division, there are already new directions underway for increasing the brand and putting Scholastic content where people expect it: in the classrooms.
UPDATE: The deadline for refunds is NOT this Friday, but rather August 1st of next year, and the family streaming service that was announced last April is still available. We apologize for any panic this may have caused.
Now that school is out for most of the country, there’s a honeymoon period of sorts in which many kids don’t have to get up early and can watch as much TV as humanly possible. But somewhere along the way, parents look at their kids–whose bodies seem to have actually fused to the couch–and want them to spend a little time engaged in something else.
Summer reading programs offer incentives to readers, like the ones offered each year by Scholastic and Barnes and Noble. These programs offer live and virtual participation, as well as encourage print and digital reading for a wide variety of age groups and reading levels. Local libraries are often involved in either one of those two events, or in staging their own similar programs.
At this year’s BookExpo event, two companies were featuring their children’s ebook subscription services. FarFaria and Stories Alive both offer a platform for tablet-based content with engaging and purposeful bones features. In both cases, the enhancements to the text are not simply “bells and whistles” for the sake of piling on the technology. Both platforms offer read-aloud narration at different lower levels, along with text highlighting to bring the focus to the words. The stories also include the ability to download the content, including audio, for offline reading.
“We have a new interface called Stories Alive. We have 170 books, and we add one a week,” explained Umesh Shukla of Auryn. “This keeps the same notion of how to get the kids into the story, plus extras to make them keep reading.”
The functionality of the titles include little details for readers, such as the small calendar on the kitchen wall within the book Crazy Hair Day changes each time the reader opens it to reflect that real day and date; a blank page within the story is designed for the reader to draw a picture, and when they turn the page, their drawings are on the bulletin board at the back of the classroom. These easter eggs within each story are all designed with the purposeful intention of helping the reader engage with the content.
Incorporated games and features also give the kids reasons to keep turning the pages, but a built-in functionality prevents kids from simply flipping through the pages to get to the fun add-ons by requiring them to interact for a certain amount of time on each page before it changes.One of the exciting new functions of children’s app books from companies like these is the ability that lets parents purchase a title for a family tablet, while still establishing multiple readers of the book. That means different members of the household can find these features or unlock games without “spoiling” the rest of the book.
As the world’s largest publisher of children’s content, Scholastic is one of the pioneers in both engaging content and innovative instructional strategies for young readers. As such, the company hosts its annual Summer Reading Challenge every year to keep students motivated and to prevent the dreaded “summer slide,” in which students return to school having lost many of the gains they made during the previous school year.
Scholastic announced this week that its 2014 challenge is now open to students, parents, librarians, and educators to sign up, with the theme–cosponsored by battery-maker Eveready–“Reading Under The Stars.” As is expected, this year’s challenge includes teacher materials, a parents’ guide and summer calendar app, reading minute tracking, and much more.
“We know that the more children read, the more they succeed and time spent with books is especially important during the summer months so students return to school ready to tackle more challenging texts,” said Francie Alexander, Chief Academic Officer at Scholastic, in a press release. “In the summer, we want our kids finding books that fit their personal interests because those are the books that will make them fall in love with reading. Being part of the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge motivates kids to build up their reading minutes and earn rewards, while parents and teachers can monitor progress. Everybody wins!”
In keeping with this year’s theme, there are also live events at various museums and planetariums around the country, and Eveready is offering free books to participants with the purchase of two of its products in order to encourage families to read together in atypical settings. For complete details on the program and its support materials or to register a reader, visit Scholastic.com/summer.
As global leaders in both children’s content development and educational innovation, Scholastic is a company whose name is synonymous with quality platforms for schools. From their monthly reader book clubs to their entire curriculum manifests, the wealth of solutions they provide to educational institutions is pretty astounding.
This week, Scholastic announced the launch of two new subscription services for school libraries, both aimed at providing engaging material in a cost-effective and convenient way. First, Scholastic’s existing award-winning Storia ebook platform has been released as the Storia School Edition, which is now available by subscription, allowing schools to purchase a license for access to the catalog of titles for one school year.
“A one-year subscription to Storia School Edition grants a school access to a carefully curated library of 2,000 well-known fiction and nonfiction ebooks for Pre-K-Grade 6,” the company stated in a press release. “Titles cover an optimal range of Guided Reading and Lexile Levels for each grade and include recognizable fiction, award-winning literary classics, and engaging nonfiction to meet every student’s reading level and interests. Storia School Edition supports concurrent usage within a school, allowing multiple students to access the same titles simultaneously.”
And while students and teachers may think of Scholastic’s bestselling fiction titles for kids, especially series like The 39 Clues or the Hunger Games trilogy, the publisher actually has a strong background in delivering nonfiction curricular content. The second new subscription model, Core Clicks, will allow schools to tap into a full catalog of nonfiction material.
“Drawing on the vast nonfiction resources of Scholastic News and Weekly Reader, Core Clicks presents leveled informational texts on 18 topics per grade, all designed to provide content area reading in science and social studies while explicitly teaching Common Core Language Arts standards at each grade level. Detailed teaching of 13 key Spotlight Skills through lively starter videos and computer-based informational text analysis provides a complete nonfiction curriculum with a carefully curated collection of informational text for each grade level, K to 5. Core Clicks was developed in consultation with Nell K. Duke, Ed.D., a professor of literacy, language, and culture at the University of Michigan, who worked closely with the editorial team on the program’s adherence to best practices in literacy development and in addressing the Common Core State Standards.”
Sony announced today that it is in production of a film adaptation of one of Scholastic’s bestselling series, Goosebumps. In conjunction with one of the leading publishers of children’s content, Sony has brought along actor Jack Black to lead an all-star cast for one of the most popular children’s series of all time. Directed by Rob Letterman, the Goosebumps movie is being filmed in and in the vicinity of Atlanta, Georgia. Scholastic’s own executive Deborah Forte is one of the film’s producers.
“Scholastic has sold over 350 million Goosebumps books worldwide in 32 languages since the series introduction in 1992, earning critical acclaim and dominating global best seller lists. R.L. Stine has been recognized as one of the bestselling children’s authors in history,” stated Scholastic’s officials in a press release.
According to information about the film, the premise will be alluring to audiences of a variety of ages, not surprising considering the original series that launched the movie has been around for quite some time. The synopsis of the new film includes this description: “A young kid teams up with the niece of young adult horror author R.L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Greendale, Maryland.”
Goosebumps has already been adapted for television in a mid-90s series and was once slated for film production under the direction of Tim Burton. That film never materialized, but the new adaptation is slated for release in 2016.
The publishing industry has endured several years’ worth of “yes it is, no it isn’t” information concerning ebook penetration into the reading market, and formal numbers are finally demonstrating that ebooks are not a fad–while still acknowledging openly that print books aren’t going away any time soon either.
So what’s behind the rumor mill that ebooks are or are not faring as well as some data suggests?
One thing that supporters and naysayers alike forget to take into account is how the comparison between digital and print was created, as well as what titles affected the figures. It’s not enough to look at a number comparison when things like blockbuster titles account for distribution. In the case of Scholastic‘s publication of Suzanne Collins’ wildly successful Hunger Games trilogy, print books should have accounted for a higher percentage of sales, given the prevalence of print over digital in that demographic; at the same time, ebook sales of E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey trilogy and the anonymity of digital purchases–coupled with the self-publishing numbers from the first go-round–made ebooks seem to be the clear frontrunner.
Around the world, ebooks have told a different story in terms of sales. Russia has only now moved into the third place position behind the US and China, recently edging out the UK. This rise in sales rank seems to be connected to the popularity of a recent ebook piracy counteraction with the launch of LitRes, who made ebook sales popular for the first time within the country.
The smart money all this time, however, has been that there are genres and markets for both print and ebooks, and that different factors will lead consumers to make purchasing decisions of one over the other. Publishers and authors alike would do well to ensure that reading consumers can access both editions in order to make their selections.
Verdict: 4 Stars
When you’re up for a digital book innovation award at the Digital Book World Conference and Expo and you lose out to the powerhouse that is Scholastic, Inc., that’s still pretty impressive. Fortunately for Light Publications and their ebook Cinderella Spinderella, what makes their book great isn’t just the full-color illustrations, audio read-aloud, realistic page turn, or any of the other typical things we’ve come to expect from enhanced ebooks. What makes this title so great is how much thought and effort the creators put into the actual representation of the story.
Exhibit A: Cinderella is in a wheelchair, something that her evil stepsisters laugh at her for. Then the fairy godmother–who is actually a homeless woman–shows up and dresses Cinderella in a magical black garbage bag.
Exhibit B: When Cinderella does get to go to the ball, obviously…well…she can’t dance, at least not on those ridiculously impractical glass slippers. But the prince is so intrigued by her that they sit and play cards all night, talking and getting to know each other (no silent staring into each others’ eyes and not speaking…looking at you, Disney).
Exhibit C (and the most profound thing of all): With the download of this one book, the reader gets to pick Cinderella’s and the prince’s ethnicities, a fact that makes me prouder of Light Publications than I have been of any other digital publisher in a long time.
Along with other bonus features, this book is an educator’s dream and is sure to delight any reader. The need to download the book to a computer or laptop first and then transfer it over to the phone or tablet was a minor annoyance, a factor that hopefully the creators will take into consideration down the road. But overall, the book and its 25 possible story versions was pure genius that speaks to readers of any background.
Cinderella Spinderella is available at lightpublications.com/dropcard.
In-depth details on what motivates reading in children have come out in a new book, published by the world’s leading publisher of children’s content, Scholastic. In Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want – and Why We Should Let Them, authors Jeffrey D. Wilhelm (Boise State University) and Michael W. Smith (Temple University), explain that there has to be more to books for young people than just the typical academic requirements.
The results of the professors’ findings have led to an awe-inspiring but earth-shattering conclusion: school-based reading instruction should focus even more on self-selected texts for pleasure reading, and less on rote instruction from corporate lessons.
“At a time when the Common Core Stare Standards and high-stakes assessments turn the eyes of parents, teachers, and policy-makers to what reading can do for you, we should not lose sight of the deep and manifold pleasures it can bring to you,” Smith said in a press release. “Those pleasures are what motivate reading in the here and now and what make it likely that young people will read in the future.”
“Never underestimate the power of pleasure in motivating and sustaining reading and improvement in reading,” continued Wilhelm. “And never underestimate the deep psychological work, psychological satisfaction, and human development that is occurring for readers of freely chosen texts. Books that are often marginalized by educators or parents are often the best choice for the readers at any given point in their own human developmental journeys.”
As one of the leaders in curricular publishing, too, Scholastic’s release of Wilhelm and Smith’s title will hopefully hold some level of sway over administrative decision making at the local and state government school boards, allowing more time during the school day to be spent on individualized reading for pleasure rather than simply reading for the sake of the curriculum.
Reading Unbound is available from the Scholastic Teacher store for pre-order, and will ship in January. Free samples of the content are available for download now.
For the upcoming holiday season, Scholastic is making the gift-giving experience even more streamlined for busy parents. In addition to highlighting the recipients of the 2014 Gold Star Toy Awards in an upcoming edition of its magazine, the creators of the issue have made the magazine “shoppable” in conjunction with ShopAdvisor and Digimarc.
“This holiday season, we are offering parents the best gift guide with an easy shopping experience right off the pages of our magazine.” said Jamie Engel, Vice President and Publisher of Scholastic Parent & Child, in a press release. “Working together with our experienced editors and engaged parent readers, we created a trusted guide of toys that parents can feel good about giving this holiday.”
Parents can now move through the print edition and actually make purchases of the award-winning toys by scanning the watermarks of each product with their smartphones or tablets. Apps made possible by the two collaborators will let parents find out more information on the products, then make their gift purchases immediately.
“Readers of Scholastic Parent & Child magazine look to the publication as a trusted source when it comes to finding the right products for their children,” continued Scott Cooper, CEO of ShopAdvisor. “By shop-enabling their publication across platforms, they are making it simple and natural for readers to act on those recommendations. We are excited to work with Scholastic Parent & Child to introduce this innovative reader service and inspire shopping this holiday season.”
The Gold Star Toy Awards are determined by the editors of Scholastic’s magazine, chosen through thousands of submissions from toy manufacturers and were chosen based on being “innovative and cool; magnetic and engaging for the child; mind-expanding or educational; and an excellent value to the consumer.”
Many readers have fond memories of Scholastic Book Fair time when they were in school, getting the chance to browse new books and discover a new character, series, or author. But the world’s largest publisher of children’s books and content is bringing the book fair to mobile devices, thanks to its free app that lets young readers find out even more information about the books.
“We’ve been striving for a way to extend the book fair,” explained Deborah Forte, President at Scholastic Media, Executive VP at Scholastic, Inc., in an interview with Good e-Reader, “and this is a great compliment to the physical experience. Society is mobile, and it’s really great to be able to offer our customers a mobile extension of the book fair.”
Through the app, parents and students can scan the cover of books that are available on site and learn more about the book, the author, get recommendations for other books that might be of interest, get important information about the reading level and Accelerated Reading status of the books, and more. The app also lets schools offer their students even more selection beyond the books that are physically displayed during the event.
One very helpful feature that this app can offer readers and their families is students who attend schools that are taking advantage of digital learning can scan the covers of titles they are interested in within the app, then share that information at home with their parents in order to make purchasing choices about books.
“The application is a great way to connect the physical with the digital,” continued Forte, “and what we can do with this application is when a pair downloads the app it geolocates the fair and they simply press the location of their fair, and they go in and take the application and connects with the physical product in the fair. It offers far more information at the touch of a finger.”
One of the best features of this app is to help parents and teachers grow a curated collection of content that is age- and grade level-appropriate, and it also lifts the limitations of the physical fair to let readers find more content through the online fair extension. This also affords the hosting schools to benefit from the online purchasing in order to add to their fundraising book event.
Scholastic’s Storia ebook platform is also connected to the book fairs and the same information is provided through the app, allowing parents to choose the digital edition of books for their children during the excitement of the book fair.
“We really look at these fairs as a literacy event,” explained Forte, “we really believe that strongly that this is a way to create a lot of excitement around reading, and it works. Getting kids and families excited about reading and books is what it does, but it does benefit the school as well. The primary focus is that they want the kids to read more, and this is one very effective way to motivate kids and to allow them to be a part of the process of selecting books. The research says that when kids have a role in selecting their own books, they tend to read more.”
One of the great paradoxes of digital publishing and children’s content is that children and teens were the demographics who were at one point the least likely to consume digital content. Whether over the original concerns from parents of expensive device damage and enhanced ebooks being likened to video games, or the young adults’ own feedback that reading was for paper, devices were for socialization, children’s publishing even now is awfully slow to catch up.
But one company who is making tremendous inroads into the children’s market should come as no surprise. Scholastic, the world’s largest children’s publisher, has been pushing digital reading largely to their school customers as a convenient, money-saving tool that provides access to a wide variety of vetted, curricular content, so it’s a natural progression then that the children who read on computers and devices in school as part of Scholastic’s Storia platform would then carry over that high interest in digital to their home reading.
Judy Newman, President of Book Clubs and e-Commerce at Scholastic, spoke with Good e-Reader at the Frankfurt Book Fair to talk about what digital reading brings to the realm of children’s publishing, and where the company is taking content next.
“We’re finding that it’s very hard to engage seven-year-olds, but when they find content they can engage with, they’re much for successful. The more reluctant readers there’s more entertainment value, and for the more proficient readers there’s much more interest. But for the industry overall, it’s still slow. They’re saying about 5% of children’s is digital. We’re talking to other publishers and it seems pretty consistent that it’s just slow.”
Newman has a theory on why children’s publishing hasn’t taken off on devices. “Just the translation of regular books when you take a book and stick it up in the e-reader format, then who cares? The medium has so much more capability, which of course gamers know and app developers know. Book people just have to figure out almost how to make a different product.”
And Scholastic has done just that. With the launch of their third series to incorporate a print or digital book–an actual stand-alone title within a series, not an enhanced interactive format–that also happens to include an online gaming world that corresponds to the book, readers are taking to the series from both sides of the book: those who love to read and are intrigued by the game aspect, as well as those reluctant readers who get drawn into the books because of their involvement in the online game.
Newman also spoke about ways the Storia app is at work in classrooms, especially as more schools and educators put the Common Core standards into practice in the coming school year. Additionally, she briefly discussed future plans for a Subscription-based licensing of ebooks, as well as the recently launched initiative to license select titles to classrooms on a one-year time frame.