By Laura Eastes

A new interactive-literacy program that provides elementary school students access to digital books launched this month at three Ardmore elementary schools thanks to a recent partnership and support from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

Ardmore City Schools has teamed up with the National Center for Families Learning in hopes to improve elementary school literacy levels and reach children after they leave school each day.

Through the grant, 110 iPad Apple devices were purchased for two schools, and first- through fifth-graders at Jefferson, Lincoln and Charles Evans elementary schools are becoming subscribers to MyOn, a digital library program that students can access outside of the classroom.

Additionally, parents have the opportunity to attend a training session that will introduce reading strategies and tips for reading with their children using the MyOn program.

School leaders say they hope the new program will engage students to read after school with a parent.

"With the new Reading Sufficiency Act in effect, I cannot stress how important it is that students get help at home and read at home," says Ellen Patty, Lincoln Elementary School principal. "The saying 'it takes a village,' it truly does."

Under the Reading Sufficiency Act, third-grade students who score "unsatisfactory," or the lowest 25 percent, on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test in April will be retained the following school year.

Jefferson Elementary School principal Kristi Jessop says teachers are working closely with students on reading daily, and MyOn is just another tool to be used in and out of the classroom to help student's master reading.

Last week, students began to visit the school's computer labs to set up their accounts. In the set-up process, students take a reading assessment and answer questions on their interest. Based on the results, students are given a reading list with non-fiction and fiction books that match their reading level and interests. MyOn is available on any device that can access the Internet, including smartphones.

Jessop says teachers are pleased with MyOn. Early feedback from students and parents is that they are looking forward to accessing MyOn's library, which has thousands of children's books, some in Spanish.

"This is an opportunity to have books that they might not necessarily have at home or at the library," Jessop says. "Students can now pull up a book and read from an iPad."

Students can download up to 20 books at a time and read off-line. The program tracks reading hours and reassesses the reader to adjust the reading list to match the reader's progress.

The 110 iPads will be divided between Lincoln and Jefferson elementary schools, and placed in first- through third-grade classrooms.

School leaders want parents to know and be familiar with MyOn. The goal is for MyOn to be a home resource, used and encouraged by elementary school parents, the principals say.

All three elementary schools will host a family literacy night at the schools to further engage students with the program and present MyOn to parents. Teachers will walk parents through the program, teach reading strategies and explain ways to help their child read at home. Dinner and door prizes, including a Kindle Fire HD, will be provided.

Jessop, Patty and Denise Brunk, principal at Charles Evans Elementary School, said the family literacy nights are open to all parents and students in first through third grade. All three principals stress the importance of attendance.

"It is extremely important," Brunk emphasizes. "We have to have a parent partnership for our kiddos to be successful in all endeavors, not just MyOn. We are hoping we wouldn't have enough room to park. We hope to have a huge crowd. We are really looking forward to sharing the MyOn initiative, but also to share reading strategies with parents."

The family literacy night will be held at Jefferson Elementary School tonight, Lincoln Elementary School on Tuesday and at Charles Evans Elementary School on Thursday. All literacy nights begin at 5:15 p.m. and end at 7 p.m.