Story Shares is utilized by more than 300 schools across 44 states and 26 countries.
Boston – Story Shares, a nonprofit organization devoted to inspiring reading practice and improving literacy skills, is making a big impact for youth literacy across the United States and abroad. Currently, more than 300 schools across 44 states and 26 countries are accessing the stories shared on the Story Shares website. Story Shares empowers and inspires many kinds of struggling readers including English language learners, students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, and students from low-income communities who have fallen behind in literacy skills and reading comprehension.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as many as 90 million teens and adults in America lack crucial literacy skills, and do not have the tools needed to change that. Close to 70 percent of high school students need some form of reading remediation, and two out of every three students who cannot read proficiently by the end of fourth grade end up in prison or on welfare. In addition, there are 4.4 million English language learner (ELL) students, taught by 31,000 ELL teachers, who regularly struggle to find content that interests them and that they can read.
In a study of Story Shares conducted by New York University, 71 percent of teachers who frequent the organization’s website find the reading-related tools most useful. One teacher utilizing the Story Shares platform assigned her students to read Nelson Mandela: In His Own Words. She provided feedback to Story Shares about how thrilled she is with the resources provided by the organization.
“I am so impressed with your user friendly site,” she wrote. “The reading material is such a relief. These resources are not easy to find, as you know. I am a high school teacher in Canada and my struggling teens love your themes and the level is finally appropriate for them to enjoy independently (especially with the use of your assistive reading tools). Writing their own book has really hooked my students in, and we appreciate the expertise of your team in providing guidance in the form of the pdf. Please keep up the excellent work. With an undergraduate degree in special education and a masters in ESL, I have been exposed to many resources, and I find this site to be exceptional.”
At the Eagle Hill School, in Greenwich, Connecticut, Louise Baigelman, Story Shares executive director, worked with Lacey Ramsey’s middle school class. Eagle Hill is one of several schools participating in a pilot study for the Story Shares platform. Ramsey’s class read “Jacob and the Bee Man,” a Relevant Reads book by Kelly Winters. The story follows a young man named Jacob who commits a petty crime and is forced to work for the victim of his actions in order to atone for his poor decision. In the process he learns many valuable lessons, including how to see the world from another’s perspective, and that one small, seemingly insignificant act can have widespread repercussions.
It was clear right away that the class was immersed in Jacob’s tale. Ramsey was thrilled to see the level of engagement, but could never have guessed what would follow. At the beginning of the story, Jacob tells the reader that he did something bad in the past. Throughout the whole book, he never reveals what it is. When Ramsey’s students finished the story, they were still eager to uncover the mistake from Jacob’s past. But one student, Robbie, took it to a whole new level. Robbie returned to class during recess because he couldn’t stop thinking about what Jacob might have done. He’d been so invested in the tale that he wanted more information on the main character’s life. He realized there was only one way to satisfy his curiosity. He would tell more of Jacob’s story himself.
“Robbie is almost done writing his prequel to Jacob and the Bee Man,” Ramsey wrote in an email to Story Shares. “It’s amazing how much he wrote, being that it takes him almost a whole class period to write two sentences of nonfiction. He did this all on his own accord – he came during his free time every day for a week, sat at my desk, and typed on my computer. I’m so proud of his work.”
Robbie’s work, “Jacob and the Bee Man: A Prequel” is now complete and featured in the Story Shares library. In addition, Robbie has gone on to create characters of his own, and is currently working on a second story, “The Monkey-Man Takes Over Colorado.”
Story Shares pieces are written by every day writers including students and teachers. The organization holds an annual Relevant Reads writing contest to build their library. This year’s contest launched on Aug. 23, 2016, already has more than 150 stories submitted and will remain open until Dec. 31, 2016. The contest is seeking submissions from 1,000 to 10,000 words in a variety of genres including historical fiction, horror/suspense, fantasy, and overall diversity so that every reader is able to find his or her reflection in the books available. Like most writing contests, the Story Shares Relevant Reads contest offers cash prizes ranging from $500 to $3,000, along with publication in both digital and print form. But unlike most writing contests, those who submit their work to Story Shares have a real opportunity to make a difference.
For more information about the organization and to participate in this innovative writing contest, visit StoryShares.org/contest.
About Story Shares
Story Shares, a nonprofit organization based in Boston, is devoted to inspiring reading practice and improving literacy skills. Its collaborative digital-literacy hub provides relevant and readable content for students who read below grade level beyond elementary school. By leveraging the combined powers of interactive web design and best practices in literacy instruction, their platform brings together writers, readers, and educators to engage and support readers who struggle. For more information, visit StoryShares.org.