AAPS is nearing 500,000 check-outs using the Sora reading app—an achievement shared by only 61 school districts in the U.S.

Providing digital materials is a convenient and accessible option for students, teachers, and parents

An ebook app brought on board by AAPS to accommodate remote learning in 2020 has become a technology enthusiastically embraced by students, teachers, and parents.

In fact, since September 2020, the AAPS community has used the Sora reading app to check out nearly 500,000 ebooks on their devices.

“This is a very significant achievement,” says Ben Kowalczk, a specialist at Sora. “It shows how Ann Arbor has embraced new and effective ways to provide reading materials for all students. Only 61 school districts in the U.S. have reached the 500,000 digital book checkout milestone.”

A Lakewood student looks for a book on Sora.

Ann Arbor Public Schools will be only the second Michigan school to reach 500,000 digital book checkouts through Sora in the ebook app’s history.

When it was announced that AAPS would be moving to remote learning in the fall of 2020, the district librarians systematically reviewed and evaluated multiple ebook platforms and decided that OverDrive’s Sora would best suit students’ needs for accessing ebooks.

Sora is an app that provides students with equitable access to both assigned and choice reading in a variety of diverse formats, including ebooks, audiobooks, read-alongs and magazines, and comics from wherever they happen to be.

Huron High School Teacher Librarian Jennifer Colby explained that the decision to go with Sora was based on multiple factors,  including ease of access/interface, connectivity to Schoology, availability of titles for different ages, cost/value, and post-remote learning.

A proposal was created to purchase Sora for district-wide access and presented to the BOE in August of 2020, the request passed unanimously and Sora was implemented district-wide that fall.

The BOE also committed to a yearly investment for continued purchasing to keep our district’s Sora ebook collection robust and up-to-date. Students and staff can make requests for title purchases and new titles are added throughout the year.

Titles are always selected by the school and filtered to ensure readers of all ages can choose from age-appropriate content. A dedicated team of AAPS secondary librarians has taken on the huge job of curating and purchasing the Sora collection for the entire district.

Colby, who is the AAPS Library Services District Chair Y5-12, says helping students—and helping teachers instruct students—on how to access and use Sora throughout the 2020-21 school year was especially challenging as everyone was teaching remotely.

Librarians continue to teach students and staff how to access and use Sora.

Every AAPS student and staff member (anyone with an AAPS Google account) can access and use Sora. Students and staff use it for independent reading and it is also used as a resource for secondary ELA literary circles (book groups). Click here for instructions.

Colby is a big fan of Sora because it allows access to titles 365 days a year 24/7 and ebooks are sometimes preferred by users as they can be more accessible and portable. Users can access Sora from any type of device (Chromebook, laptop, desktop, phone, Kindle/e-reader).

“Digital books are automatically returned on their due dates, so users never need to worry about returning books late,” says Colby. “Features in Sora allow users to keep track of the books they read, make wishlists for future reading, and earn badges as they read more.”

Angell and Lakewood librarian Shannon Lauer is another Sora fan.

“I love that it gives students access to a much wider variety of texts than I am able to store here in the library,” she says.

King Elementary Librarian Katie Burrill adds: “As an elementary school librarian, I strive to give students access to a diverse print collection and Sora allows me to expand the reading options available to meet the needs and interests of readers.”

Tappan Middle School Librarian Kyle Kipp says that Sora enhances the already robust collection of AAPS print books found in its brick-and-mortar libraries tenfold. 

“All students across the district have easy access to a vast collection of various types of books in digital format via any type of device they may have on hand: tablet, phone, laptop, Kindle, etc.,” he says. “Plus, if they link in their public library Sora access, they literally have free access to thousands and thousands of high-interest titles—including audiobooks—at their fingertips without even leaving their home or classroom.  They don’t have to worry about picking up the items or returning them on time, or worrying about damaging or losing the books.  For example, if a child goes on a camping trip with their family, they could load the equivalent of stacks of great reading material onto their device and read them all from the convenience of their phone—no wifi necessary—and they don’t have to worry about lugging a big bag of books out to the woods or accidentally getting them rained on or dropped into the lake. They just have to worry about their device running low on battery.”

Sora offers a free “starter” collection for educators to try out in schools. If they want to expand the collection, Sora works with districts to determine the best budget based on their needs and goals, and all budgeted funds go directly to purchasing the reading materials in digital formats for the district. There is no service fee associated with Sora. The Sora app is also free to download from Apple and Google app stores or use via browser.

Checkouts by building since inception through April 19, 2023:

Slauson Middle School45614
King Elementary School41308
Tappan Middle School29301
Clague Middle School29251
Thurston Elementary School26245
Lawton Elementary School22873
Logan Elementary School20248
Allen Elementary School20200
Burns Park Elementary School19961
Forsythe Middle School19728
Scarlett Middle School19687
Wines Elementary School17514
Haisley Elementary School16410
Ann Arbor Open At Mack School15208
Eberwhite Elementary School13641
Pattengill Elementary School12327
Angell Elementary School11548
Huron High School11061
Bach Elementary School10725
Carpenter Elementary School10243
Northside Elementary9588
Pioneer High School9554
Skyline High School8202
Ann Arbor Public Schools7559
Northside Middle6658
Mitchell Elementary School6366
Dicken Elementary School6206
Pittsfield Elementary School6085
Abbot Elementary School5888
Lakewood Elementary School5351
Bryant Elementary2491
Bryant Elementary School2208
Community High School1886
Ann Arbor STEAM at Northside School1315
Pathways to Success276
Ann Arbor City School District 126
Preschool & Family Center4

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