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Public Library Partners With CPS On Student App For Audio And E-Books

The Sora app includes achievement badges for students and teachers to keep track of reading goals.

Cincinnati students have access to tens of thousands of new audio and e-books thanks to a recent partnership between Cincinnati Public Schools and the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library. The school district purchased an app called Sora that lets students borrow materials through the public library without needing a public library card.

"So that database just went from like 12,000 to 100,000," said Paulette Simpson, a teacher librarian at North Avondale Montessori. "They have books in every genre that the kids have interest in reading and seeing."

Simpson says the partnership was especially helpful during remote learning, but the benefits go far beyond that.

"I think about our special needs students — they may not be able to read an actual book, they may have to have someone read the book to them," she said. "But when you use Sora, it all depends on the book, that book can be read to them. They could be able to enlarge the print."

The app also offers books in several languages, including Spanish, Japanese, French and Russian. Simpson says getting print copies of foreign-language books isn't cost-effective, but Sora allows students to read in their native languages.

Library Director Paula Brehm-Heeger says they've had more than 6,000 checkouts through the app so far this year.

"That same student might, in a non digital world, walk across the street or to a nearby public library, which is also fantastic," Brehm-Heeger said. "But with these digital collections, now they can access a very wide range, not just in their immediate area."

Brehm-Heeger says library staff can also work with teachers to create digital resources kits, in the same way the library has provided physical kits to teachers in the past.

Students can access Sora 24/7 from an iPad, laptop or smart phone. The download is free and you can find set-up instructions here

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.