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Book Smarts

Picture this: It is 7 p.m. on a warm summer evening. The house is silent; you can hear nothing but a clock ticking and the faint sound of a train in the distance. Your children are in the living room. One child is in an epic battle on a pirate ship; one is sailing on a river with Huckleberry Finn; one is laughing as Ramona Quimby runs through her living room throwing tissues out of the box. Yet, it is still silent.

No, this is not an impossible dream. This is a reality that many Bay Area families are experiencing this summer.

The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, along with several local agencies including the Early Learning Coalition, the Healthy Start Coalition and the Hillsborough County Public Library Coalition have teamed up with MyOn to bring the children of Hillsborough County access to over 4,000 free enhanced books. The effort is not only to encourage literacy in kids through the school year, but to keep them learning all summer long.

“There’s tons of research that shows that when kids don’t read during the summer, they can lose a lot of the skills they gain through the school year,” says Doris Linville, project manager with MyOn. “It can be as much as one to three months of achievement that they reached during the year before that can be lost.”

Any student from kindergarten through eighth grade can use MyOn for free in Hillsborough County. This includes kids in public, magnet, private and home schools. “Every child gets to read through MyOn,” says Linville.

Many of us have fond memories of hours spent at our local library while growing up, but the truth is that many parents work during the day, making it hard for kids to get to the public library. One advantage of your child using MyOn is that the books are all accessible online. You don’t need an e-reader or tablet because they can be accessed through a regular web browser. You can download the books as well so that you can read them offline without an internet connection.

The books are also enhanced, which means that kids can have the books read to them by a natural Spanish or English speaking actor, they can make notes throughout the text, and they can also keep a reading journal.

“We don’t just want kids to read and memorize information to be tested on it. We want kids to read and comprehend what they read,” says Linville.

It’s tempting to use summer to catch the kids up on classroom material or get through next year’s required reading, but Linville advises that this is not necessary.

“It is important that they keep reading. It doesn’t matter if it is fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels– the point is that they need to keep reading over the summer,” says Linville.

MyOn offers a variety of titles, including graphic novels, which Linville says are very popular during the summer. The program also has 30 percent Spanish dual language books to help your child learn other languages.

John Milbourne, the supervisor of media for Hillsborough County Public Schools, says, “kids will get better at reading if they read. And they will read if they can have choice and if they can pick the books that they like.”

“MyOn gives kids the choices to read what they like. They can pick anything they want. They don’t have to find it and check it out,” says Linville. “We know that boys tend to think they don’t have a lot of choices with books, so we have a lot of graphic novels and a lot of really great choices for boys and girls alike.”

Reading through the summer not only helps keep your kids sharp and saves them from what many call “the summer slide,” but can improve their testing skills throughout the year. MyOn also offers kids extra practice for much-needed computer skills.

“If you don’t know how to read, you can’t follow directions on any kind of assessment,” says Linville. “The new Florida standard tests are taken online, but some kids don’t know how to type or have keyboarding skills. They don’t know how to copy and paste, or highlight. So being on MyOn also helps them learn how to do these things without them even knowing. It won’t be all brand new to them.”

Helping your child foster a love for reading can start right now, and it can start with a little of your help. Encourage your child to sit down and read for at least 30 minutes a day, and they can enter completely new worlds of learning. Linville says that reading can make a huge difference in your child’s life.

“It’s okay if kids want to read comic books, or about super-heroes or scary things,” she says. “As long as they are reading, they are learning.”

Kids can register for free online at


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