— A new type of reading is happening in a Newark school that officials say focuses on technology.
School officials are applauding the efforts of special needs students at Louise A. Spencer school, who recently took first place in the state in the second annual Learning Ally Reading Games. The students also finished in the top 10 percent of the 300 schools nationwide that competed in the contest, which counts how many pages students read.
The Spencer students, who all have reading disabilities like dyslexia, read 4,453 pages during the competition, school officials said.
"We are thrilled to celebrate the students," Newark Superintendent Chris Cerf said in a statement about the recognition.
"Through Learning Ally audiobook technology, and the support of our teachers, all of our children have the opportunity to access critical reading material to enhance their personal and academic achievement."
The nonprofit provides audiobooks to special needs students across the country. Newark schools began using the Learning Ally technology at the beginning of this school year, officials said. According to Learning Ally public policy director Edward Bray, the program's implementation in Newark is done in partnership with the Governor's Literacy Program.
"We are very proud of the achievement of Newark's students," he said in a release about the contest. The setup at the district, he said, "is a great example of the benefits we can realize with strong collaboration among schools, the state education department, and nonprofit non-governmental organizations."
School officials in Newark said the Learning Ally program is part of its increased focus on adding technology to its classrooms, and is in line with its recent purchase of more than 11,000 Google Chromebooks for city classrooms. Students, school officials said, can download the Learning Ally books to school and portable devices, so they can read the books at school or at home.
Sixth grade Spencer teacher Anthony Dilley said the program has "enhanced our instruction."
"The best part is seeing their reading levels improve, sometimes dramatically, and then the self-confidence that follows," he said.