Read Anytime, Anywhere With the Digital Library
Summer is coming soon and a break from school means more time to read! The spring and summer are a great time to explore online ebooks and audiobooks. Did you know that every OUSD student and anyone with a public library card has a digital library of books to choose from? You can check them out and read or listen on any internet-connected device, and even download for offline reading and listening.
You may have heard of ebooks and audiobooks, but what exactly are they? Read on to learn more and find out how to access the books.
Table of contents
What is the Sora digital library?
Who is able to use Sora?
How do I access Sora?
What if my school doesn’t offer Sora?
If the books are digital, why does every copy have to be paid for separately? Why can’t we just make copies of the books for everyone?
Are kids actually reading these books?
Does listening to audiobooks count as reading? Is it cheating?
If we have the digital library, why do we need print?
How can I learn more?
Q: What is the Sora digital library?
A: The Oakland Unified School District provides ebooks and audiobooks through an app called Sora. Sora gives you free digital ebooks and audiobooks from your district school. Digital books are automatically returned on their due dates, so you never need to worry about late fees. Read or listen using a browser or using the Sora app on a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Click here to watch a video about the Sora reading experience.
Q: Who is able to use Sora?
A: Students and staff of Oakland Unified School District public schools are able to access the OUSD Sora collection. Many other schools and districts also have Sora collections, which their students can access through separate links.
Q: How do I access Sora?
A: Go to https://soraapp.com/library/ousdca and sign in using your OUSD email address and school computer password. You can also go through the OUSD Clever portal and sign into Sora there. Click here to watch a video that explains how to log in.
Q: What if my school doesn’t offer Sora?
A: You can still get amazing eBooks & audiobooks from the public library using Libby, Hoopla, and Kanopy! These resources are available from many or all of the Bay Area public library systems, including Oakland Public Library, Alameda County, Contra Costa Public Library, Richmond Public Library, and Berkeley Public Library. You can even access ebooks and audiobooks from multiple public libraries within the Libby app.
Q: If the books are digital, why does every copy have to be paid for separately? Why can’t we just make copies of the books for everyone?
A: Publishers often require that each digital copy is only loaned to one person at a time (just like physical library books, which we would not photocopy and lend or sell to others). This ensures that authors, illustrators, audiobook narrators, translators, and other creators are paid fairly for their work, even if it’s consumed digitally. (Overdrive Help, 2023). This does mean that you may have to wait for more popular titles.
Many digital book purchases also expire after a certain period of time or a certain number of checkouts. With many exciting, popular new books coming out every week, as well as books expiring, the digital library requires frequent updating by librarians. Consistent annual funding is needed to ensure that the collection stays updated and relevant.
Currently there are 52,114 ebooks, audiobooks, and digital magazines in the collection. In the summer, there is a special collection called Sora Sweet Reads of books that are always available, all summer long! Be sure to check it out.
Q: Are kids actually reading these books?
A: Yes! In the 2020-21 school year, the first year of the digital library, 100,000 ebooks and audiobooks were checked out in OUSD schools. In the 2021-22 school year, 233,275 ebooks and audiobooks were checked out. The 2022-23 school year is on pace to exceed last year’s checkouts!
Most months, students check out over 25,000 ebooks and audiobooks over the course of the month and spend a combined total of more than 8,000 hours each month reading ebooks and listening to audiobooks. The digital library is used by 28% of OUSD students.
The top favorite books on Sora are Sisters, Smile, Drama, and Guts, all by Raina Telgemeier; Cat Kid Comic Club Collaborations by Dav Pilkey; Meet Lionel Messi and Meet Cristiano Ronaldo from Lerner Sports; Hilo: Gina & the Last City on Earth by Judd Winick; The Babysitters Club: Mary Anne’s Bad Luck Mystery by Cynthia Yuan Cheng; and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Diper Overlode by Jeff Kinney.
Q: Does listening to audiobooks count as reading? Is it cheating?
A: Yes! Listening to audiobooks counts as reading, and no! It is not cheating. Of course, it is essential for kids to learn phonics and decoding so that they can read words on the page. Audiobooks will never replace this skill for most students. But reading is more than decoding. As Denise Johnson explains in her article ‘Benefits of Audiobooks for All Readers,’ “understanding the message, thinking critically about the content, using imagination, and making connections is at the heart of what it means to be a reader and why kids learn to love books.” Audiobooks are good for all kids for so many reasons, and they provide crucial support to students with learning disabilities and English Language Learners. Adults have a responsibility to support kids in accessing stories in ways that bring the kids joy!
Q: If we have the digital library, why do we need print?
A: Students love to read both in print and on a screen – just like many adults! Some students express a preference for one format or the other, while others like to switch back and forth with different books. Students and teachers alike still desire the tactile experience of books from the library, while also appreciating the benefits of ebook and audiobook access on any connected device at any time. School libraries are more than book repositories – librarians select print and digital books for purchase, help students find books they love, collaborate with teachers on lessons, and provide a safe and welcoming environment for the school community. The digital library is one component of the whole menu of library services.
Q: How can I learn more?
There are lots of ways to get more information! Start by asking your OUSD school librarian or your local public librarian. You can find the link to the Sora Digital Library as well as various help videos on the OUSD Sora website. You can learn more about ebooks and audiobooks at the public library on the digital resource pages for the Oakland Public Library and Alameda County public libraries. Happy reading!
A special thank you to the Bernard E. & Alba Witkin Charitable Foundation for their support of OUSD’s Sora Digital Library.