Pilot program announced: Who Can Read? is for parents AND teachers

The following is a story that appeared in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on Thursday, July 28, 2011.

Easthampton pilots new reading technology

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Students at Center/Pepin elementary school will be piloting new reading technology this fall, thanks to a longtime friendship between city schools Superintendent Nancy Follansbee and Michelle Dufresne, owner of Amherst-based Pioneer Valley Books. The company, founded in 1998, provides books for children learning to read.

“Michelle and I were Reading Recovery teachers together 20 years ago,” Follansbee explained. “We’d been talking about how they want to have an iPad app for books. She asked me if we’d be willing to pilot the devices and course we said we would.”

In mid-August, the company will be delivering six iPads to the school preloaded with the “Who Can Read?” book reader application. Each book is illustrated and features audio so that a student can choose to hear it read aloud or turn the audio off as they develop their own reading skills. The book reader, which came out in May, also features a trademark animated owl that helps students follow instructions. (More information is available at www.whocanread.com)

Lauri Yanis, director of sales and marketing for Pioneer Valley Books, said the Easthampton elementary school is “the only one we are making this gift to.” In addition to providing the iPads, the company will offer training to kindergarten and first grade teachers at Center/Pepin in the use of “Who Can Read?” and other iTunes apps that are helpful to reading instruction,

Follansbee said once teachers at Center/Pepin are trained, administrators will look for ways to share the book readers with other city schools.

Gilfether oversees curriculum, grants

Shirley Gilfether, a former interim assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the Easthampton schools, has been hired as the district’s new director of curriculum/grants manager.

Gilfether, who lives in Greenfield, will replace Melissa Earls, who left after a year in the job for a new post at the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School for Excellence in Springfield.

The curriculum director’s job was advertised at an annual salary of $75,000 to $85,000. When reached last week, Superintendent Nancy Follansbee declined to provide Gilfether’s exact salary, noting that a contact had not yet been signed. She is expected to start work in early August.

Gilfether earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and psychology from San Jose State University in California and a master’s degree in education administration and supervision from California State University in Hayward, according to her resume. Her experience includes stints as a high school math and physical education teacher, assistant principal and principal for public schools in California, Massachusetts and Vermont. Gilfether has also worked as an independent educational consultant.


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