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Benetech Names New President, COO to Massively Grow Social Impact

2015 January 28
by Bookshare Team Member

PrintBenetech, the parent organization of Bookshare just announced the appointments of Betsy Beaumon as president and Mark Roberts as chief operating officer. Founder Jim Fruchterman continues as Benetech’s chief executive officer, evangelizing Benetech and advancing the technology-for-good field. The goal of the senior appointments is to increase Benetech’s social impact at scale and its capacity to create new social enterprises that use technology to deliver social good.

Through its recently launched technological innovation arm, Benetech Labs, Benetech has been increasingly focused on developing business models, partnerships, and technologies that deliver new solutions to unmet social needs while also implementing and scaling its existing social enterprises. “In their expanded new roles, Betsy and Mark set Benetech on a path to launch new enterprises, scale our existing ones, and grow our global impact by at least a factor of ten,” says Fruchterman. In a related development, Benetech also announced the promotion of Anh Bui to vice president of Benetech Labs. Bui formerly served as director of product strategy in Benetech’s Global Literacy Program.

Over the past six years, Beaumon—an engineer, technology executive, and social entrepreneur—has spearheaded the Global Literacy Program as its general manager, leading it through a tremendous expansion in both size and breadth of impact. She has grown Bookshare, Benetech’s accessible online library, tenfold, delivering over seven million books and transforming the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities across the United States and internationally. Beaumon has spearheaded the movement to see that all new digital books and courses are “born accessible” to all, and is driving that vision forward through research and development partnerships with corporate, technology, university, and nonprofit communities.

Betsy Beaumon pink

Betsy Beaumon, President

As President, Beaumon is now responsible for a newly formed group encompassing field leadership in Benetech’s Labs, Global Literacy, Human Rights, and Environment programs; strategy, partnership, and business planning for all of Benetech’s new and existing initiatives and products; as well as funder development, marketing, and communications. “We believe in the power of engagement to address critical areas of unmet need, and our approach to creating transformative new social enterprises and scaling established ones for greater impact reflect that,” notes Beaumon. “I am tremendously energized to work with the entire Benetech team, as well as our user and partner communities, to achieve our ambitious goals.”

Mark Roberts, Chief Operating Officer

Chief Operating Officer Mark Roberts, who joined Benetech in September 2014 as vice president of engineering, brings to his new role extensive experience as a senior executive with several high profile Silicon Valley companies. Roberts was senior vice president of engineering and operations at TiVo Inc., where he helped build the company’s business systems and infrastructure to launch, deliver, and scale highly successful products and services. He will leverage this experience in leading Benetech’s core new group encompassing engineering, product management, and operations, with a focus on implementation, innovation, and scale for Benetech’s operating social enterprises and products. “I am motivated to harness the power of technology as a force for good,” says Roberts. “At Benetech, we leverage the deep technical and operational skills of our team and the open source community to maximize results.”

Anh Bui, Vice President

Vice President Bui, who provides dedicated leadership for Benetech Labs, oversees its multipronged charge to prototype new social good technology applications, launch new products with the promise of great social impact, and ignite cross-sector collaboration on technology-for-good ventures. Bui’s promotion follows her successfully leading the Global Literacy Program’s work on new frontiers of education for students with disabilities, including accessible digital images, 3D printing, and accessible math.

The new appointments are key to Benetech’s next stage of growth as an unusually diverse and exciting organization. Women are a majority of Benetech’s senior leadership team and workforce. Benetech is now recruiting for a vice president of global literacy and a director of engineering, with a total of seven positions being opened shortly—roughly ten percent of its current team size. It is looking for talented individuals who are passionate about using technology to empower underprivileged communities.

About Benetech

Jim Fruchterman standing along a wall of photos.

Jim Fruchterman, Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Benetech is a Silicon Valley nonprofit technology company that provides software tools and services to address pressing social needs. Each of its program areas—Human Rights, Global Literacy, the Environment, and Benetech Labs—offers the greatest social impact on funds invested.

Social entrepreneur and MacArthur Fellow Jim Fruchterman created Benetech in 2000 and leads the organization as its CEO.

For more information, please visit Benetech.org.

Media inquiries:  Noa Ronkin, Communications Manager, Benetech

 

 

 

 

Donor Spotlight: Lavelle Fund for the Blind

2015 January 26
by Bookshare Team Member

What is it like for a nonprofit to have a successful, lasting partnership with a private philanthropic foundation? And what are some of the social benefits and impact that may result from such a relationship?At Benetech, we’re fortunate to have had long-time support from funders who have been willing to bet on us. One foundation that has been a committed supporter of our work is the Lavelle Fund for the Blind. I’d like to share our experience with Lavelle, where they took a series of calculated risks in grantmaking.The Lavelle Fund exemplifies the tremendous social return that bold philanthropy can create. Embracing measured risk, The Fund has been willing to make early bets on Benetech, and has repeatedly chosen to invest in our prototype projects. These projects ended up becoming successful and found sustainable funding streams, allowing the innovation to go to scale without needing continued funding from Lavelle. That’s what a lot of foundations would love to see happen: in this case, it’s happened multiple times!The mission of the Lavelle Fund is to support programs that help people with visual impairments, including blindness, lead independent, productive lives. It funds primarily organizations that serve the New York City metropolitan area or New York State. Twelve years ago, the Fund made its first grant to Benetech, in support of the then newly launched Bookshare, our accessible online library for people with disabilities that get in the way of reading print, including visual impairments and dyslexia. This first grant allowed us to pilot a Bookshare outreach project in the New York metro area, with a de facto focus on senior citizens with vision loss. Frankly, it didn’t go as well as we had hoped, and Lavelle worked with us to retarget the grant to focus on students with visual impairments. This revised project included the conversion of books into accessible formats and working with multiple schools.This pilot paved the way for our work in the education field. It gave us the opportunity to conduct for the first time a sizeable outreach campaign in education, provided us with informative user feedback and case studies, and supported the development of Bookshare’s initial K-12 collection. This experience helped us prove the potential of Bookshare to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Soon afterwards in 2007, we won our first major award from the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), which, in turn, allowed us to build Bookshare into a national asset. Today, Bookshare serves over 330,000 American students with a rapidly growing collection of hundreds of thousands of accessible ebooks. It is Benetech’s largest social enterprise and is making excellent strides towards solving the “accessible book famine” in the United States. Moreover, Bookshare basically breaks even in the United States thanks to contracts to provide the services, from the U.S. government and states like Texas.The Lavelle Fund also supports programs benefiting the developing world. In this grantmaking area, too, The Fund was key to Bookshare’s global expansion and to our ability to better serve low-income users, in developing and developed countries alike.We first extended Bookshare services internationally in 2008 with the launch of Bookshare in India. Worth Trust, an Indian social enterprise providing employment to people with disabilities, partnered with Bookshare to provide book-processing services and expand the library. This effort has now resulted in the addition of over 11,000 books to the Bookshare collection and was made possible through the initial support of the Lavelle Fund.When Bookshare really began to take off, we realized that we weren’t serving many low-income Bookshare members who lacked access to a personal computer or a smartphone. Even in the United States, this was true of probably a quarter of our student users. Of course, in India and other developing countries, the gap is even larger. It was again a grant from the Lavelle Fund (our third) that allowed us to develop the ability to provide accessible MP3 audio versions of our materials and realize the enormous potential impact of mobile reading options for individuals with print disabilities.Daisy Audio and MP3 formats offer Bookshare members more choices to read on the go

In this case, we upgraded the Bookshare website to allow direct downloads of accessible MP3 files for a small number of Bookshare ebooks. The idea is that a member could go to a school, library, or other nonprofit agency with an internet connection, and walk out with the books they wanted to read on any MP3 player or MP3-enabled mobile phone (this is true of most of the inexpensive phones being sold). Since we first began offering this option three years ago, Bookshare members have downloaded over 150,000 MP3 files from the collection. This pilot created strong interest in mobile Bookshare among educators and students, and laid the groundwork for eventual integration of audio download capability via Bookshare at large, when we convinced the Department of Education to scale the pilot up to cover all of our books in English and in Spanish.

With this new capability for making audio files available, we have returned to the international field with many more books available to many more people on the device they actually have in their pocket or in their bag. In 2013, with the most recent (and fourth!) grant by the Lavelle Fund and with welcome changes to Indian copyright law in effect, we embarked on a new project to increase service and expand the number of accessible books for people who are blind in India. As part of this project, we are working with our lead Indian partner, the DAISY Forum of India, as well as other Indian disability organizations. We are committed to increasing our impact in India by an order of magnitude. Benetech announced this commitment at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. We’re very excited about this project: it allows us to pilot Bookshare at scale in India and show its potential to address the needs of people with disabilities globally.

The Lavelle Fund for the Blind has been a wonderful partner to Benetech. Over and over again, it has allowed us to pilot and eventually scale technology solutions that empower disadvantaged communities. The Fund demonstrates the incredible social impact that private philanthropy can create through smart investing strategies and risk tolerance. We are deeply grateful to the Fund for its continued support and commitment to improving the lives of people with disabilities.

 

– See more at: http://benetech.org/2015/01/05/donor-spotlight-lavelle-fund-for-the-blind/#sthash.sH5rCQhz.dpuf

What is it like for a nonprofit to have a successful, lasting partnership with a private philanthropic foundation? And what are some of the social benefits and impact that may result from such a relationship?

At Benetech, we’re fortunate to have had long-time support from funders who have been willing to bet on us. One foundation that has been a committed supporter of our work is the Lavelle Fund for the Blind. I’d like to share our experience with Lavelle, where they took a series of calculated risks in grantmaking.

The Lavelle Fund exemplifies the tremendous social return that bold philanthropy can create. Embracing measured risk, The Fund has been willing to make early bets on Benetech, and has repeatedly chosen to invest in our prototype projects. These projects ended up becoming successful and found sustainable funding streams, allowing the innovation to go to scale without needing continued funding from Lavelle. That’s what a lot of foundations would love to see happen: in this case, it’s happened multiple times!

Logo for the Lavelle Fund for the Blind.The mission of the Lavelle Fund is to support programs that help people with visual impairments, including blindness, lead independent, productive lives. It funds primarily organizations that serve the New York City metropolitan area or New York State. Twelve years ago, the Fund made its first grant to Benetech, in support of the then newly launched Bookshare, our accessible online library for people with disabilities that get in the way of reading print, including visual impairments and dyslexia. This first grant allowed us to pilot a Bookshare outreach project in the New York metro area, with a de facto focus on senior citizens with vision loss. Frankly, it didn’t go as well as we had hoped, and Lavelle worked with us to retarget the grant to focus on students with visual impairments. This revised project included the conversion of books into accessible formats and working with multiple schools.

This pilot paved the way for our work in the education field. It gave us the opportunity to conduct for the first time a sizeable outreach campaign in education, provided us with informative user feedback and case studies, and supported the development of Bookshare’s initial K-12 collection. This experience helped us prove the potential of Bookshare to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Soon afterwards in 2007, we won our first major award from the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), which, in turn, allowed us to build Bookshare into a national asset. Today, Bookshare serves over 330,000 American students with a rapidly growing collection of hundreds of thousands of accessible ebooks. It is Benetech’s largest social enterprise and is making excellent strides towards solving the “accessible book famine” in the United States. Moreover, Bookshare basically breaks even in the United States thanks to contracts to provide the services, from the U.S. government and states like Texas.

The Lavelle Fund also supports programs benefiting the developing world. In this grantmaking area, too, The Fund was key to Bookshare’s global expansion and to our ability to better serve low-income users, in developing and developed countries alike.

We first extended Bookshare services internationally in 2008 with the launch of Bookshare in India. Worth Trust, an Indian social enterprise providing employment to people with disabilities, partnered with Bookshare to provide book-processing services and expand the library. This effort has now resulted in the addition of over 11,000 books to the Bookshare collection and was made possible through the initial support of the Lavelle Fund.

When Bookshare really began to take off, we realized that we weren’t serving many low-income Bookshare members who lacked access to a personal computer or a smartphone. Even in the United States, this was true of probably a quarter of our student users. Of course, in India and other developing countries, the gap is even larger. It was again a grant from the Lavelle Fund (our third) that allowed us to develop the ability to provide accessible MP3 audio versions of our materials and realize the enormous potential impact of mobile reading options for individuals with print disabilities.

Bookshare member reading a Bookshare book in audio format on an assistive technolgoy device.

In this case, we upgraded the Bookshare website to allow direct downloads of accessible MP3 files for a small number of Bookshare ebooks. The idea is that a member could go to a school, library, or other nonprofit agency with an internet connection, and walk out with the books they wanted to read on any MP3 player or MP3-enabled mobile phone (this is true of most of the inexpensive phones being sold). Since we first began offering this option three years ago, Bookshare members have downloaded over 150,000 MP3 files from the collection. This pilot created strong interest in mobile Bookshare among educators and students, and laid the groundwork for eventual integration of audio download capability via Bookshare at large, when we convinced the Department of Education to scale the pilot up to cover all of our books in English and in Spanish.

With this new capability for making audio files available, we have returned to the international field with many more books available to many more people on the device they actually have in their pocket or in their bag. In 2013, with the most recent (and fourth!) grant by the Lavelle Fund and with welcome changes to Indian copyright law in effect, we embarked on a new project to increase service and expand the number of accessible books for people who are blind in India. As part of this project, we are working with our lead Indian partner, the DAISY Forum of India, as well as other Indian disability organizations. We are committed to increasing our impact in India by an order of magnitude. Benetech announced this commitment at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. We’re very excited about this project: it allows us to pilot Bookshare at scale in India and show its potential to address the needs of people with disabilities globally.

The Lavelle Fund for the Blind has been a wonderful partner to Benetech. Over and over again, it has allowed us to pilot and eventually scale technology solutions that empower disadvantaged communities. The Fund demonstrates the incredible social impact that private philanthropy can create through smart investing strategies and risk tolerance. We are deeply grateful to the Fund for its continued support and commitment to improving the lives of people with disabilities.

– See more at: http://benetech.org/2015/01/05/donor-spotlight-lavelle-fund-for-the-blind/#sthash.sH5rCQhz.dpuf

Head shot of Jim Fruchterman

Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech

This blog post was first published on January 5, 2015 on the Benetech blog. It was written by Jim Fruchterman, Founder and CEO of Benetech, the parent organization of Bookshare, to address what it is like for a nonprofit to have a successful, lasting partnership with a private philanthropic foundation.

 At Benetech, we’re fortunate to have had long-time support from funders who have been willing to bet on us. One foundation that has been a committed supporter of our work is the Lavelle Fund for the Blind. I’d like to share our experience with Lavelle, where they took a series of calculated risks in grantmaking.

 

Logo for Lavelle Fund For The Blind, Inc.The Lavelle Fund exemplifies the tremendous social return that bold philanthropy can create. Embracing measured risk, The Fund has been willing to make early bets on Benetech, and has repeatedly chosen to invest in our prototype projects. These projects ended up becoming successful and found sustainable funding streams, allowing the innovation to go to scale without needing continued funding from Lavelle. That’s what a lot of foundations would love to see happen: in this case, it’s happened multiple times!

The mission of the Lavelle Fund is to support programs that help people with visual impairments, including blindness, lead independent, productive lives. It funds primarily organizations that serve the New York City metropolitan area or New York State. Twelve years ago, the Fund made its first grant to Benetech, in support of the then newly launched Bookshare, our accessible online library for people with disabilities that get in the way of reading print, including visual impairments and dyslexia. This first grant allowed us to pilot a Bookshare outreach project in the New York metro area, with a de facto focus on senior citizens with vision loss. Frankly, it didn’t go as well as we had hoped, and Lavelle worked with us to retarget the grant to focus on students with visual impairments. This revised project included the conversion of books into accessible formats and working with multiple schools.

This pilot paved the way for our work in the education field. It gave us the opportunity to conduct for the first time a sizeable outreach campaign in education, provided us with informative user feedback and case studies, and supported the development of Bookshare’s initial K-12 collection. This experience helped us prove the potential of Bookshare to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Soon afterwards in 2007, we won our first major award from the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), which, in turn, allowed us to build Bookshare into a national asset. Today, Bookshare serves over 330,000 American students with a rapidly growing collection of hundreds of thousands of accessible ebooks. It is Benetech’s largest social enterprise and is making excellent strides towards solving the “accessible book famine” in the United States. Moreover, Bookshare basically breaks even in the United States thanks to contracts to provide the services, from the U.S. government and states like Texas.

The Lavelle Fund also supports programs benefiting the developing world. In this grantmaking area, too, The Fund was key to Bookshare’s global expansion and to our ability to better serve low-income users, in developing and developed countries alike.

We first extended Bookshare services internationally in 2008 with the launch of Bookshare in India. Worth Trust, an Indian social enterprise providing employment to people with disabilities, partnered with Bookshare to provide book-processing services and expand the library. This effort has now resulted in the addition of over 11,000 books to the Bookshare collection and was made possible through the initial support of the Lavelle Fund.

When Bookshare really began to take off, we realized that we weren’t serving many low-income Bookshare members who lacked access to a personal computer or a smartphone. Even in the United States, this was true of probably a quarter of our student users. Of course, in India and other developing countries, the gap is even larger. It was again a grant from the Lavelle Fund (our third) that allowed us to develop the ability to provide accessible MP3 audio versions of our materials and realize the enormous potential impact of mobile reading options for individuals with print disabilities.

Daisy Audio and MP3 formats offer Bookshare members more choices to read on the go - See more at: http://benetech.org/2015/01/05/donor-spotlight-lavelle-fund-for-the-blind/#sthash.sH5rCQhz.dpuf

In this case, we upgraded the Bookshare website to allow direct downloads of accessible MP3 files for a small number of Bookshare ebooks. The idea is that a member could go to a school, library, or other nonprofit agency with an internet connection, and walk out with the books they wanted to read on any MP3 player or MP3-enabled mobile phone (this is true of most of the inexpensive phones being sold). Since we first began offering this option three years ago, Bookshare members have downloaded over 150,000 MP3 files from the collection. This pilot created strong interest in mobile Bookshare among educators and students, and laid the groundwork for eventual integration of audio download capability via Bookshare at large, when we convinced the Department of Education to scale the pilot up to cover all of our books in English and in Spanish.

With this new capability for making audio files available, we have returned to the international field with many more books available to many more people on the device they actually have in their pocket or in their bag. In 2013, with the most recent (and fourth!) grant by the Lavelle Fund and with welcome changes to Indian copyright law in effect, we embarked on a new project to increase service and expand the number of accessible books for people who are blind in India. As part of this project, we are working with our lead Indian partner, the DAISY Forum of India, as well as other Indian disability organizations. We are committed to increasing our impact in India by an order of magnitude. Benetech announced this commitment at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. We’re very excited about this project: it allows us to pilot Bookshare at scale in India and show its potential to address the needs of people with disabilities globally.

The Lavelle Fund for the Blind has been a wonderful partner to Benetech. Over and over again, it has allowed us to pilot and eventually scale technology solutions that empower disadvantaged communities. The Fund demonstrates the incredible social impact that private philanthropy can create through smart investing strategies and risk tolerance. We are deeply grateful to the Fund for its continued support and commitment to improving the lives of people with disabilities.

 

 

Attending ATIA 2015? Get Bookshare Updates and Give Us Your Feedback!

2015 January 20
ATIA 2015 15th Anniversary Banner. January 27-31, 2015 at the Caribe Royale Hotel and Convention Ctr. in Orlando, FL

ATIA 2015 15th Anniversary Banner

Are you going to the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) Conference in Orlando, FL?

On Thursday evening, January 29, we will host a special ATIA session to meet with Bookshare members, ask and answer questions, and share feedback. You can also learn more about new and exciting developments at Bookshare and our parent nonprofit, Benetech.

We hope you will join us!  Please RSVP.

*****************************************************************

 What: Bookshare: Latest and Greatest

When: Thursday, January 29, 2015

Time: 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

Place: Caribe Royal Orlando Hotel in Rooms Cayman I and II

 Light refreshments will be served.

*****************************************************************

Please also check out these Bookshare/Benetech sessions at ATIA:

Common Core Literacy Support for Adolescent Beginning Readers

Thursday, January 29, 2:00 P.M.–3:20 P.M., Curacao 5 – Session Description

3D Printing: New Educational Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

Friday, January 30, 9:20 A.M.–10:20 A.M., Curacao 7/8 – Session Description

 

 

 

Please Share this Amazing Video, Possibilities Abound with Bookshare!

2015 January 12

Did you know that in the U.S. an estimated 2% of all students have a print disability? And that by third and fourth grade*, students who are behind in reading, have a greater chance of falling behind in all their subjects?  You can help to reverse this trend by sharing this awesome video, Possibilities Abound with Bookshare, created by students at Cogswell Polytechnical College. Imagine the realm of possibilities for more individuals with qualifying print disabilities in school and beyond.

Watch the animated video now to learn:

  • What is a print disability.
  • How it affects a person’s ability and desire to read.
  • The importance of making the transition from learning to read to reading to learn.

Special Thanks to the Media Works Team at Cogswell Polytechnical College

Photo of students in the Media Works Team at Cogswell Polytech

Media Works Team at Cogswell Polytechnical College

Bookshare and Benetech, our parent nonprofit, send a special thank you to Cogswell Polytechnical College and the Media Works team for the creation of this inspiring, educational video.

Kristina Cohen, Senior Education Program Manager at Bookshare, said, “Bravo, Cogswell!  This collaboration was a powerful opportunity for all. We appreciated the fresh approach, energy and professionalism that the students and university team provided. The video exceeded our expectations and offers an extremely potent way to educate people about print disabilities and the need for accessible books.”

You can help to open new possibilities for learners by sending this video link to one, two, or ten people who can benefit now!

Thank you.

*************************************

Captions for this video are available on YouTube.  Click on the icon labeled CC in the lower right corner to enable captions.

For accessible transcripts, visit: Bookshare Academy or download the transcript directly: bit.ly/AnimationTranscript

 

*Source: Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters A KIDS COUNT Special Report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation

 

 

 

Monthly Support Tip: How to Get NIMAC Textbooks for Students with IEPs

2015 January 7
by Angela Griffith, Bookshare Customer Service Specialist

As one of your trusty support specialists, I often receive calls from teachers asking how students with Individual Memberships and IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) can access textbooks, particularly those from the NIMAC repository.

I tell them that this can easily be done with Reading Lists!

Bookshare Reading List

Bookshare Reading List

Reading Lists are virtual bookshelves that let teachers and members save books for future reading. Teachers can create Reading Lists with assigned reading, including NIMAC-sourced textbooks for students with IEPs, and share them with students linked with their organization. (Note: Students must have an Individual Membership to access shared Reading Lists.)

To read the books, students simply log into their own account and access books shared on the Reading List.

Here’s how it works:

  • Teachers, log into www.bookshare.org and go to My Bookshare
  • Select the “My Reading Lists” button and create a new Reading List.
  • Name it something meaningful and select “visible to all Reading List members.”
  • Share the Reading List with students by selecting the title of the Reading List. (Note: Make sure your student has an Individual Membership to guarantee access.)
  • Select the “Members” link and select the “Add Members” button.
  • Place a check mark next to the member’s name, then select “Add Selected Members.”
  • Find the textbook you wish to share with a student, select the “Add to Reading List” link, and select the Reading List you just created.

The student can now log into their account and access the book!

If a student has an Individual Membership that is not linked with your organization, see our article: How can I Link my Student’s Existing Individual Account to My Organizational Account?

For more information, visit our always helpful Support Center.

* * *

Image: Bookshare Customer Support Specialist, Angela Griffith with her guide dog, Summer.

Angela Griffith with guide dog, Summer.

About Angela…

Customer Support Specialist, Angela Griffith, has a strong background in Customer Service, Assistive Technology, and IT (Information Technology).  For more than two years, she has served many Bookshare members in her role as part of our Technical Support staff.  Angela enjoys reading, music, spending time with close friends, and various activities.

We appreciate her support tips and article contributions to benefit Bookshare members and sponsors.

 

 

Suspenseful High School Fantasy Takes Teens On Life-Lesson Journey

2014 December 26
by Bookshare Team Member
Book Cover for The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill

Book Cover for The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill

Bookshare members and educators alike will enjoy The Heart of Applebutter Hill, a suspenseful novel written by Bookshare member and author Donna W. Hill.

Donna, who has been blind since birth, takes young readers on a fast-paced journey of high school mystery and fantasy to teach important lessons about bullying and stereotyping kids with disabilities. This is a great read for middle school and older readers.

The main character, Abigail, is a gifted teen who is blind. She and friends, including a boy who uses a wheelchair, go on an amazing journey, encountering many prejudices along the way. They travel to foreign lands, where they learn to be independent and have many unusual experiences. They uncover a camouflage air ship called the Cloud Scooper at Elfin Pond, discover a plot to steal the powerful Heartstone of Arden-Goth at Bar Gundoom Castle, and find an underground lake that holds powerful treasures. There’s even a suspenseful twist involving giants and spies.

Donna’s book is an intriguing story from beginning to end. It teaches important messages, while introducing kids to the beauty of literature, poetry, Greek mythology, history, and braille. Many adults will want to read the book, too!

“Most kids don’t have much involvement with classmates or adults who are blind,” says Donna. “My characters display a lot of courage and spunk. Their experiences will help readers draw new and positive conclusions about the true capabilities of kids who are blind and disabled.”

Though most of Donna’s plot is entirely fictitious, she incorporates incidents about her own life. “Many people made me feel miserable as a child, by allowing or participating in bullying,” she says. “There appeared to be no end to the torment I received as a blind kid, and these experiences made for perfect villains in the book.”

What does Donna read when she’s not engrossed in writing stories?

Author Donna W. Hill with her beloved guide dog, Hunter.

Author Donna W. Hill with her beloved guide dog, Hunter.

“I love thrillers and fantasy and all Harry Potter books. I like to read books written by fellow blind authors. I even learned to knit with books from Bookshare. And when I’m not working with neighboring schools, I write, play and record music with my guitar, and hang out with my guide dog, Hunter. He’s a good listener!”

Learning Initiatives in Schools

Donna is now introducing her book to librarians and educators in Pennsylvania schools. They are working together to develop a learning initiative so that more students can read about and discuss issues faced by people with disabilities. Professionals in education, rehabilitation, and the arts praise the book as a valuable tool for diversity, inclusivity, and anti-bullying initiatives.

You can download The Heart of Applebutter Hill from the Bookshare Library in BRF (Braille Refreshable Format), DAISY Text or Audio, or MP3. You can also read it directly in an Internet browser with the Bookshare Web Reader.

Bookshare’s 2014 Winter Bulletin Just Released!

2014 December 16
by Bookshare Team Member

Our quarterly newsletter, the Bookshare Bulletin was just released! This Winter 2014 edition is a wonderful recap of a tremendous year and an exciting preview of 2015. Thank you for this amazing year and enjoy reading the bulletin!

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Giving Thanks and Looking Ahead

A message from Betsy Beaumon, VP and General Manager, Benetech Global Literacy Program

From our family to yours, we wish you the very best holiday season.

Thanks to your support, Bookshare is serving more members than ever with a collection of hundreds of thousands of accessible ebooks and with tools that offer a “read now” experience on multiple browsers for anytime reading. We also launched a major update to the Bookshare website, making improvements to better support our members.

We believe that our technology and services offer a new world of opportunity for millions of readers around the world. And we are setting our sights on further revolutionizing the fields of accessibility and education. These goals are embodied in the mission of Benetech, the nonprofit parent company that operates Bookshare and that advances the use of technology as a force for social good across the Benetech Global Literacy Program.

Looking ahead, our team is taking on multiple cool new projects. We’re working to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for students who have visual disabilities or learning differences. We just launched a new project to explore ways in which 3D printing technology in libraries and museums can improve learning and accessibility in a range of educational contexts, especially in STEM classes. We also began developing a cloud-based app to help publishers and educators deliver accessible math.

As these projects illustrate, we’re extending what we’ve learned from our extensive work with Bookshare to help publishers and other content creators realize the promise of the digital age and ensure that all content that’s born digital is also born accessible.

We invite you to learn more about our work and please consider supporting our efforts.  Your gift will have a more far-reaching impact than you can ever imagine.

P.S. Did you know that many employers match contributions to Bookshare?  See if your company will match your gift!

 

Book Cover of Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. An Image of Santa Clause with large hog tusks.

Book Cover of Hogfather by Terry Pratchett.  Santa Clause with large tusks.

Fun Reads for the Holidays

Our Collection Development team sure likes to have fun!

This holiday book blog will give you an early start to titles that will undoubtedly tickle your funny bone. You can also check out our winter holiday reading Pinterest board.

There are so many more great books in our collection! Why not peruse our special collection of 2014 National Book Award titles and add them to your reading list?  And what better way to read than on your own! Learn how you can sign up your students for Individual Memberships.

Product Updates

Data security is always a priority at Benetech. We’ve recently updated the Bookshare website to maintain security of our member information. This update will affect how users of the free Read:OutLoud Bookshare Edition find and read new books.  Please read this important update.

 

Student sitting behind an iPad and reading

Student reading an accessible book on a laptop.

Students Break through Reading Barriers

Confidence, independence, possibility, and achievement—these are the benefits that students with learning disabilities highlight about assistive technology and Bookshare books. Hear it in their own words by viewing this great video of Texas students.

Please share this video!

 

 

Understood.org website – 15 nonprofits here to help you.  Image of hand holding a tablet.

Understood.org website – 15 nonprofits here to help you. Image of hand holding a tablet.

Parenting Tips from Understood.org

The holidays are a time for family and fun. Excitement runs high, and kids navigate unfamiliar situations. This can spell trouble for the one in five children with learning and attention issues.

If you or a parent you know could benefit from some tips to manage these behaviors, try Understood’s Parenting Coach today!

 

Teachers, Get Ready for Next Semester!

It’s not too early to make sure your students have the books they need. Get ahead with these easy steps!

You can also sign up for the following two great learning opportunities!

Logo for ablenet

Logo for ablenet

Inspire Lifelong Learning with Bookshare (January 20, 2015)—Join AbleNet University and Bookshare for a webinar on how to inspire lifelong learning with your students using Bookshare and assistive technology. Attendees will get a certificate of attendance and a 10% discount on AbleNet products. Register today!

 

Logo for Perkings eLearning workshops

Logo for Perkings eLearning

Bookshare Train the Trainer (January 26, 2015)—Learn how you can train other educators and schools to use Bookshare in this convenient five-week online course from Perkins eLearning. Attendees will earn 25 continuing education credits, and you can get a discount by signing up before December 31.  Register today!

Bookshare Mentor Teachers can contact training@bookshare.org to learn about scholarship opportunities.

Have a safe and fun holiday and thank you!

With warm regards from the Benetech and Bookshare team.

 

 

Winter Holiday Titles That Will Tickle Your Funny Bone!

2014 December 6
by Bookshare Team Member

Looking for some holiday cheer? Check out these witty and quirky holiday titles!  We bet one or more will tickle your funny bone, so put away those serious books and put on a smile. Why not share your favorite holiday read on Twitter or post a fun picture on Facebook of yourself reading?

We’d love to be a tiny part of a reading experience that brings joy to you and all people.  Ho ho ho and happy holidays!

1Book Cover Honeyky Hanukah – Illustration of Woody Guthrie playing guitar and a dog singing on a city street.

Book Cover Honeyky Hanukah Illustration of Woody Guthrie playing guitar and a dog singing on a city street.

For Young Readers

Honeyky Hanukkah by Woody Guthrie: A rollicking celebration as a boy and his dog invite friends and family to a holiday feast. (Grades PK-2)

A Pinata in a Pine Tree by Pat Mora: A delightful Latin-flavored take on the 12 days of Christmas. (Grades PK-2)

The Miracle Jar by Audrey Penn: Sophie’s mother is worried that their cooking oil won’t last through Hanukkah, while the children learn more about the miraculous story this holiday commemorates. (Grades 2-4)

Horrible Harry and the Holidaze by Suzy Kline: Everyone’s learning new things about holidays around the world, but Harry just can’t get into the holiday spirit. (Grades 3-5)

Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien: Every December, the children of the beloved author received a special letter containing wonderful stories from the North Pole. (Grades 3-6)

Box of Delights by John Masefield: Kay Harker is coming home for Christmas, but finds himself being watched by some shady characters. (Grades 4-7)

Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by Frank L. Baum: From the author of the Oz books, a highly imaginative set of tales about old Kris Kringle. (Grades 5-8)

 

Book Cover of Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. An Image of Santa Clause with large hog tusks.

Book Cover of Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. An Image of Santa Clause with large hog tusks.

For Adults

Tinsel by Hank Stuever: Follows three “holiday believers” in Frisco, Texas, through a beautiful and hilarious Christmas.

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett: There’s something awfully familiar about this jolly old red-suited gift giver in this inventive Discworld novel.

Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg: A magical novel about a warm and tender Christmas in a small Southern town.

Rest You Merry by Charlotte Macleod: A university-based Scrooge finds a real reason for bah-humbugging when he stumbles over a dead librarian in his living room this Yuletide.

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci: Getting from Washington to LA in time for Christmas shouldn’t be too difficult for Tom Langdon, right? Right?

Snark! the Herald Angels Sing edited by Lawrence Dorfman: For those suffering from serious eggnog overdose, an entertaining anthology that skewers the whole gamut of winter holidays.

Candy Canes outlined in a heart. Holiday Reads

Holiday Reads with candy canes outlined in a heart.

Hope you enjoy these holiday reads!

There’s lots more titles in the collection to explore this season.

 

P.S. Check out our Winter Holiday Reading board on Pinterest too!

 

 

How did an Occupational Therapist Help to Build Statewide Delivery of Accessible Instruction Materials?

2014 December 1
by Bookshare Team Member
Photo of Nancy Dunn

Nancy Dunn, OT, Iowa Heartland Area Education Agency

In 2010, the Iowa Department of Education (DOE) developed True AIM, a statewide initiative to ensure that all students with qualified print disabilities receive timely access to accessible instructional materials (AIM). To deliver on this promise, the Iowa DOE partnered with Benetech, Bookshare’s parent nonprofit.

Nancy Dunn, an occupational therapist and Bookshare Mentor Teacher, supported this initiative at the Iowa Heartland Area Education Agency. She and others on the assistive technology team trained educators about the benefits and delivery of accessible instructional materials. Their efforts helped to build capacity in more than ten Iowa districts. What did Nancy and the team do?

  • Assisted with interventions to determine which students qualify for Bookshare and are able to benefit from electronic text
  • Helped educators and parents determine the need for assistive technology and reading tools to support student learning
  • Supported IEP teams to document the need for accessible materials
  • Provided training to school staff and parents on accessing Bookshare and downloading books through Organizational and Individual Memberships

“I always begin my training by telling participants that Bookshare is free to students who qualify through federal awards from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs,” says Nancy. “It takes time to set up the district Organization Membership and build capacity, but once it’s done, it’s easy to download books for students. They don’t wait for books anymore and teachers do not have to send books to our central office for scanning. Bookshare has helped us remove some of the barriers of easily providing accessible instruction materials.

“I follow Bookshare in Action newsletters and sign up for webinars to hear about the latest tools and enhancements. I also network with other mentors who share best practices about their districts,” she said. “I am proud of the Iowa True AIM initiative and our accomplishments to build statewide capacity and to enable more students to reach their goals.”

Last year, a high school senior with a physical disability became an Individual Member of Bookshare. Nancy believes it was one of the best things she ever did to help a student. “He has so many interests, but cannot hold a book steady,” she said. “We explored many devices before we found a solution. Using the iPad mini, he could activate the keys with his knuckle or a stylus. Now, he independently accesses books using the Read2Go app and has a better chance of becoming a lifelong reader. I felt so good about him learning to use technology and having access to Bookshare before he graduated!”

Kristina Cohen working on a computer.

Kristina Cohen – Bookshare Sr. Education Manager giving a training session.

About the Bookshare Mentor Teacher Program

This program began in 2010 to support the nation’s top teachers and assistive technology specialists with training tools to engage educators, parents, and students in the effective use of Bookshare’s online accessible library and reading technologies. Over 500 educators and specialists have now joined the network and work in their local communities and schools to advocate for students with print disabilities.  Bookshare Mentor Teachers also develop and share best practices with other teachers across the United States.

Learn more at http://communications.bookshare.org/mentor-teachers/.

* * *

Sign up for an online course through Perkins to learn more about training others on Bookshare best practices!

Logo for Perkings eLearning workshops

Logo for Perkins eLearning Workshops

Perkins eLearning is offering a five-week online course starting January 26, 2015.  Sign up for this online course before December 31, 2014, and take advantage of an early bird discount!

Upon completing the course, you can earn 25 continuing education credits. This course is geared toward assistive technology specialists, trainers, teachers, and other educational specialists interested in gaining the tools and resources necessary to train others on Bookshare.

Giving Thanks, Looking Ahead: An Open Letter to the Bookshare Community

2014 November 24
Betsy Beaumon head shot

Betsy Beaumon, General Manager, Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech’s Global Literacy Program

Dear Friends,

I always appreciate hearing from our members and getting a glimpse into how Bookshare is making a positive difference in their lives.

Oftentimes, the stories our members share with us are deeply moving, but there’s something especially rewarding in hearing someone new to our community commenting on what they’re able to accomplish with Bookshare.Consider the following statement that one of our members has anonymously shared with us:

“I recently activated my account, and am thrilled with your service and how it works seamlessly with my iPad. This is the first time I have been able to read books unavailable [as commercial digital spoken audio products] in over fifteen years. In addition, your service is enabling me to develop a career that would otherwise be impossible. I am very grateful for Bookshare!”

This note is a powerful reminder of how grateful I am for you—our Bookshare members, parents, educators, volunteers, donors, and partners—and for the tremendous achievements we have accomplished together over the past year.

Thanks to your support, Bookshare is now serving more members than ever with a collection of hundreds of thousands of accessible ebooks, and with tools that offer a “read now” experience on multiple devices of their choosing, whether at school, at home, at work, or on the go. We just launched a major update to the Bookshare website, carefully making major improvements to it in order to better support our members and enable them to get even more out of our vast and growing collection.

We aren’t stopping here, though. We believe that our technology and services offer a new world of opportunity for millions of readers around the world, and are setting our sights on further revolutionizing the fields of accessibility and education. These goals are embodied in the mission of Benetech, the nonprofit parent company that operates Bookshare and that advances the use of technology as a force for social good. We’re therefore expanding not only the scale of our work through Bookshare but also our scope across the Benetech Global Literacy Program.

This means that our team is taking on multiple new, cool projects. For example, we’re working hard to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for students who have visual disabilities or learning differences. We just launched a new project to explore new ways in which 3D printing technology in libraries and museums can be used to improve learning and accessibility in a range of educational contexts, especially in STEM classes. Earlier this year, we began developing a cloud-based app to help publishers and educators deliver accessible math.

As these projects illustrate, we’re extending what we’ve learned from our extensive work with Bookshare to help publishers and other content creators realize the promise of the digital age and ensure that all content that’s born digital is also “born accessible.” We’re also expanding the proven Bookshare model internationally, so that people with disabilities all around the world, including many who currently have little or no access to education, benefit from the same service that our members enjoy in the United States. In fact, Bookshare is the only major library of its kind that’s actively delivering services in conjunction with partners across the world.

Thank you to our thriving Bookshare community for everything you have done to make these efforts possible. As we look forward to 2015, we know that much work remains to be done—people to empower, places to reach, new accessibility tools to explore and build, and new partnerships to develop in order to better address the global need for accessible content. All this mission-focused work goes beyond what we’re funded to do, and we definitely need your generous help to carry it forward: to provide additional books; create unprecedented opportunities to benefit from accessible math; extend our services to developing countries; and keep improving and increasing the ways to use Bookshare.

This giving season, you may be receiving communications from our team with an appeal for financially supporting Bookshare. Please take a look and give whatever you can to allow us to continue these efforts and do even more, for more people. We build our technology-for-good products and reach dollar-by-dollar, and therefore every gift of any size makes a difference for the individuals we serve.

I look forward to continuing our shared journey, and to accomplishing much more together over the coming year and beyond. Thank you in advance for your support.

Warm regards and happy holidays,

Betsy Beaumon

General Manager, Bookshare

Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech’s Global Literacy Program