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College Bridge Program Helps Teens with Learning Disabilities Transition to Postsecondary

2014 October 16
Jennifer (far left) and Sara (standing) work with students in small group settings

Mission Middle College Program Coordinators, Jennifer Jolliff (far left) and Sara Smith (standing) working with students in small group settings.

GUEST BLOG POST:

BY JENNIFER JOLLIFF AND SARA SMITH, PROGRAM COORDINATORS AT MISSION MIDDLE COLLEGE

Recently, we caught up with Jennifer Jolliff and Sara Smith, Program Coordinators at Mission Middle College, CA, to talk about their college bridge program in the Santa Clara School District. This collaboration gives high school seniors who are not performing well academically a second chance at making successful transitions to college.

In this blog, Jennifer and Sara describe how students with learning disabilities feel about attending college and their approach to provide a new learning environment. They also offer some great recommended reading resources.

Believing Students with LD Will Succeed

By 11th grade, Caleb was withdrawn and almost voiceless. His self-esteem had hit rock bottom. Due to his low reading ability, he felt ridiculed, ashamed, and beyond academic assistance. Caleb’s anxiety level was in overdrive as he talked with us about taking college courses.  This young man was sensitive and smart, but lacked the transcripts and reading confidence to succeed.  Sadly, many battle-scarred students, like Caleb, skip the quest to college for fear of failure.

Students with learning disabilities often lack the reading comprehension skills to handle college courses. They may be labeled as having an IEP (Individual Education Plan) or a 504. They may not have been formally diagnosed with a reading disability, such as dyslexia or dysgraphia, but are keenly aware that others have low expectations. They may believe that no one really believes they can succeed. Our task is to reverse this belief and provide a learning environment that wipes away this stigma.

About Mission Middle College Transition Program

Like many transition programs, our approach is to build a bridge to increase students’ confidence and give them alternative ways to learn.  First, we equip them with technology. We encourage good study habits and teach them about emotional intelligence. These students want and deserve mutual respect.

To improve reading comprehension, we provide access to quality educational resources like Bookshare for students who qualify. Caleb liked reading accessible books with text-to-speech. This multisensory environment (seeing and hearing the content) reinforced reading comprehension.

Next, we connect students with peer mentors and provide resources for them to explore about learning disabilities.  At the end of this article, we list reading recommendations to help parents.

Lastly, we set uniformly high expectations. Our learning environment at Mission Middle College applies cognitive-based theory with technology and instructional strategies that focus on reading comprehension. This combination helps the learner take ownership for their academic progress.

Caleb Richardson talks with Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

Caleb Richardson talks with Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

When we first met Caleb, he was fearful and unprepared. He responded favorably to using technology and accessible books. His reading comprehension improved. His barriers broke down and he believed he could succeed. His hard work paid off! Today, he attends East Texas Access University for religious studies. This is the type of success we want for all learners.

Recommended Reading Resources From Jennifer and Sara:

Additional Resources:

mission students

Middle Mission College students demonstrate reading on their computers.

P.S. Read this blog about Michael Yudin’s visit to Mission Middle College. Mr. Yudin is the Acting Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

Many thanks to Jennifer Jolliff, Sara Smith and Caleb Richardson, for sharing this information and update.

Eighteen Books Later: How Paternal Passion Fueled Rick Riordan’s Writing Career

2014 October 10
by Bookshare Team Member
Book Cover of Rick Riordan's "The Blood of Olympus"  Image of Greek mythological characters and columns spiraling down into a swirling oceanspriling

Book Cover of Rick Riordan’s “The Blood of Olympus”

Book Five of Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series, The Blood of Olympus, was just released and is now available in Bookshare. By our count, this is Riordan’s eighteenth book about the mythical and exciting worlds of young Percy Jackson and his fellow adventurers.

Riordan’s books are highly acclaimed worldwide, but what may not be well known is his motivation for writing the first Percy Jackson story nearly ten years ago. He was driven by a force many parents understand: to help his second-grade son, who had just been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, engage in learning.

At the time, Riordan was an award-winning author of books for adults. In his previous role as a middle school teacher, Riordan taught Greek mythology. This happened to be one of the few subjects that interested his son, so it was perfect for engaging bedtime stories. However, Riordan soon found himself running out of material. It was time to get creative. So he developed the character of young Percy (who also happened to have ADHD and dyslexia). Over the course of three bedtimes, he spun the elaborate tale that later became the first installment in the Percy Jackson series. That series now consists of eight books and has spawned two additional series: the Kane Chronicles and Heroes of Olympus.

Percy Jackson fans get their fill of adventure, but they also enjoy a crash course in Greek mythology. In fact, Riordan provides supplementary resources to encourage students to delve further into this enticing domain. Students can also learn more about the fictional Camp Half-Blood, the setting of the Percy Jackson series, as well as the intriguing world of Egyptian magic featured in the Kane Chronicles. But students are not the only ones who benefit from Riordan’s engaging online content. The author’s website provides supplemental materials to help educators capitalize on their students’ enthusiasm for his books. These resources include:

If you’re interested in a more personal connection with the author, see if The Blood of Olympus book tour is coming to a city near you!

Eighteen books later, Riordan is far from finished spinning tales of adventure. While he’s touring the country promoting his latest title, he is also beginning work on his next series, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, coming in October 2015. Until then, Bookshare members can savor all of Riordan’s published works and additional content!

Sharing Timely Resources and Student Successes for National Dyslexia Awareness Month

2014 October 9
by Bookshare Team Member
illustration of a person's brain firing with many thoughts

illustration of a person’s brain firing with many thoughts

Bookshare serves many members who have a severe reading disability, like dyslexia, that makes it difficult to comprehend what they read in standard print. Persons with dyslexia cannot easily recognize words and letter sounds. They may be slow readers and poor spellers because signals to their brain mix up the ability to accurately decode print.

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) reports that 1 in 10 people have symptoms of dyslexia, and half of all students who qualify for special education in U.S. schools are classified with a learning disability. Thankfully, there are many people who have benefited from digital accessible books paired with assistive technology.

Did you know that Bookshare is the world’s largest online accessible library of copyrighted content for people with print disabilities? Yes, and it is offered at no cost to qualified U.S. students and schools. As a member of Bookshare, you can tap into a world of more than 300,000 titles for education and pleasure reading and hear the ebooks read aloud using text-to-speech (TTS) technology. October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month, and we want to share with you two short stories from Bookshare moms about their sons’ efforts to succeed academically.

Bookshare Moms Share Sons’ Reading Success

Michelle Reeves and son, Reagan standing together.

Michelle Reeves and son, Reagan.

Michelle Reeves says, “My son, Reagan was 8 years old when he was diagnosed with dyslexia. He struggled in school and didn’t like to read. His eyes would tire while reading print, and he fell behind in his schoolwork. As a Texas teacher, I found out about Bookshare through our school. Today, my happy 8th grader listens to accessible ebooks read aloud on portable technology devices. He downloads ebooks on his iPhone by himself and uses an iPad Mini to read with an app called Read2Go. He even reads for pleasure! Last year, he downloaded and read over 200 digital books and received an award for having accumulated the most Accelerated Reader points in his class. Bravo!”

A California mom and school counselor also shared her pride with us when her seventh grader passed his Accelerated Reading tests with a 100% for comprehension. “He’s doing well reading with accessible books. Using reading technology, he can see highlighted words and hear text read aloud. He can choose font size, background colors, and rate of speed. He’s even given up video games and sets his alarm to wake up early to read before school. Amazing!”

A big thanks to these parents for their inspirational stories and to all parents who continue to share resources and information likes the ones we list below.

Parent-founded organizations, like Parents Education Network and Decoding Dyslexia, advocate for mandatory teacher training for dyslexia.

Parent technical and information centers, such as Parents Helping Parents in California and the Simon Technology Center in Minnesota, offer opportunities to try different types of accessible technology tools and work directly with schools to find the right support for students.

Learning Ally and Bookshare offer accessible books that work with many reading tools.

Books by expert authors, like Ben Foss, The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan, Susan Barton, Bright Solutions for Dyslexia, and David Flink, Thinking Differently, provide a wealth of information.

Additionally, check out these fine organizations for resources, strategies, and support and stay tuned for our blog about the launch of the new Understood website designed for parents of children with learning and attention issues.

Build Independence with Bookshare Web Reader

2014 September 30
by Bookshare Team Member

Student reading on a laptop with both hands raised in the air in excitement with the tagline "Inspire Independent Reading"

Do you know someone who is ready to read on their own?

Bookshare Web Reader is a free, easy-to-use reading tool for Individual Members. Readers like Kevin and Kelly use it to read books for school and fun on any computer with Internet access. What makes Bookshare Web Reader so great?

  • Read books directly from a supported Internet browser on your computer (no need to install specialized software)
  • Log into Bookshare, find a book, and select “Read Now”
  • Read with text-to-speech voices and word highlighting (on supported browsers)

Ready to get started? Make sure you or your student has an Individual Membership and view the tutorial below!

First Time User Guide

To read with text-to-speech, word highlighting, and options for large print:

  • Open Google Chrome and log on to Bookshare
  • Find your book
  • Select “Read Now”
  • Follow prompts to install the Chrome Extension
  • Your book will open, and you can begin reading!

To read in large print or with a screen reader that will provide text-to-speech:

  • Open Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, or Safari
  • Find your book
  • Select “Read Now”
  • Your book will open, and you can begin reading!

For more Bookshare Web Reader FAQs, visit the Support Center.

Individual Members Inspire Us to Read Independently with Bookshare Web Reader

2014 September 29
by Bookshare Team Member
Screen capture of Bookshare Web Reader reading Harry Potter's "Order of the Phoenix"

Screen image of Bookshare Web Reader reading Harry Potter’s “Order of the Phoenix”

Our members continue to inspire us!  That’s why in this post, we’re sharing two stories of teen members who use Bookshare Web Reader to read about the things they love…independently.

Bookshare Web Reader is a free reading tool for Individual Members and is a great way to access Bookshare books quickly and easily with an Internet browser. This web-based reader does not require specialized software.

Read these  inspiring stories now, and please share with others who want to read on their own!

Kelly Enjoys Reading Freedom!

Kelly Schneider kneeling with a basketball.

Kelly Schneider kneeling with a basketball.

Kelly Schneider is a 17-year-old Bookshare Individual Member who loves the flexibility of reading wherever she wants. She uses Bookshare Web Reader, and says, “It gives me freedom to read on a computer at school or at home, even if the software isn’t on that computer. When I first used Web Reader, it was so simple! I just opened Google Chrome and read.”

Kelly also loves sports and likes reading about sports. This active teen participates in the Special Olympics cycling competitions in New York and Connecticut.  “I read books on any topic and I like that. I would tell other kids to give Bookshare Web Reader a try. I’ve read many books that I never thought I could!”

 

Photo of Kevin smiling.

Kevin Leong smiling.

Kevin Reads Anywhere, Anytime!

Kevin Leong is another Individual Member who is an avid reader. Though he has optic atrophy, which makes reading difficult, it doesn’t slow him down. He has used Bookshare Web Reader from the very beginning. When it first came out, Kevin used it in his school library, in classes, and even at home. “I like being able to use Bookshare Web Reader because it’s fast, easy, and I can access it almost anywhere.”

Kevin_Leong_Using_Read2Go

Screen capture of Kevin reading online with Bookshare Web Reader.

With Bookshare Web Reader, Kevin feels positive about his reading ability. “I’ve always been good at math and science,” he says, “and now I’m good at reading and electronics and technology. A couple of minutes on Bookshare, and I’m ready!”

P.S. The Bookshare team is always thrilled to see your comments on this blog and in social media. Tell us about your experiences reading accessible books at school, at home, or on the go on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks!

 

Accessible Books for Texas Program Funded for Fifth Year and Offers Enhanced Spanish Language Support

2014 September 25
ABT Logo with url and an image of the State of Texas.

ABT Logo with url and outline image of the state of Texas.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has just approved funding for Benetech’s Accessible Books for Texas (ABT) program for a fifth year, from September 2014 through August 2015. Benetech is the parent nonprofit of Bookshare. This funding supplements an existing award from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education, and allows Benetech to do even more via a state-level partnership with Texas.

Through ABT, local outreach coordinators deliver customized, face-to-face AEM (accessible educational materials) and Bookshare training to Texas educators, parents, and students. Additionally, Bookshare applies dedicated resources to Texas membership and support questions and book requests. As a result, the number of Texas public K-12 schools using Bookshare, and the number of Texas students getting accessible ebooks through Bookshare, are growing at twice the pace of the national average.

Parent working with son to read accessible books on a computer.

Parent working with son to read accessible books on his computer.

¿Lea en Español? 

Texas parents, students, and educators who prefer to read in Spanish can now learn all about ABT from a new Spanish version of the ABT website. In addition, Bookshare brochures are now available in Spanish on the ABT website.

Prospective members who prefer to read in Spanish can also benefit from an Individual Membership Sign-Up Form in Spanish. This form provides a Spanish translation of the online sign-up form and should be used for reference only. For faster processing, prospective Individual Members should still sign up online.

Teen boy with headphones listens to accessible books read aloud on his computer while following along with the text.  His computer is piled high on top of printed books.

Teen boy with headphones listens to accessible books read aloud on his computer, while following along with the text. His computer is piled high on top of printed books.

Did you know that Bookshare offers nearly 5,000 books in Spanish? These include Spanish translations of popular books by bestselling authors such as J. K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, Isabel Allende, Gary Soto, John C. Maxwell, Joel Osteen, and T. D. Jakes! More Spanish titles are added each month, and members are encouraged to request books that aren’t yet in the collection.

Bookshare members can also listen to Spanish books in a high-quality audio voice. When downloaded in audio format (either DAISY Audio or MP3), all Spanish Bookshare books are provided in a high-quality text-to-speech (TTS) voice. This helps ensure a pleasant listening experience. Spanish books downloaded in DAISY Audio can be read in Read2Go, the Bookshare app for the iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone. Check out instructions here.

Bookshare members can also read Spanish books using other TTS reading software. The DAISY Consortium Reader and several commercially available reading software programs offer Spanish TTS voices.

Teacher working with young students who are wearing headphones and reading digital accessible books on their computers.

Teacher working with young students who are wearing headphones and reading digital accessible books on their computers.

Feel free to pass on this information to Texas parents, students, and educators who serve students with print disabilities!  Thank you.

Logged Into Bookshare, But Can’t Download. Renew Today!

2014 September 22
by Bookshare Team Member
sign_up_for_bookshare_screen_shot

Screen Capture of Bookshare Membership Options web page.

If you’ve tried logging into your account but were unable to download books, it’s possible that your Bookshare membership has expired.  Although Individual Memberships are free for U.S. students with print disabilities, it’s important to keep your school information up-to-date every year too.  This will ensure a smooth transition back-to-school and uninterrupted access to the books you need for school and fun!

Bookshare Support Portal and Renewal Reminders

Support_Center

Screen capture of Bookshare Support Portal web page.

Bookshare does send out email reminders to renew your account.  Remember too, that you can always visit our support portal to find answers to commonly asked questions about membership.

If you’ve missed your email reminder, follow this easy two-step process and you’ll be ready to go!

  1. Log in to Bookshare, and select “My Account” in your task bar.
  2. Choose the “Student Status” link, update your school information, then select “Submit.”
Hand holding a smartphone

Hand holding a smartphone

Here’s a tip!  If you are logged into your Bookshare account on a mobile device, like a tablet or smart phone, it may be necessary to first log out and then log back in for your membership renewal to take effect.

Keep on reading and inspiring everyone you know to read!

 

Bookshare Mentor Teachers Go Extra Mile to Inspire Independent Readers

2014 September 16
 Colorful image of paper dolls holding hands.


Colorful image of paper dolls holding hands to celebrate International Literacy Day!

Dedication is the one word we use when referring to the more than 500 U.S. teachers and specialists who participate in the Bookshare Mentor Teacher program.

Because of their commitment throughout the school year, hundreds, if not thousands, of new educators, parents, and students with qualified print disabilities are now members of Bookshare. They can effectively use the library and reading technologies for academic success.

Are you an educator who wants to go the extra mile to ensure reading equality and independence?

Do you want to empower more students to stay on task with reading assignments in school and become lifelong and independent readers at home? Are you interested in training other teachers, parents, and students on how to effectively use Bookshare? Consider joining our network!

What do Bookshare Mentor Teachers do in their schools and community?

  • Answer common questions about how to effectively use Bookshare in schools and at home
  • Provide staff training and support to local schools, districts, students, and families
  • Develop and share best practices so that others can learn and replicate successful models

What are the benefits of joining the Bookshare Mentor Teacher Program?

  • Access to training materials you can use at your schools
  • Opportunities to network and share resources through the Bookshare Mentors Google group
  • Access to Bookshare news first and opportunities to beta test new products
  • Rewards and prizes, like IOS and Android devices and gift cards for school supplies
  • Recognition on Bookshare’s blog and in social media
Nalida

Nalida L. Besson, MEd, MPA, JD Boston Public Schools

Throughout the years, we feature Bookshare Mentor Teachers on our blog and their reasons for participating in our national network. Here’s what a few had to say at the start of this school year.

“Being a Bookshare Mentor enables me to help more students and teachers be knowledgeable about the library resource. This way, I can enrich more students’ lives by giving them the ability to download accessible books and use a variety of technologies for reading success.” —Nalida L. Besson, MEd, MPA, JD, Boston Public Schools

 * * *

Monica Rathsack

Monica Rathsack, Physical Therapist, Appleton, WI

“I’ve been mentoring teachers, students, and parents on Bookshare since 2007. The library gets better every year! There are more books, more download options, more reading options, and more support videos every time I look. It is a pleasure to work with an organization that is so responsive to the needs of its members!”  —Monica Rathsack, Physical Therapist, Appleton School District, WI

* * *

Melanie Shaefer.JPG

Melanie Schaefer, AT Consultant, Bend OR

Melanie Schaefer, Assistive Technology Consultant in Bend, Oregon said, “One of the things that I love about Bookshare is that it is so versatile! This allows us to provide books to students based on their preference of tools – iPads or iTouches, PCs, Macs, Chromebooks, Android – and their preference of format – audio only or text with audio. When we give students choices, we find increased independent reading.”

 * * *

Leisha

Leisha Crawford, Special Education Teacher, Grand Rapids, MI

Liesha Crawford, Special Education Teacher at Alger Middle School, Grand Rapids, MI Public Schools, sums it up by telling teachers and families why she goes the extra mile to help them use Bookshare. Liesha says, “Seriously, I don’t get paid for this. I just believe in this extraordinary online library and educational resource!”

About the Bookshare Mentor Teacher Program

The Bookshare Mentor Teacher program began in 2010 to support the nation’s top teachers and assistive technology specialists. It provides 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 on behalf of students with print disabilities. Bookshare Mentor Teachers also develop and share best practices with other teachers across the United States.  Join us!

 

 

Get Inspired with an Individual Membership

2014 September 8

Student reading on a laptop with both hands raised in the air in excitement with the tagline "Inspire Independent Reading"

Are you or your child or student ready to access Bookshare independently this new school year? Students with qualifying print disabilities can boost their academic independence by doing the following:

  • Finding their own books
  • Accessing teacher reading lists for school assignments
  • Reading with the easy-to-use Bookshare Web Reader

Make sure you or your child or student is ready with an Individual Membership!

Teachers:

Log into your Bookshare account and send pre-filled Individual Membership forms to your student’s parents (under 18 years) or to the students (18 years and above) so they can sign and send back to Bookshare. View detailed instructions and a tutorial.

If your students already have access at school and at home, but you cannot share reading lists because the accounts are not linked, follow these steps.

Parents:

If your child is not yet a Bookshare member at home or school, sign them up today!

If your child already has an Individual Membership, but is not connected to their school account, let your child’s teacher know they can link the accounts so they can share reading lists.

Students:

If you are 18 years or older, you can sign yourself up today!

 

Carson’s Journey with Technology Makes English Teacher Proud!

2014 September 2
by Bookshare Team Member
Teacher, Sallie Spencer with Carson, her student

Teacher, Sallie Spencer with Carson.

Earlier this year, we featured a blog and video by Bookshare Student Member, Carson Maxson. He and his English teacher, Sallie Spencer, from Olivet Middle School, Michigan, created the video “How Read2Go Moved My Life” for the first White House Student Film Festival. They wanted to demonstrate how Carson’s reading ability changed once he was introduced to portable technology and accessible ebooks to accommodate his learning disability.

Carson’s story is not so unusual for kids with learning disabilities. They fall behind at an early age and cannot keep pace with other students. By fourth grade, Carson read at a first-grade level. His self-esteem was low and he hated to read. With each new assignment, he felt anxiety and failure.

But in sixth grade, Carson’s learning journey changed. Mrs. Spencer encouraged Carson to sign up for a Bookshare Individual Membership and test drive an iPad. She taught him how to find and download books, organize reading lists, and read accessible ebooks from the Bookshare library. This helped Carson to be more independent, allowing him to get the books he liked and to read whenever he felt the urge, which became more often.

Carson sitting in a pink chair with headphones reading a book on his iPad with Read2Go app.

Carson sitting in a pink chair with headphones reading a book on his iPad with Read2Go app.

“When Carson reads books with Read2Go, the Bookshare app for Apple devices, something magical happens. He comprehends what he reads!” said Mrs. Spencer. “I knew then that we had hit the jackpot in making headway in Carson’s learning journey. When I hear Carson talk with friends about the books he’s read, his voice swells with pride and so does my heart. In 20 years of teaching, I’ve never found an educational resource that has made such a profound difference for students who attend special education classes. It’s difficult for teachers to observe their students feeling failure and to hear their families’ desperate requests for the right support solutions.”

“The combination of the iPad with accessible books and Read2Go has made a tremendous impact. Carson now answers comprehension questions with ease and with details, and he describes his reading experience in positive ways.”

This year, Carson has read a record number of chapter books that he’ll tell you about with a big smile in his video! Now in eighth grade, his grades and reading skills have improved in all curricular areas,” says Mrs. Spencer, “and so has his self-esteem! That’s why we felt it was important to tell his story to President Obama in the White House Student Film Festival. It’s undeniable to me that with the right educational resources and technologies, more students can become successful readers. Carson has flourished in school and is passing with flying colors. He still struggles but is more confident and believes in himself. Downloading just one ebook could make all the difference for students with learning disabilities and change the course of their lives forever.”

For more cool stories, videos, events, and popular book titles, stay connected to Bookshare on all the social media channels.