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Survey Says! Back-to-School Insights from Teachers of Students with Reading Barriers

2018 September 21
by Laura Deck, Bookshare Communications

All teachers understand the importance of giving students all the resources and tools they need to start school strong on day one. For students with disabilities, this readiness is even more critical since it is easy for them to fall behind. To assess the level of back-to-school preparedness for both teachers and students, Benetech, the parent company of Bookshare, recently surveyed 744 teachers across the United States who serve students with reading barriers including dyslexia, low vision, blindness, or a physical disability that interferes with reading. The survey asked if teachers felt prepared to start the school year, and if their students felt ready to start the school year.

Boy reading on a laptop and wearing headphones in a classroomTeachers Feel Prepared…Students: Not So Much

The respondents were special education teachers, the majority of them current or past Bookshare members. A little more than two-thirds of teachers said they were prepared for the new year. But only about 40 percent said that they agreed that their pupils with reading disabilities were prepared. About 39 percent said they neither agreed nor disagreed with that statement, and nearly 22 percent said they disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Three Factors Contribute to Student Readiness

The instructors surveyed said they were more likely to believe their students were prepared for the new year if they also agreed that their students had access to accessible texts and appropriate technology, and if the teachers felt supported by their administrators with the resources that the teachers need.

“The Benetech Back-to-School Survey takes the pulse of the dedicated teachers who serve students with reading barriers,” said Brad Turner, VP of Global Literacy, Benetech. “While numerous factors contribute to teachers feeling they and their students are prepared, the survey data shows that three factors pull significant weight with students and teachers: support from school administration, access to books in various formats, and access to technology resources. Other potential factors such as types of reading barriers, school location, and number of students did not demonstrate a large impact on feelings of student preparedness.”

View a detailed analysis of the data including an interactive data visualization. An extended alt-text description of the data visualization is also available.

Bookshare is an ebook library that makes reading easier. You can read in ways that work for you with ebooks in audio, audio + highlighted text, large text, and braille. With over 650,000 titles, you are sure to find the books you need for school, work, and the joy of reading. Bookshare is FREE for all qualified U.S. students and less than $1 per week for all other members.   

Beginning a New School Year with Bookshare

2018 September 19
by Mario Oliveros, Bookshare Marketing

These resources from a recent webinar help educators add students, assign books, and find reading tools so students can start school strong.

Beginning a New School Year with BookshareWhat do you do if you have students with reading barriers like dyslexia and printed text doesn’t work for them? On September 5, Bookshare held a webinar for educators that answered that question: Beginning the School Year with Bookshare. If you missed it, here are the valuable resources:

How do you see if a particular textbook is available?

You can search for books using the search box at the top of every page on the Bookshare website. For a more specific search, use Advanced Search.

How do students log in and access books?

Teachers can give students their own Bookshare logins by creating a username and password. Learn how to create student logins.

Where is the best place to start if you are inheriting Bookshare responsibilities and don’t know student usernames and passwords?

screen capture of web page with Reading ListsLog in to your account, select My Bookshare, and then select Membership. You will see the member roster and you can edit member information, including resetting passwords.

How does a student access an assigned reading list?

Students can log into Bookshare with their own username and password. They can select My Bookshare and then select My Reading Lists to view and read assigned books. Learn how students read assigned books.

When the AT department creates a district reading list for different grade levels, can sponsors assign students to that list?

If a Reading List is shared with an Organization (school or district), then all sponsors on the account can subscribe to the list and add student members. Learn how to use Reading Lists.

How do you remove books from a Reading List?

You can delete books from a Reading List by selecting the Reading List and then clicking on Remove in the Action column.

Can sponsors do all these things (as primary contacts), or do they have limited access?

Sponsors can perform all functions of a primary contact, except deleting multiple members at once.

Do English language learners (ELLs) qualify for Bookshare?

ELL status does not qualify a student for Bookshare; however, if an ELL student also has a qualifying print disability, he or she may join Bookshare. Learn more about qualifications.

How do you request a book? What is the turnaround time?

Go to the Help Center, select Request a Book, and then select Book Request Form. Book requests can take several months to be completed, depending upon the availability, length, and complexity of the book. We recommend submitting requests with this timing in mind. When you submit a request, a confirmation will be emailed to you. You can see the request status by going to My Bookshare and selecting My Requests. Learn more about book requests.

Does Bookshare work with a Kindle?

Compatible Bookshare apps are not available on Kindle; however, you can still read Bookshare books. Learn more about ebook readers.

Can you change the voice that is reading the book to you?

Voices are dependent upon the device and reading tool you are using. Most tools have an option to in the audio settings to select from available voices.

How do you go back to where you left off in a book?

Bookshare Web Reader screen showing text from All American Boys

Bookshare Web Reader highlights text as digital voice reads aloud

As long as you are reading with the same application on the same device, applications like Bookshare Web Reader will pick up where you left off. Note that if you do not allow cookies, the application will not retain your last reading position.

Do you need to use certain web browsers to access Bookshare Web Reader?

For full functionality including highlighting and self-voicing, use the following browsers for Web Reader:

  • Google Chrome version 33+
  • Safari version 6.1+
  • Chromebooks version 14+
  • Coming soon: Microsoft Edge

How do you bookmark in Bookshare Web Reader?

You cannot bookmark in Bookshare Web Reader; however, when using the same device it will remember where you last exited the program. Compatible apps like Read&Write and Snap&Read can enhance your reading experience on Bookshare Web Reader. Visit the Reading Tool Wizard to learn more.

What is the best download file to get pictures along with the story on an iPad? Do any of the readers besides iBooks allow for pictures?

Screen capture showing listing for Because of Winn-Dixie with file format optionsIf you use iBooks, download the EPUB format. Voice Dream Reader also allows images (make sure to adjust settings to be in rich text mode). Note that not all books have images.

How do you add a student who already has an Individual Membership?

To link a student’s existing Individual Membership to your organizational account, visit our Help Center.

If students are changed from an Organizational Member to an Individual Member, is the organization responsible for books that students add on their own?

No. With an Individual Membership, students can search the entire Bookshare collection and read any books they choose. If the accounts are linked, educators can still assign books to students via Reading Lists. Learn how to set up an Individual Membership.

Be sure to visit the Help Center for more answers, training resources, how-to guides, and instructional videos.

Catching up with Jessica Pinto: Bookshare Superstar and Disability Rights Advocate

2018 September 12

That was then…

When we first met Jessica Pinto in 2008, she was in eighth grade at Kennedy Middle School inJessica Pinto in eighth grade Albuquerque, New Mexico. In this video, Jessica explains how cerebral palsy made it extremely difficult for her to hold standard printed books and how Bookshare was a game changer for her because it let her read digital books independently.

This is now…

Fast forward ten years when I recently had the pleasure of learning about Jessica’s journey since 2008.

How long have you been a Bookshare member?

When I was in eighth grade, Megan Shanley, AT specialist for Albuquerque public schools, introduced Bookshare to me. She knew I hated reading and thought that Bookshare would make it easier for me. She said, “You are going to love this!” And I did.

What was your reading experience like before you started usingJessica Pinto is sitting in a wheelchair and using a MacBook Bookshare?

I always enjoyed stories, but holding a book physically was nearly impossible for me due to my cerebral palsy. I also needed books with large print. My mom would have to read to me because it was so exhausting and difficult for me to hold a book. Now I love reading because I can read what I want by myself.

Which reading tools and devices do you use?

Bookshare has improved so much over the years. Now there are so many formats available. When I read on my MacBook, I download the EPUB format because it is compatible with iBooks, and I also use the Read2Go app on my iPad and iPhone.

What do you think of the digital text-to-speech voices?

I like them a lot because they have improved so much over the years and I am accustomed to them. I particularly like an Acapela voice called Heather. 

Which features are especially helpful?

I enlarge the font and use the word-highlighting feature to help me see the words better.

How did Bookshare help you in high school?

I mostly used it in English class when we read novels and classic literature. The books were always available in Bookshare. I think it’s so awesome that the books come in many formats, including braille, and are available in foreign languages.

What have you been doing since high school graduation?A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

Many things! After high school, I took one college course and it was challenging for me, so I had to reevaluate what I wanted to do. One thing I am very passionate about is advocating for people with special needs. I participate on some human rights committees. People crave my input on this topic because I represent the community.

Once a week I teach computer skills to persons with special needs. I created a curriculum and love helping people who are afraid of computers. I tell them that whichever button they press, the computer won’t explode! In addition, I recently completed a contract position doing data entry and hope to do more computer work.

Employers look at people with special needs and only see their limitations and disabilities, not their capabilities. It’s so frustrating because I have been offered a few jobs and I say, “But I can do so much more!” It is important to me to make a difference and advocate for people with special needs.

How do you use Bookshare in your day-to-day life?A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

I mostly read for pleasure now that I’m not in school any more. Books offer escapism, enjoyment, and fulfillment. I have read seven books so far this year and that never would have happened without Bookshare. I have three favorite authors at the moment: Bella Forrest, Christina Lauren, and Colleen Hoover. I just finished A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell because I want to compare the book with the movie.

What advice do you have for students with disabilities?

Give Bookshare a try and don’t give up on reading and learning! I know how frustrating it can be to read, but Bookshare has so many tools that make it easier. George R.R. Martin said it best in A Dance with Dragons: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

The Bookshare team thanks Jessica for sharing her story. @jessrocks300

Bookshare is FREE for qualified U.S. students with reading barriers.

Veteran Educator Gives Students the Tools to Succeed at Reading and Life

2018 August 21
by Laura Deck, Bookshare Communications

Kristine Dooley knows a thing or two about the benefits of accessible ebooks. An occupational therapist since 1980 and assistive technology (AT) consultant since 2009, she has advice galore for other educators who serve students with reading barriers. And she’s even more excited about the successes – small and large – that her students experience. She is a strong believer in giving students the right tools and support so they can get immediate results. I recently sat down with Kristine and asked her to share her advice. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Describe the students that you serve.

I work in the Osseo Area School District in a northwest suburb of Minneapolis. The district has 20,000 students at 17 elementary schools, four middle schools, Kristine Dooley headshotthree high schools, plus specialty programs. I provide AT instruction and support to individual students from early childhood to age 21 with physical, cognitive, and learning disabilities. Of the students using Bookshare, most have IEPs, along with a growing number who have 504 plans.

How long have you been using Bookshare with students?

In 2009, our district won a Reinvest in America grant for $250,000 to implement AT. Part of the plan included updating the Bookshare organizational account. Since 2009, I appreciate the way Bookshare streamlined the student sign-up process so it’s much easier to set up accounts and assign books.

Which reading tools and devices do the students use?

In 2015, the district distributed implemented one-to-one iPads to students in fourth through twelfth grades. The Voice Dream Reader app was selected for upper grades because of its versatility, and the free version of Dolphin Easy Reader is perfect for younger students. Now the district is purchasing Chromebooks for high school students and needs to decide which Chrome extensions they will use for accessing Bookshare besides Bookshare Web Reader.

What do students think about the digital text-to-speech (TTS) voices?

My students found some decent, free voices on the iPad that they are comfortable with. Many high school students prefer to listen to books on their phones in class because they don’t look different, but they will use word highlighting and TTS at home. This is not an issue for younger students who really benefit from following the highlighted words on the screen, learning the patterns of the letters, and using pictures as cues to increase comprehension.

Can you share some student success stories?The Maze of Bones-The 39 Clues Book 1 by Rick Riordan

An eleventh grade boy with college aspirations who was diagnosed with dyslexia spent so much time laboring over his homework every night that he had no time to see friends. Bookshare helped him progress through his reading material faster and with better comprehension so he had more time to socialize. That was a huge win for him.

A fourth grade boy reading below grade level was not able to participate in his class’s book club because he couldn’t read the book they chose. He downloaded the book from Bookshare, and with the help of highlighted text and audio narration, he read the whole book and participated in the discussion.

What advice can you offer to other teachers who wish to use Bookshare with their students?

  • Before school starts, set up reading lists for each grade level so students have books available on day one.
  • For students just getting started with Bookshare, pick popular, high interest books they are eager to read so they experience success early before introducing textbooks.
  • For students who don’t have internet access at home, help them download a book to a smartphone or tablet at school so they can read it at home using one of the many free reading apps.

What advice can you offer to parents?

Keep kids reading throughout the school year! Ask teachers to download books to your child’s Bookshare student account for reading at home or on the go.

More back-to-school blogs:

Kristine Dooley is an Occupational Therapist and Assistive Technology Consultant in Minnesota. She is also a part-time Bookshare trainer.

Bookshare is FREE for qualified U.S. students with reading barriers.

Dyslexia Doesn’t Slow Ryan Down

2018 August 14
by Laura Deck, Bookshare Communications

Ryan is starting eighth grade at Swift Creek Middle School in Tallahassee, Florida. In first grade, he was diagnosed with dyslexia. Two years ago he became a Bookshare member and has read close to fifty books since then. In a recent interview, Ryan and his mother, Tippi, share their advice for students with reading barriers and the parents who support them.

Reading at Grade Level with Text-to-Speech Audiobooks

Ryan listens to a book on his iPod and portable speakers

Ryan listens to a book on his iPod and portable speakers

What was reading like before you started using Bookshare and audio narration?

RYAN: I couldn’t enjoy the level of books I wanted to read. While my reading level was only at 2nd–3rd grade, I wanted to read Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and more advanced books that all my friends were reading. Listening to audiobooks was the only way for me to enjoy those books.

Which reading tools and assistive technology devices do you use?

RYAN: I wear prescription glasses with a special yellow tint. I also use an iPad to have it read to me and help with handwriting issues.

Which features are especially helpful to make reading easier?

RYAN: I am an auditory learner, so listening to text-to-speech narration is always the most effective way for me to learn.

What kinds of books do you like to read? Any favorites?

RYAN: I enjoy science fiction, fantasy, adventure, and Greek mythology. In addition to Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, some of my favorite series are the Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson and The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini.

What advice do you have for other students who have difficulty reading?Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

RYAN: Find a genre that you enjoy. Keep looking and try all types of books until you find what you like. Try audiobooks so you can read books above your reading level. Above all, “Never give up, never surrender!” (quote from the movie Galaxy Quest).

Mother Shares Tips on Advocating for Child with Dyslexia 

What advice do you have for parents of students with dyslexia?

TIPPI: Keep saying dyslexia; don’t let teachers or specialists try to discount dyslexia as just “a reading or learning disorder.” Dyslexia has specific characteristics, learning styles, organization styles, and social issues. Continue to support and encourage your child. Don’t refer to your child in terms of his learning issue. His identity is not dyslexic. Instead, say, “he has dyslexia.”

Can you share any examples of “I wish I knew then what I know now”?

TIPPI: I wish someone had told us about Bookshare earlier and that using audiobooks is not a cop out.  By listening to books Ryan enjoys, it has given him the confidence to try reading those books. He recognizes words in print because he has heard them being used through audiobooks. While reading print is important, don’t let educators discount the importance of listening.

You know your child and what he or she needs. We tried extra reading programs, summer programs, and tutoring. While children with dyslexia do need extra help, don’t forget that they are working twice as hard as everyone else. They need down time, a chance to be a kid, and plenty of fun. It is important to find the balance between pushing and relaxing.

“Keep saying dyslexia; don’t let teachers or specialists try to discount dyslexia as just a reading or learning disorder.”


What are some ways you work with teachers and administrators to advocate on Ryan’s behalf?  

TIPPI: Once Ryan transitioned to middle school, we found it much easier to work with the teachers and administrators. Elementary school was difficult due to the emphasis on grade promotion and standardized testing, so we homeschooled him for third through fifth grade. Since Ryan had an existing IEP he was able to continue to receive reading help. We were concerned about going back to public school, but within the first nine weeks of sixth grade, we realized that Ryan was going to be able to handle it. The middle school staff is wonderful, and teachers continually suggest ways to make school easier for Ryan.

At the beginning of seventh grade Ryan got an iPad so he could type assignments. During IEP meetings Ryan and I discuss what may help, and his teachers and Exceptional Student Education (ESE) supervisor identify different things to try. Some suggestions work and some don’t, but the staff never gives up.

For example, Ryan is an auditory learner, so taking notes is difficult. While trying to write or type what is being said, Ryan will miss the entire lecture. We tried fill-in-the-blank notes, and while this helped, Ryan was still missing parts due to spelling and grammar issues. Now we get the worksheets ahead of time or have the PowerPoint notes printed for him. This way he can follow along in the notes but continue to listen which is how he learns best.

The Bookshare team thanks Ryan and Tippi for sharing their story.

Bookshare is FREE for qualified U.S. students with reading barriers.

Day One Ready: Bookshare Back-to-School Basics for Teachers

2018 August 6
by Laura Deck, Bookshare Communications

The beginning of a new school year can be stressful as well as exciting for teachers and students alike. For students who experience reading barriers, they especially need to hit the ground running on day one.

Myth: Students with disabilities can’t master the same content as their peers.

Reality: More than 80% of students with disabilities can meet the same academic standards as other students, when they have the right support.1

Goal: Give students with reading barriers the right support with ebooks in formats they can access along with helpful reading tools.

Checklist for TeachersClipboard with a checklist for teachers that says: add new students; get students books; select reading tool

Make sure your students with dyslexia, specific learning disabilities, visual impairments, physical disabilities, and other reading barriers are ready on the first day of school. Get all their schoolbooks from Bookshare in easy-to-read formats like audio, audio with highlighted text, braille, large print, and other customizable formats. Bookshare ebooks let students read in ways that work for them on almost any device they use. And don’t forget that Bookshare is FREE for qualified U.S. students with reading barriers. Get ready for back to school with this handy checklist:

Step 1: Add New Students

Do you have new students with reading barriers? Have students moved on to new grades or schools? The beginning of the year is the best time to update your Bookshare member roster:

  • Add new students
  • Increment grade levels
  • Update information for existing students
  • Remove students from roster

Follow this step-by-step guide to add or manage student members.

Step 2: Get Students Books

Reading Lists let you save and assign books to students so they can read independently. Simply create a list by class, student, topic, or interest and assign it to a student so they can begin reading on their own:

  • Create a new Reading List (or copy an existing list and customize)
  • Add books to your list
  • Assign lists to students
  • NEW – You can now add a new member directly from the Reading List page and save time

Follow this step-by-step guide to assign books on reading lists.

Step 3: Select Reading Toolscreen for reading tool wizard that asks: What kind of device do you want to use? Three choices: (1) computer or laptop; (2) tablet or smartphone; (3) assistive technology device

Now that your students are on a roster and have been assigned Reading Lists, the last step is to select a reading tool. Do your students want to read on a Chromebook, tablet, or braille device? Do they want audio, synchronized highlighting, or large font? This handy Reading Tool Wizard will help you find the right reading tool with the features your students need.

Training Resources Library Provides Even More Help

Take advantage of even more resources like videos and how-to guides to help you sign up students, get started with Bookshare, search for books, and read books.

New to Bookshare?

Book cover for Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (#13 in the list of most popular downloads)

Bookshare is FREE for U.S. schools and qualified students with reading barriers. Learn how Bookshare can help your students and sign up for free today!

All students benefit from content that challenges them. It is important to meet students where they are and help them read in ways that work for them. For students with reading barriers, accessible ebooks and assistive technology is a powerful combination that lets them read books at their comprehension level, not just their decoding level. And that’s a powerful way for students to get a head start on the new school year.

1. Thurlow, Martha L., R. F. Quenemoen, and S. S. Lazarus. “Meeting the needs of special education students: Recommendations for the Race to the Top consortia and states.” National Center on Education Outcomes, Minneapolis, MN 5 (2011). 

Up Close and Personal at the American Council of the Blind Conference

2018 July 20
by Rob Turner, Bookshare Quality Assurance Engineer

St. Louis, Missouri, was the location of the 57th Annual American Council of the Blind (ACB) Conference and Convention in early July. Benetech, the parent American Council of the Blind logononprofit of Bookshare, the world’s largest library of ebooks for people with reading barriers, is a strong supporter of the ACB and sent me and Jake Brownell, another engineer, to the event. The conference provided moments of inspiration, exciting new assistive technology devices, and a chance to network with other participants.

One of the keynote speakers, professional low vision actor Marilee Talkington, who played a blind character on the television show NCIS, offered these words of encouragement that resonated strongly with the audience:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. Create your own reality, own your magnificence, uniqueness, brilliance and fabulousness.*

Google, Microsoft, and Amazon Make Accessibility a Priority

Daisy Audio and MP3 formats offer Bookshare members more choices to read on the go.

Rob listens to a Bookshare book using DAISY audio on an MP3 player

Austin Hertell, a member of the Google Accessibility Engineering team, talked about Lookout, a new Android app that provides assistance to the blind in object and text recognition. I told Austin that several years ago I participated in a study hosted by Google where a group of international students built one of the first iOS apps to feature object recognition based on machine learning. We’ve come so far since then.

An example of this progress is the Microsoft Seeing AI app that was highlighted at one of the general sessions. It offers text and object recognition, identification of currency, color, and products, light detection and more. In another presentation, Google stated that accessibility improvements to their search results page are coming soon.

Further proof of how far and fast the technology has advanced was provided by Peter Korn, Director of Amazon Accessibility, who mentioned that over 1,500 shows with audio descriptions were added this past year. Fire tablets now feature braille output. Third party sellers must provide alt-text for images. Kindle PC offers table navigation and Math ML support using NVDA. Amazon lockers now speak.

National Library Service Updates its Offerings

Even the NLS is getting in on the act. Karen Keninger, director of the NLS, said they plan to start a pilot project to begin distributing braille eReaders next spring and expect to offer access to their books through Amazon Alexa. BARD Express is a PC-based desktop app that makes it easy for patrons to find and download books.

New Products for Blind and Visually Impaired

A stroll through the exhibit hall gave me the opportunity to explore the various devices and apps designed to assist users and increase independence. Some of the exciting new developments are:

  • QBraille-XL – new braille display from HIMS that features a combination of a Perkins style keyboard, plus all the function and modifier keys associated with a QWERTY keyboard.
  • Brailliant BI14 – improved braille display from Humanware
  • Cyber Eyez – new product that uses machine learning and “smart glasses” to provide optical character recognition, object recognition, color identification, Mood Ring mode, Amazon Alexa, Skype and real time magnification.
  • AIRA – a product that connects users with individuals who are trained to provide help.
  • Blind Insites LLC – offers a system called WayAround to label clothing, food, and other items. Buttons of varying size are tagged with text labels through an iOS app that reads them back using Voiceover.
  • Votec promotes accessible voting using touch screen technology modeled on iOs and Android devices to complete and submit a ballot.

Bookshare Office Hours Answers Members’ Questions

Jake and I co-hosted an informal session with Bookshare members to answer questions and share features under development. The attendees provided valuable feedback on some of the reading tools, variety of books in the collection, and features they would like to see.

All in all, it was a real pleasure to attend the conference. I was reminded of the importance of advocacy, learned about new products, heard interesting presentations, and enjoyed meeting old and new friends.

*Paraphrased from a quote by Marianne Williamson

Exploring Inclusive Math with Benetech’s Clayton Lewis

2018 July 10
by Laura Deck, Bookshare Communications

Bookshare is just one of several inclusive education initiatives at Bookshare’s parent organization, a hand holding a pencil works on some math problemsBenetech, a nonprofit that empowers communities with software for social good. We believe that access to information is a universal human right, yet more than ninety percent of books and published materials cannot be read by people with reading barriers such as dyslexia. Our work in education is focused on one big thing: making information accessible to everyone around the world through software.

One of the biggest challenges is making STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) content accessible so that students with learning barriers can see and read equations, tables, and images. Benetech has been fortunate to have Clayton Lewis, Professor of Computer Science and Fellow at the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, as advisor to Benetech’s DIAGRAM Center to research ways of creating inclusive digital math.

It’s estimated that between 25-35% of students in general education classrooms struggle with mathClayton Lewis application skills. Think, for a moment, how difficult it is to work through math problems if you can’t see well, have trouble holding a pencil, or struggle to keep your work organized and legible. In a Benetech blog post, Clayton defines inclusive digital math, explains why it is important, and shares how it can benefit all students, not just those with disabilities. He also discusses some technical challenges as well as recent advances in the field.

Read the full blog post to learn more about inclusive digital math and other Benetech education initiatives.

Bookshare Salutes Graduates and Encourages Lifelong Learning

2018 June 7
by Laura Deck, Bookshare Communications

Congratulations to all graduates! Whether you are graduating from kindergarten, college, or somewhere in between, we commend your accomplishments and hope you take Bookshare with you on the next phase of your journey because the learning never stops.

Sylvia Stinson-Perez, CEO/Executive Director, Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind

Sylvia Stinson-Perez, CEO/Executive Director, Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind

Bookshare is free for all U.S. students with qualified reading barriers. But, did you know that includes individuals enrolled in vocational training, continuing education, computer classes, or professional development courses? Learn more about the types of programs that qualify. Adults can use Bookshare to achieve career goals, change jobs, or build new skills.

Bookshare Member Earns MBA to Advance Career

Sylvia Stinson-Perez used Bookshare to help her earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. Sylvia is the CEO/Executive Director of the Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind in Port Richey, Florida, a nonprofit that provides vision rehabilitation services to help blind and visually impaired individuals achieve maximum independence.

Sylvia was born with a visual impairment that caused extreme nearsightedness that couldn’t be corrected with glasses or medical procedures. In spite of many challenges in school, she earned a B.A. in Psychology and two master’s degrees (one in Social Work and one in Visual Disabilities Education). In her twenties, she lost all of her functional reading vision as a result of retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that involves a gradual deterioration of the retina that can lead to total blindness.Fundamentals of Financial Management by Eugene Brigham and Joel Houston

An avid reader, she originally started using Bookshare eight years ago to access bestsellers more quickly. In 2013, she was accepted into an MBA program and knew Bookshare would be a tremendous resource as she progressed through the rigorous academic coursework. Without any functional vision, she relied on Bookshare’s ebooks in audio formats to help her research and write the many papers required in her MBA program. Her diligence paid off and she earned her MBA in 2015.

“I am still an avid fiction and nonfiction reader, and Bookshare is my library of choice. Once a month, I go strolling through the lists on Bookshare’s digital bookshelves and it reminds me of being a young person in the library. I download mostly text versions and don’t mind the digital voices at all—probably since I am used to using it all day at work,” she explains.

In addition to fiction, she enjoys reading about leadership, inspirational stories, business, public speaking, cooking and much more. Reading has always been her favorite hobby. “I started as a print reader when my vision was better, and today, thanks to Bookshare, I can still enjoy all kinds of books through audiobooks,” she says.

Bookshare Can Help Unlock PotentialThe Authentic Career by Maggie Craddock

Sylvia strives to dispel the stereotypes and misconceptions about individuals with disabilities. “Everyone has the potential to be competent, intelligent, successful, beautiful, and productive. Disability is only a small part of who I am, and how I respond determines if my experience will be positive or negative. I choose every day to be my best,” she says.

Let Bookshare be your passport to lifelong learning and new opportunities. Get started by checking out Bookshare’s special collection of career resources.

Buckle Up for Summer Reading

2018 May 17

Bookshare offers special summer reading lists for hours of enjoyment

The lazy days of summer are just around the corner, but before students trade backpacks and lunch boxes for swim suits and flip flops, make sure they have plenty of books to keep them reading throughout the summer.

Summer Road Trip Reading Lists are Here

The Bookshare team has hand-picked books for three special collections so members can take a virtualThe Danger Box by Blue Balliett voyage across the United States with Road Trip Reading Lists. Each collection has 102 titles containing two books for each state, plus Washington D.C., so you can read your way across the U.S. of A.

You can use the category filter to browse the collections by state. You can also subscribe to an entire list and access all of the books from your own Reading List.

And for young readers ages 5-10, Summer Fun for Young Readers features 20 books with gems like Steam Train, Dream Train and The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes.

Summer Reading Checklist for TeachersSkink-No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen

Follow these steps to make sure your students can continue to use Bookshare on their own and build reading skills over the summer.

  1. Give students access at home (2 options)
  1. Set them up with a reading tool that works for them
  2. Assign books – choose books from the Summer Reading Lists or dozens of other lists

Tips to Encourage Summer Reading

Students who have reading barriers often need extra encouragement to read. Here are someSteam Train Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld suggestions on ways to incorporate reading into everyday schedules:

  • Listen to audiobooks in a hammock, blanket fort, or on a road trip
  • Choose books from the summer reading lists about your state or a state you plan to visit this summer
  • Encourage kids to read what their friends are reading with help from TTS and word highlighting
  • Download all the books in a series by a favorite author to solve the problem of what to read next
  • Try “popcorn” or apprentice reading with a friend or family member – take turns reading passages aloud
  • Try side-by-side silent reading (adults: turn off the TV and model independent reading) – you might be surprised at the quality and depth of YA fiction
  • Host an informal book club (with snacks!)
  • Encourage “free-range” reading – kids have the freedom to choose what, where and when to read
  • Read purely for enjoyment – no quizzes, book reports, or vocabulary tests
  • Share favorite books on social media like @teenreads or #shelfies

Share Your Favorite Books

Tell us about your favorite books on Twitter or Facebook. Which states did you visit on your virtual road trip? Which books do you recommend and why?