Special education teacher shares four steps to reading independence
Welcome to the first blog in our Back to School with Bookshare series. Over the next two months, we will publish a series of blogs specifically designed to help teachers, students, and parents get a fresh start to the school year. The blogs will feature tips from the teaching trenches, advice on classroom collaboration, and insights on achieving reading independence through assistive technology.
Diane Lurye is a Special Education Resource Teacher at Bells Mill Elementary School in Montgomery County, Maryland. She serves an average of 23 students in K-5 with a range of educational disabilities, including specific learning disabilities and speech and language impairments. “My job is to provide instruction and support for students with disabilities so they progress academically and socially and access the general education curriculum,” says Diane. She is a big advocate of collaboration so she can leverage the school’s resources to meet her students’ needs. With that in mind, Diane shares four steps she takes to prepare for the school year and increase her students’ reading independence:
1-Take Advantage of District Resources
At the top of her list is HIAT — High Incidence Accessible Technology — a collaborative team in her district that applies the principles of universal design for learning to support school teams to meet the needs of all students. They provide training and consultation to build the capacity of classroom environments to incorporate technology options. It was through one of their professional development courses that Diane learned about Bookshare in 2008. “They are an incredible resource, and I feel so fortunate to have their support for my students,” says Diane.
One of the most successful ways that Diane has used Bookshare is to support fourth and fifth graders in Literature Circles in their general education classrooms. Students select a novel to read and then participate in a group discussion. “By using Bookshare’s text-to-speech (TTS) capability, my students are able to read a book above their reading level and keep up with the demand of reading several chapters within a given time period. They are prepared to discuss the book with their peers and share their understanding and insights. It raises their self-esteem and encourages them to seek out more books and become more proficient readers,” says Diane.
3-Prepare Reading Lists Before School Starts
Diane takes every opportunity to tell the school staff about Bookshare and explain how important it is for students with disabilities to have digital, accessible versions of their books. Diane requests lists of required reading and other curriculum materials from classroom teachers well before school starts. This gives her a chance to prepare Reading Lists in Bookshare that the students can access with their Bookshare Student Logins. “Many students have difficulty with foundational reading skills such as decoding, fluency, and comprehension, and Bookshare gives them access to rich literature and digital text that makes them more independent at school and at home,” says Diane.
Students in Montgomery County Public Schools have Chromebooks available to them for most of the school day which has improved their access to digital text. Diane teaches her new students how to log in to Bookshare, search for and download books, and read using Bookshare Web Reader.
Students have benefitted from using ebooks with TTS. In addition to getting books much faster, they can control the voices, adjust speeds, and follow along with the text. “The pronunciation is not perfect, but when students catch an occasional mispronunciation it shows that they are paying attention and learning,” says Diane.
Parents have shared that having Bookshare at home has helped their students with reading, and they are more willing to engage in reading and discuss the books. Another example of independence through collaboration.
On the Digital Bookshelf
Here are several novels that Diane’s students enjoyed reading during Literature Circles:
- The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts
- Rules by Cynthia Lord
- There’s an Owl in the Shower by Jean Craighead George
- Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Find out if your students qualify for free Bookshare memberships and start downloading books today.
Thank you to Diane Lurye for sharing her experience and advice with the Bookshare community.
By Ginny Grant, Senior Product Manager, Benetech Global Literacy Program
Have you noticed something different about Bookshare’s Special Collections? They are much easier to use and you can subscribe to them like a Reading List!
After hearing how much people enjoy building their own Reading Lists, and seeing how teachers are using and sharing Reading Lists in their schools, Bookshare went the next step to make Special Collections even easier to use.
Special Collections are customized Reading Lists that are curated by the Bookshare Collection Development team. The staff is actively looking for books that members will enjoy and organizing them into fun and interesting lists. Here is a preview of some of the many lists available:
- Books to Film
- Alternate History
- Stay Financially Fit
- Resources for Returning Veterans
- Mark Zuckerberg’s “A Year of Books”
- As well as popular lists like New York Times Bestsellers, Pulitzer Award Winners, and more!
Altogether, there are more than one hundred collections that you can access via the Browse link on any Bookshare page.
Select Lists and Subscribe
The newly designed Browse page has book cover images for visual users and links and section headings for members who use screen readers. Select a list and download or open any book with Bookshare Web Reader as you normally would. The new, exciting improvement is that you can now subscribe to a Special Collection, and it will appear on your own view of My Reading Lists for easy access. As the Bookshare team adds more books, they will automatically appear on your view of the list.
For those of you who are educators, you can assign lists to students who can read every book on the list using their Bookshare Student Login. You can also make a copy of a Special Collection and add or delete titles as you wish. Note that copied lists will no longer receive updates from the original Special Collection.
Another helpful feature is that you can discover other great titles by seeing if a particular book is listed on multiple Special Collections. For example, Henry’s Freedom Box is listed on these two Special Collections — AFB Braille Bug® Reading Club Favorites and Caldecott Award Winners — where you’ll find terrific lists of other books that might whet your reading whistle.
Special Collections for School Districts
We have also started to create Special Collections for schools, including Reading Lists provided to us by districts around the country. You’ll be able to subscribe to or copy those for your own use, and, if you have a really incredible list of Bookshare titles that you’d like to share with other members or educators, please drop us a line. We will try to honor all requests to share your lists through the Special Collections feature, and if the demand is high, we can train volunteers to assist as well.
With over 550,000 titles, you need effective tools to help you discover and find books. Let Special Collections be a guide. As always, we love feedback from our members and from parents and educators of student members, so don’t hesitate to share suggestions for improvements, handy-dandy tricks that you’ve found, or joys you’ve had when discovering the myriad of titles available on Bookshare.
What are you waiting for? Dive into your favorite Special Collections today!
Bookshare member navigates life transitions with a positive attitude, assistive technology, friends and family, and a dose of humor.
John Miller, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, is a graduate student, aspiring journalist, and author of a travel blog. You may not think this is unusual until you learn that John is blind. John has an insightful way of seeing the world and that perspective shines through his poignant – and often humorous – blog posts. One reader commented: “I feel the special warmth and generosity of your character that shines through your words.” When I interviewed John last month, I immediately sensed his upbeat, can-do attitude and willingness to embrace life’s challenges and surprises.
John has Norrie Disease which is a rare genetic disorder that causes blindness, progressive deafness, and, occasionally, cognitive impairments. John has had it since birth and is the President of the Norrie Disease Association. That says a lot about him right there. Growing up in Charlotte, his five sisters read to him a lot, so he learned to love books at an early age.
When he was fourteen, the family moved to rural Southern Pines, about two hours from Charlotte. He was the only blind student at Pinecrest High School, and the administrators had no idea how to accommodate him. The best they could do was provide a resource teacher one day a week. As you can imagine, John learned how to be resourceful by necessity.
“Back in the 1990s I used an NLS (National Library Service) player to listen to books on tape and had big, bulky Braille books that I stuffed in a backpack and needed big muscles to carry around,” recalls John. After high school he attended the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Charlotte, but even with some support from Disabled Students Services (DSS), he still relied on student readers and spent hours scanning books to keep up in class. “No matter what I did or how hard I tried, I was always behind,” says John.
Bookshare and Assistive Technology Provide Books and Independence
Thankfully, technology came to the rescue when he enrolled in UNC-Chapel Hill for graduate studies in 2009. He learned about Bookshare and signed up for a free membership as a student. He found many of his textbooks in Bookshare. He reads books from Bookshare, Audible, and Libro.FM on his iPhone and Macbook. “Technology has really accelerated the past five years,” says John. He uses a braille display device that connects to his iPhone. He downloads a book onto his iPhone (or Mac), transfers the digital file to his braille display using Bluetooth, and then reads the book on the refreshable braille display. He also uses the iPhone’s VoiceOver screen reader.
Having multiple sources of digital books allows him to find and read books at the same time as everyone else. “That still boggles my mind. I can hear about a book that just came out and find it right away. Blind people never had that kind of access before,” says John.
“I am a huge reader. I can’t stop myself from reading. It keeps me balanced. It gives me more word choices and helps with my writing.” John particularly enjoys science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, and memoirs. “I have everything at my fingertips – an unending access to books. I’m a huge book junkie.”
The Future is Bright
John is currently attending Queen’s University in Charlotte to finish up his master’s degree in communications. He hopes to embark on a career that involves blogging and social media, possibly for a nonprofit. In the meantime, he is just trying to learn as much as he can and create opportunities for himself.
What advice does John have for other students? “Remember to network! Don’t just lock yourself in your room and do your schoolwork. Go out and find interest areas, internships, volunteer opportunities, and meet people and get involved. Getting good grades isn’t enough; you need practical experiences too,” says John.
What’s next for John? He’s getting married in January on a cruise to the Bahamas. I can’t wait to read his blog about what will certainly be an extra special travel experience.
Read John’s blog: http://blindtravel.net – A Blind Man’s Journey: Because You Don’t Need Sight to See the World
On John’s digital bookshelf:
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Come meet the Bookshare team at four exciting conferences this summer
Members of the Bookshare team are packing their bags for Houston, Chicago, Sparks, and Orlando this summer to attend four conferences sponsored by: Texas Assistive Technology Network (TATN), American Library Association (ALA), American Council of the Blind (ACB), and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
We hope to see you at one or more of these events where you can learn about:
- Bookshare’s huge collection of over 550,000 titles in accessible formats for school, work, and recreational reading
- Reading tools like Capti Narrator and Voice Dream Reader
- Better ways to discover books like our Summer Reading Lists and upcoming improvements to browsing books
The Texas Assistive Technology Network Statewide Conference is sponsored by the Texas Assistive Technology Network (TATN) and the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Assistive Technology enables students with disabilities to access the curriculum, increase independence, and participate actively in education and life activities.
Come visit the Bookshare team in the Exhibit Hall (booth #8). In addition, Jeanie Bell, one of the Outreach Coordinators for the Accessible Books for Texas program, is speaking on June 14: “Cool Tools for Students Who Face Barriers to Reading Print.” She will share a variety of technologies that allow students with visual impairments, learning disabilities, and physical disabilities to read in ways that work for them.
The ALA Annual Conference is the premier global library event each year, bringing together the newsmakers, innovators, thought leaders, and influencers in the library field, from all over the world. Librarians can learn about the tools, ideas and resources available and identify the best programs for their area of librarianship.
We invite you to visit our booth in the Exhibit Hall (#3956) where our staff will share how Bookshare partners with libraries, authors, and publishers to make books and library services more accessible to people with disabilities, and also demonstrate how Bookshare works.
The American Council of the Blind strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and quality of life, for all blind and visually impaired people. The theme of the 56th ACB Conference and Convention at the Nugget Casino Resort is “ACB Sparks Success.”
Attendees are invited to meet the Bookshare staff during Bookshare Office Hours on July 5th from 5:45 to 7:00 pm in the Alpine room. Please stop by and learn more about Bookshare, sign up or renew memberships, and get your questions answered.
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day it raises the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and their dreams. Attendees at the NFB National Convention may be long-time convention goers, the newly blinded, parents and teachers of blind children, blindness professionals, and adaptive-technology providers.
Attendees can meet the Bookshare staff in the exhibit hall to sign up for or renew memberships, ask questions, and learn more about Bookshare. Special offer available in the booth only: the Bookshare set-up fee ($25) will be waived for new members.
We will also be giving a series of presentations to various NFB committees and attendees at divisional meetings. Consult the program for more information.
We hope to see you this summer at one – or more – of these conferences. We love connecting with Bookshare members and their families and friends.
Follow these guidelines to set your child up for summer reading success
As the end of school draws near, students dream of summer freedom – freedom to choose some fun activities as well as the books they want to read.
Is your child ready for summer reading? Make sure they have access to Bookshare, either with a Student Login provided by their teacher or with an Individual Membership. Then follow these guidelines to help your child become a reading STAR*:
- Encourage reading anywhere and everywhere
- Try places like the beach, the pool, grandma’s house, a tent in the backyard, a hammock, the park, a blanket fort, or in the car
- Reading doesn’t just spontaneously happen.
- Set aside specific times to read each day: before bedtime, while waiting for dinner, before going out to play, or whatever works best for your family
- Let kids be “free range” and choose their own books; we’ve got great recommendations below (if your child has a Student Login through school, make sure teachers have assigned books to your child for summer)
- Have plenty of books downloaded for reading in the car
- Download books that your child’s friends are reading so he or she can join the conversation
- Visit the public library regularly, let your child find appealing books, note the titles, and then download those books in Bookshare when you get home
- Try all types of reading: solo silent reading, take turns reading passages aloud with your child, or read the same book your child is reading and have a book club discussion
- Children who observe parents reading become better readers themselves, so set a good example by turning off the TV and reading a book
The Bookshare librarians have created special Summer Reading Lists for all ages and interests to kick start your child’s summer reading. Here are just a few of the engaging titles:
- The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd
- A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold
- A Dragon’s Guide to Making Perfect Wishes by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder
- Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
- Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions by Lenore Look
- Dory Fantasmagory: Dory Dory Black Sheep by Abby Hanlon
- The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade by Max Brallier
- Barkskins: A Novel by Annie Proulx
What are you waiting for? Help your child find a comfortable spot, set aside some quiet time, choose a book, and dive in. They will be on their way to reading STARdom in no time.
*Thanks to Ali Posner, Ph.D., Education, for these helpful summer reading tips.
Bookshare member successfully navigates college life and offers valuable advice for students with disabilities
“A disability is something you have, not who you are.”
As graduation nears for many high school students, thoughts turn to college and the importance of survival skills. Topping the list is the ability to advocate for yourself because the days of spoon-feeding and hand-holding are over. This advice is especially important for students with disabilities, and a student who embodies this sentiment completely is Veronica Lewis.
“Self-advocacy is learning how to speak up for yourself, as well as learning, building a support network, problem solving, and knowing when to reach out for help,” says Veronica. “It’s an extremely important skill to have, as there may not always be someone with you when a situation comes up. This skill has benefited me greatly outside of school, in college, and beyond.”
Veronica, a student at a university in the Virginia/Washington, D.C. area, is studying software engineering and assistive technology in order to develop tools for people like herself with low vision. Bookshare is a big reason why she wants to pursue this field. In 2011, she attended an assistive technology conference for students with disabilities where she learned about Bookshare. She quickly became a member and started downloading accessible ebooks from its extensive library, which now exceeds 550,000 titles.
Reading Before and After Bookshare
“Before Bookshare came along, I was limited to the large print section of the public library which was filled with romance novels and had no age-appropriate books for thirteen-year-old girls,” explains Veronica. “I tried to order other large print books but often the font wasn’t large enough, and the books were expensive and too big to lug around. Then came Bookshare and the Nook ereader which changed my life.”
Bookshare’s library of accessible ebooks solved the problems associated with selection, format, and cost. Membership is free to all U.S. students who qualify. “Thanks to features like enlarged fonts and adjustable color contrast I can have the same reading experience as my sighted friends,” she exclaimed. Veronica uses a variety of reading tools and electronic devices to read books: iPad, Nook and the Go Read app for Android, and Bookshare Web Reader. She enjoys disability literature, nonfiction, memoirs, and books for her English classes. “Most popular books are available instantly so I can read them and join the conversation. I love to get lost in a book,” says Veronica.
Advice for Students with Visual Impairments
Veronica recommends these tips to build a network of resources:
- Ask questions. Make sure you know exactly what services you can receive and how you receive them.
- The world doesn’t have a large print setting you can toggle on and off. If someone hands you a document with small print, develop a plan in advance for making it accessible so you can keep up with schoolwork.
- When considering colleges, evaluate the Disabled Student Services (DSS) and make sure the staff will work with you proactively to give you the tools you need. Read Veronica’s blog: Ten questions to ask when choosing a college.
- If you report a problem, offer a solution – help people give you the help you need.
Seeing the World with Four Eyes Open
Veronica started her Assistive Technology blog (www.veroniiiica.com) to reach out to people with low vision or blindness and let them know they can be successful. She strives to be a role model for younger students and show how they can do amazing things just like their sighted friends. She also offers valuable advice for teachers, parents, and friends of these students. Here are just a few of her engaging and informative blog posts:
On Veronica’s digital bookshelf:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Many thanks to Veronica for sharing her story and for being a strong advocate for Bookshare by urging the Virginia members of Congress to support renewed funding for Bookshare. Follow Veronica on Twitter: @Veron4ica
Teachers: follow this checklist before school ends so students are ready for a summer reading bonanza
Great readers are made, not born. For students with disabilities, the path to reading greatness may require tools and support. We know the final weeks of the school year are hectic, so here’s a handy checklist to help you get your students ready for delightful summer reading and the upcoming school year.
According to Reading Rockets, studies show that most students experience a loss of reading skills over the summer months, but children who continue to read will gain skills. Help students avoid the dreaded “summer slide” by completing these steps before the final school bell rings.
If your students are already set up to access Bookshare independently, jump ahead to learn about our special Summer Reading Lists.
End-of-Year Checklist for Teachers
- Get students access to Bookshare with a Student Login or Individual Membership
- Get books to students
- Check out the special Summer Reading Lists below
- Assign Reading Lists to students (PDF)
- Get students reading tools
- Check out the list of member preferred reading tools
- Read books with Bookshare Web Reader, Voice Dream Reader, Capti Narrator, and many more
- Get a head start on the 2017-2018 school year
Summer Reading Students Will Love
Now that your students are set to use Bookshare this summer, it’s time to find some books. Our librarians have handpicked wonderful titles and organized them into Summer Reading Lists for enthusiastic readers of all ages and interests. Here are just a few titles to pique your students’ interest:
- The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade by Max Brallier
- Dory Fantasmagory: Dory Dory Black Sheep by Abby Hanlon
- The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd
- Forest of Wonders by Jim Madsen and Linda Sue Park
- Summerlost by Ally Condie
- Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
- Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
We encourage you to take these steps now to enable students to read independently during the summer and be ready for a successful start in the fall. Time to dive into a good book!
We are grateful for the dedicated volunteers who help us bring more books to more members
By Vanessa Wai, Communities Manager, Benetech Global Literacy Program
Bookshare started as a community program that connected blind and visually impaired individuals in order to share their scanned books with each other. Members scanned and uploaded their books so that other members could enjoy them without duplicating the effort of scanning the books themselves. Since then, the Bookshare community has grown to over 470,000 members, 820 publisher partners, 150 volunteers, 790 Mentor Teachers, 160 Parent Ambassadors, plus thousands of schools, districts, sponsors, educators, parents, students, and friends.
Today, volunteers continue this tradition of adding books to the collection. In 2016, volunteers added 602 books into the collection, which is a total of 280,882 pages! All books go through a three-step process and are reviewed by at least three different volunteers to ensure high quality, accessible ebooks.
First, scanning volunteers scan and submit books. Second, proofreading volunteers proofread the scanned books to correct errors and format for accessibility. Third, approval queue volunteers review and approve books to go into the Bookshare collection.
Evan Reese, Bookshare member and volunteer in Ohio, says:
It’s truly marvelous that people all over the country can work together to make books accessible for those of us who can’t read regular print that otherwise wouldn’t be available anywhere. Only Bookshare lets us do this kind of thing. Nowhere else can people have the desire to read something that’s inaccessible, make their wish known, and get their wish granted in a few weeks. And that doesn’t take into account the likelihood of many other Bookshare members, finding out about the book once it’s in the collection, who will be able to read and enjoy it who otherwise never would.
Because of our volunteers’ efforts, members are able to access thousands of books that we would not otherwise have in our library. In 2016, members downloaded the books added by volunteers a total of 85,723 times! Below is the list of the top ten most downloaded volunteer-added books with their corresponding volunteers.
Title, Number of Downloads, Volunteer Scanner, Volunteer Proofreader
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 2523, Deborah M., Nicholas W.
- Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2), 645, Eric T., Scott B.
- The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3), 551 Eric T., Satauna H.
- Horton Hears a Who!, 130, Tonilyn T., Lena H.
- Frog and Toad Together, 119, Lissi D., Evan R.
- Fablehaven (Fablehaven Series, Book 1), 118, Christamae Z., Amber W.
- Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (Joey Pigza #1), 102, Anthony I., Satauna H.
- Tigers at Twilight (Magic Tree House #19), 99, Tami F., Pratik P.
- The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, 97, Ron P., Lea T.
- Wayside School is Falling Down, 95, Sarah K., Karen B.
I am truly amazed by the resilience and dedication of our Bookshare Volunteers. In 2007, we were five years old and Bookshare had over 26,000 books in the collection – all scanned by dedicated volunteers and staff. And now, ten years later, because of the amazing work of this community and our publisher partners, we now have over 545,000 books in our collection. It’s astonishing how much Bookshare has grown. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of our community. Thank you!
Are you interested in becoming a Bookshare Volunteer? Learn more about our volunteer opportunities and click on Sign Up to get started.
By guest author Guillian Hetzler, Bookshare Digital Content Manager
Spring is here and with it the annual announcement of the Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists. Established by newspaper publishing magnate Joseph Pulitzer, the prizes have honored excellence in journalism and the arts since 1917. The Bookshare team is very pleased to feature this impressive list of winners and finalists that are available now in the collection.
Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson
The first definitive history of the infamous 1971 Attica prison uprising, the state’s violent response, and the victims’ decades-long quest for justice.
“Writing with cinematic clarity from meticulously sourced material, [Thompson] brilliantly exposes the realities of the Attica prison uprising . . . Thompson’s superb and thorough study serves as a powerful tale of the search for justice in the face of the abuses of institutional power.” —Publishers Weekly
Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men From France and Spain Who Saved It by Larrie D. Ferreiro
New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America by Wendy Warren
The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar
An acclaimed memoir about fathers and sons, a legacy of loss, and, ultimately, healing.
“[The Return] roves back and forth in time with a freedom that conceals the intricate precision of its art. One of the greatest achievements of this outstanding book is a narrative design that keeps us hungry for new information even when we suspect exactly what has happened. . . . Mr. Matar is not a wonderful writer because his father disappeared or because his homeland is a mess: He is a brilliant narrative architect and prose stylist, his pared-down approach and measured pace a striking complement to the emotional tumult of his material.”—Wall Street Journal
In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
In Evicted, Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads.
“It regally combines policy reporting and ethnography…. After reading Evicted, you’ll realize you cannot have a serious conversation about poverty without talking about housing. You will also have the mad urge to press it into the hands of every elected official you meet. The book is that good, and it’s that unignorable. Nothing else this year came close.” —Jennifer Senior, New York Times Critics’ Top Books of 2016
In a Different Key: The Story of Autism by John Donvan and Karen Zucker
The Underground Railroad: A Novel by Colson Whitehead
A magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.
“[A] potent, almost hallucinatory novel… It possesses the chilling matter-of-fact power of the slave narratives collected by the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s, with echoes of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and brush strokes borrowed from Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka and Jonathan Swift…He has told a story essential to our understanding of the American past and the American present.”
–Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan
For even more great reads, visit:
- Bookshare’s Special Collections of Top 100 Picture Books, New York Times bestsellers, technology resources for beginners, and much more
- Previous Pulitzer Prize winners
Not yet a member? Learn more about who qualifies and how to sign up.
Coming next week: exciting spring books for students!
Bookshare helps Antonio Guimaraes navigate continents, schools, cities, and careers
Antonio Guimaraes remembers those laborious days in college when he spent hours at the scanner using an OCR reader to convert his printed textbooks to digital text and audio. “I queued up some music and fired up my Kurzweil 1000. Two hours later I still wasn’t finished scanning my textbook, so I would take breaks and mark the next starting point with a paper clip,” says Antonio.
Fortunately, for Antonio and others like him who are blind or visually impaired, the technology supporting reading software and assistive devices has advanced tremendously. Antonio first read about Bookshare in the Braille Monitor, the leading publication of the National Federation of the Blind. He became a Bookshare member as a student in the early 2000s to gain free access to its library of accessible ebooks that now exceeds 540,000 titles. “The technology has advanced so much,” says Antonio, “that now I can open my favorite reading app, search for a title, download it, and start reading while I wait for my latte at Starbucks. I can go to a lecture by an author and download his or her book in seconds, often before a sighted person can get a copy.”
From Brazil to Brooklyn
Antonio has taken full advantage of all the benefits that technology offers persons who are blind or visually impaired. Born in Brazil, he moved to Florida at age fourteen where he attended the Florida School for the Deaf & the Blind in St. Augustine. In addition to learning English, he also had to learn a new braille code including Nemeth, which is a code for mathematical and scientific notation using standard six-dot Braille cells for tactile reading.
In 2016, he graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, with a bachelor of arts in communication. In the past, he has lived in Fall River, Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island, but found those cities didn’t offer enough in terms of opportunity, transportation, and independence for a blind person who prefers to navigate himself rather than rely on paratransit services. He now lives in Brooklyn and enjoys the flexibility and availability of public transit services in New York City.
Bookshare is the Path to Knowledge and Self-Improvement
Antonio mostly reads how-to and nonfiction books using Voice Dream Reader on his iPhone. “Today I can benefit from anything books provide, from how to form a nonprofit to how to program in Swift for iOS,” he says. Books on those topics have come in handy for Antonio as president of Access to Places LLC, a company he founded in 2015 that is developing a public transit app to help blind commuters find their way in and out of metro stations. Antonio is the idea person behind the app, and the team includes a designer and an app developer. “The app will eventually include written descriptions of metro stations. The first version will allow the user to list the train stations on a specific line or trip. In this way, users can look ahead and keep track of their destination station and know when to get off the train,” explains Antonio. He anticipates that the app will be available in the app store later this spring.
“There is no shortage of books to read that help me become the person I want to be,” he says. Antonio is a braille reader, but he doesn’t use it a lot for reading Bookshare books. But, he says, “It’s certainly an option and a great way to check spelling on words I want to know.”
What advice does Antonio have for others who are blind? “I have a little secret. I went for months not knowing exactly how to read books in Voice Dream Reader. I finally asked someone to show me how to use the app, and it is one of the apps I use the most now. All I had to do was ask. So if you don’t know something, ask around and someone is bound to know it and patient enough to teach you.” That’s a secret worth sharing.
On Antonio’s Digital Bookshelf
I Never Knew That About New York by Christopher Winn
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – by Angela Duckworth
Starting and Building a Nonprofit by Peri Pakroo
Nonprofit Meetings, Minutes, and Records by Anthony Mancuso
Project Management: Absolute Beginners Guide by Greg Horine
Writers Market 2017 – by Robert Lee Brewer
Crock-Pot Recipe Collection by Lou Weber