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Counting the Reasons to Celebrate in July

2015 July 3
by Bookshare Communications

Bang the drum! Toot the horn! Throw the confetti! July is a momentous time to celebrate, and we hope you’ll join us in this month-long party.

ADA 25th anniversary graphicHappy 25th anniversary to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On July 26, 1990, the ADA was signed into law to ensure the civil rights of people with disabilities. This legislation established a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The ADA has expanded opportunities for Americans with disabilities by reducing barriers and changing perceptions, and increasing full participation in community life. Through its global literacy initiatives like Bookshare and DIAGRAM, Benetech demonstrates its commitment to supporting individuals with disabilities.

Happy 75th anniversary to the National Federation of the Blind, the largest organization of blind and National Federation of the Blind logolow-vision people in the United States. Founded in 1940, the Federation has grown to over fifty-thousand members, with affiliates and local chapters in every state. The NFB strives to raise the expectations of blind people so they can live the life they want.

The 2015 NFB National Convention takes place July 5-10 in Orlando, Florida. Will you be there to help break the Guinness World Record for the largest umbrella mosaic? The Bookshare team will be at tabletop #C16 in the exhibit hall. Stop by, say hello, and get your Bookshare questions answered.

American Council of the Blind logoPerhaps you will be attending the 2015 American Council of the Blind Conference and Convention from July 3-11 in Dallas, Texas. At the heart of the philosophy of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) is the belief that we must accept people who are blind where they are and value each and every person for their individual accomplishments. Benetech is participating in the Office Hours event on July 7 from 5:45-7:00 pm in Cityview 8. Please visit us – we love to meet members in person.

Bookshare is offering a special promotion for NFB and ACB conference attendees. Get 50% off a Bookshare membership for anyone renewing or joining Bookshare. Find us in the exhibit areas to get a promo code. You can either sign up on site with a staff member or send an e-mail to promo@bookshare.org to apply the code.

And since our plate isn’t full enough, the Bookshare team will be exhibiting at the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) Conference on July 13-18 in St. Paul, Minnesota. The theme is Association on Higher Education and Disability logo“Diverse Perspectives: Creating a Vision for the Future.” AHEAD is the premier professional association committed to full participation of persons with disabilities in postsecondary education. If you are attending this conference, please visit us in booth #23.

Bookshare salutes and supports these important organizations that ensure equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities. As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, to Bookshare it means more than just our national holiday; it symbolizes our mission to leverage technology to help individuals with disabilities gain personal independence. We measure success by the number of lives changed for the better. More than 320,000 people in nearly 50 countries have access to Bookshare’s collection of over 340,000 titles. More than 500 U.S. and international publishers contribute to our social mission by donating their digital files, making it possible for Bookshare to serve users around the world and ensuring that content is available to people with print disabilities at the same time as their peers. Let’s run all of these accomplishments up the flagpole and let the celebration begin.

Cooking Up Some Good Reads in the Summer Reading Challenge

2015 June 26

The Bookshare Summer Reading Challenge is off and running! You are welcome to join the fun any time. Just find a book (or three), read, and share your favorites with the Bookshare community. Here is some of the buzz on Twitter using the challenge hashtag, #TurnUp4Books:

From @MSPruske in Los Angeles: How to choose btwn 2 Jacks (Kerouac/London) for Wk 1 of @Bookshare Summer Reading Challenge (Travel & Outdoors)?? Pick both. #TurnUp4Books

From @silly_singer in Pelham, NH: With a little motivation from @Bookshare I have finally gotten around to reading “My Path Leads to Tibet”

From @NightingaleOG: Since returning home from college ive read #GirlWithTheDragonTattoo #WaterForElephants & #FeverTree and I hvnt regretted 1min #TurnUp4Books

From @candimom2 in western NY: I recommend How High Can We Climb?: The Story of Women Explorers by Jeannine Atkins first read for #TurnUp4Books

Graphic of girl with megaphone looking at pizza, sushi and a chef's hatLooking ahead to next week’s theme – Food & Cooking – the Bookshare team has compiled a list of titles to give you some food for thought – literally. For kids in grades 3-7 who want to go on a culinary adventure, check out the National Geographic Kids Cookbook by Barton Seaver. Barton provides mouthwatering recipes, National Geographic Kids Cookbook coverthe ins and outs of healthy eating, crafts and activities, and food-focused challenges, proving once and for all that cooking can be a blast.

Or, if “can’t cook” describes you better than “can cook,” you might find the Can't Cook book coverantidote to your kitchen phobia in the The Can’t Cook Book: 100+ Recipes for the Absolutely Terrified by Jessica Seinfeld. If you find cooking scary or stressful or just boring, Jessica has a calm, confidence-building approach to cooking, even for those who’ve never followed a recipe or used an oven.

And finally, if you are someone who prefers to read about food that other people cook rather than slaving over a hot stove yourself, you might enjoy Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, a collection of mouth-watering essays by notable writers such as MFK Fisher and Nora Ephron.

Whether you consider yourself a hardcore foodie, top chef, iron chef, gourmand, grill master, omnivore, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant book coveror something in between, the Bookshare library has over 4,500 books about food, cooking and wine. Browse for a book that will tickle your taste buds or find other topics that will whet your appetite for reading.

Don’t forget to Turn It Up & Tell the World!

  • Sign up for Summer Reading Challenge weekly e-mail announcements
  • Share your favorite books on Facebook, Twitter using the #TurnUp4Books hashtag, or use the form on the Bookshare website

Bon appétit!

Celebrating Fathers in Life and Literature

2015 June 19

Did you know that Father’s Day started in 1910 in Spokane, Washington, but didn’t become an official holiday until 1972? Whatever the reason, let’s give Dad his due, whether we are talking about biological dads, stepdads, granddads, foster dads, honorary dads, or any special dad in your life.

To-Kill-a-Mockingbird-Harper-Lee-HarperCollinsFabulous fathers can be found throughout literature including Atticus Finch in To
Kill a Mockingbird
; Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter series; Hans Hubermann in The Book Thief; Jean Valjean in Les Miserables; Charles Ingalls in the Little House series; Otto Frank in Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl; and Bob Cratchit in A book thief coverChristmas Carol. Browse the Bookshare library to find these favorites and many more.

And let’s not forget nature’s best dads in the animal kingdom who take their parenting role very seriously. Learn more about Emperor penguins, seahorses, frogs and toads, wolves, and marmosets in this intriguing book: Animal Dads by Sneed B. Collard III.

animal dads coverDad's Book of Awesome Projects cover

If DIY appeals to you, grab your favorite dad and tackle a project together. Dad’s Book of Awesome Projects by Mike Adamick has more than twenty-five unique and simple projects you can create with materials you probably already have at home. You can make superhero capes for Super Dad and Super Kid or even circus stilts or a rope swing. Your summer’s fun factor is officially heating up.

As Father’s Day approaches, the Bookshare team would like to recognize all the dads who advocate for the Bookshare members in their lives. Andrew Cooper, father of Ben Cooper who has dyslexia, shares how his family uses resources such as Bookshare and the National Center for Learning Disabilities to help Ben succeed.

Title screen for video about Ben Cooper, Bookshare member, and his parents

Still more ways to celebrate Father’s Day:

Turn It Up and Tell the World theme graphic with girl holding megaphone

Bookshare salutes fathers everywhere!

Bookshare Summer Reading Challenge Starts June 22 – Are You Ready?

2015 June 16

Summer is knocking on the door, and excitement is building for the Bookshare Summer Reading ChallengeTheme graphic showing boy with megaphone next to suitcase, compass and globe starting next Monday, June 22. Are you ready to turn it up and tell the world?

It’s fun and easy to participate – just search for books, read them, and share your favorites with the Bookshare community.  You’ll help members like you discover new books and get lots of praise and kudos from other readers.

If you don’t already have a list of books to brighten your summer, check out the staff picks. Each week of the challenge features a theme and suggested titles by age group to help you get started. The first theme is Travel & the Great Outdoors. Here are just a few books that might capture your imagination:

Book cover of Junie B First Grader Aloha-ha-ha!Book cover of Amy and Roger's Epic DetourBook cover of Wild Coast

Junie B., First Grader: Aloha-Ha-Ha! by Barbara Park (grades 1-4)

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (grades 9-12)

Wild Coast: Travels on South America’s Untamed Edge by John Gimlette (adults)

Double the enjoyment of a good book by telling the world about what you read. Here are some ways to join the conversation:

  • Ask questions on Twitter during our office hours on Thursday, June 18 from 11am – 12pm Pacific. Tweet your questions to @Bookshare or follow along using the hashtag #TurnUp4Books.
  • Join a Bookshare and GreatSchools Twitter chat when we discuss how to keep summer reading skills sharp on Wednesday, June 24 from 9am – 10am Pacific. Follow @UnderstoodChat and the hashtag #ldchat for more information.
  • Count down to the start of the challenge with us on Facebook and Twitter
  • Sign up for weekly e-mail updates to stay informed

So grab your favorite reading device, find a comfortable spot, and dive in to a juicy book. Where will the books take you this summer?

Bookshare is an Eye-Opener for New Canadian Members

2015 June 10

Canadians with print disabilities are reading like never before through a partnership between the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) and Bookshare, the world’s largest accessible online library. Canadians with visual, physical and learning disabilities can sign up for free Bookshare memberships and access over 345,000 titles!

So how do Canadian members like Bookshare? Let’s check in with three new members.

Vashti Persaud became a Bookshare member in March and is already amazed.Vashti is a Bookshare member who lives in Canada and suffers from uvetic glaucoma

“I’ve just started to download, but it’s been amazing! Ocular fatigue is a big issue for me. Ordinarily, I spend ten minutes in front of a computer or a book before my minimal vision deteriorates, and I can’t work or read anymore. Because I am monocular and suffer from uvetic glaucoma, glare is also a challenge.”

Bookshare’s ebooks allow Vashti to adjust the print size, font colors, and background contrasts making reading easier on her eyes. When her eyes get tired, she listens to books with VoiceOver, a gesture-based screen reader that also helps prevent headaches.

She is also finding many different uses for the books she reads.

“I read a lot of fiction and autobiographies. I use mobile and Mac devices, as well as an iPad. I’m even considering starting a book club with my friends called “Book and a Bottle” and will be pursuing continuing education courses. Bookshare has literally been an eye-opener!”

Bookshare is Liberating

Fran Cutler is an Ottawan with Stargard macular dystrophy, a rare eye condition. Fran used to wait for weeks to get the books she wanted in audio format. With Bookshare, she gets books faster and enjoys reading them at the same time as her friends.

Fran Cutler is a Bookshare member who lives in Canada and suffers from Stargard macular dystrophyFran said, “I heard an interview with author Alan Gold about Bell of the Desert. This fictionalized work on the life of Gertrude Bell, the British adventurer, diplomat, and scholar, takes place in the Middle East during and after World War I. I searched Bookshare and found it had been added on January 25, 2015. Fast work!”

Fran’s friends can’t believe how it all works. She demonstrates how easy it is to download books from Bookshare onto her iPhone and then read them using Read2Go, an ebook reader for iOS devices.  “It takes just five seconds and I get the books! Seriously, it’s great to be able to read what friends are reading and recommend books to them. Bookshare liberates me from the frustration of waiting months or years to catch up on what my friends were talking about.”

Text-to-Speech Can Still Make You Cry

Noelia Da Rosa is a blind Canadian who was not a big reader. She preferred that another person read to her. She found out about Bookshare through her local library and was impressed by the number of books in Bookshare. “I thought I might as well give it a try with the free membership through CELA,” she said.

Noelia now reads more than 30 books a month on her own.

“I wanted someone to read to me. Now, I’m amazed at the number of books I can read, as opposed to the books I previously couldn’t get. Whether you listen to audio or text-to-speech (TTS), you can still cry from a good book.”

Noelia encourages all Canadians with print disabilities to join Bookshare. “I’ve never been this crazy about reading. Now, I discuss books with friends and tweet about them. I encourage others to give TTS a chance!”

Learn how Canadians with print disabilities can join Bookshare for free today!

Congratulations to Bookshare’s Graduating Members

2015 June 5

Zach in his graduation cap and gown seated in his wheelchair.You’ve graduated. You are now ready to take the next step in life, and Bookshare can continue to be just as useful after school.

Just ask Amber. Keeping her Bookshare membership after she graduates from the University of Texas at San Antonio will allow her to continue accessing a collection that has over 345,000 titles and counting. It grows literally every day with new titles, including conspiracy stories and books Amber Steet at the University of Texas, San Antonio campuson the paranormal that Amber loves. Bookshare will also help her pursue her career as a teacher.

Whether you want to grab a book that will help you in your job or read stories that will make you laugh, cry, and feel good about the world, let Bookshare help in your next phase of life.

startup of you book coverFor a limited time through June 30, 2015, graduating Bookshare members who will not be continuing their studies can save 50% on their first year as a paying member. That’s just $25 for an entire year.

Find out more and save 50% today!

Send Students into Summer with Bookshare Web Reader

2015 June 1

By Bookshare Training and Support team

Summer is right around the corner! Before the final bell rings, empower your students to read Boy reading on a tablet sitting on the grassindependently with Bookshare Web Reader and encourage them to participate in the Summer Reading Challenge that starts on June 22.

As we recently announced, Bookshare Web Reader is now available to students with organizational memberships. Giving access to students is easy – just follow these four steps:

  1. Add Members to your roster.
  2. Set a username and password for your member(s).
  3. Create a reading list and share it with the member(s).
  4. Add a book to the reading list.

Now students can access their books anywhere they have an Internet connection and a compatible web browser. They simply log in with their username and password and select “Read Now” for any book in a Reading List or History.

Please note:

  • Students can only read books that have been shared with them via a Reading List or from their History in Bookshare Web Reader.
  • This feature enables students to read books using Bookshare Web Reader. It does not allow them to read independently on mobile or other assistive technology devices.

Teachers also have the option of giving students individual memberships, which allows them to find and access books on their own and read on the reading tool of their choice.

With your help your students can enjoy a summer filled with reading! And don’t forget to request next year’s books now so they are available for your students in the fall.

Other useful links for more information:

Summer Reading Challenge: Turn It Up & Tell the World!   

Turn It Up and Tell the World theme graphic with girl holding megaphone

 

How-To Guide: Adding Sponsors and Members (pdf)

Learn it Now video tutorial: How to Use Bookshare’s Reading Lists

Learn it Now video tutorial: Help Students Read with Bookshare Web Reader

How-To Guide: Bookshare Web Reader (pdf)

Parent Learns About Bookshare through Twitter Chatter

2015 May 27

We first met Jessica Prest, a parent from rural Massachusetts, on Twitter after she posted these tweets Jessica and Lily Prest about her daughter:

“Lily just finished her first chapter book in five days using Bookshare!”

 “A year ago she hated to read. Today she finished a 25 pg. chapter book!”

“My #1in5 #dyslexia #proudmom Thank u @Bookshare!”

So began our quest to learn more about Lily, a young girl who once hated books, but now loves to read them from cover to cover. Jessica, Lily’s mom, describes her daughter as very bright, dynamic, and quite communicative.

“At a young age, Lily talked a lot and used good vocabulary,” said Jessica. “She was initially excited to start school, but her excitement did not last. Within six months, she did not want to go to school anymore.”

Year after year, reading and school got harder for Lily and her family. “While other children were reading at a fourth grade level, Lily fell behind,” adds Jessica. “She didn’t want to read by herself and did not like being placed in a low reading group. Lily didn’t want to be different. When she picked out picture books, her classmates teased her. They would ask, ‘Why are you picking baby books, Lily?’ This Lily and her horse Rosiemade her upset.”

Jessica began to notice a pattern. She took Lily to a neuropsychologist who diagnosed her with dyslexia. Like many Bookshare parents, Jessica began her own research too. She looked for resources and reading support for her daughter and tapped into a wealth of information on Twitter.

“I liked to read educational discussions using the hashtag #edchat,” shared Jessica. “I kept reading about technologies and ebooks and how they supported readers with disabilities, so I asked Lily’s school about Bookshare. I wish I had these tools growing up!”

Lily began using Bookshare at home and eventually got on an IEP (Individual Education Plan) that allowed her to receive reading accommodations at school. Prior to her winter vacation, she brought home a book from the school library called Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu. Her mom also encouraged Lily to get an accessible version of the book and downloaded it from Bookshare onto her iPad mini.

Lilly reading iPad in bed with headphonesLily uses an app called Voice Dream that lets her listen to words read aloud and follow along with highlighted text. Jessica said, “She loved the story and could not stop reading it on the iPad. She even asked if she could go to bed early to read. Within five snowy days, Lily had finished her first book!”

“What a difference,” says Jessica. “Daily reading is no longer such a struggle. Ebooks enabled Lily to read and reread the story. It reinforced Lily’s ability to understand what she reads. Now, she loves to read, especially books about horses.”

How easy is Bookshare for students to use?

“Lily can download a book on her own from Bookshare,” says her mom. “She navigates the ebook and sets her own preferences, such as font size, font color and rate of speech. I feel relief. For two years, we struggled for her to read a simple sentence, and now she reads comprehensively. She has made the transition to fourth grade much easier. She is happier! My quest to share this valuable educational resource continues!”

Now passionate about wanting other families to know about Bookshare and technologies that read ebooks, Jessica shares her daughter’s first reading experience with accessible books. She encourages other parents to be patient with a child that is having trouble with reading.

“Don’t give up!” she says. “Read to your child, no matter how old they are and encourage them to read over the summer.”

Turn It Up & Tell the World theme imageAre you a parent looking for a fun summer reading activity for your child? Bookshare’s Turn It Up & Tell the World summer reading challenge is going to be a blast and will keep your child reading all summer long. Learn more!

A special thank you to Jessica and Bookshare parents everywhere. We appreciate your stories. Please keep them coming on all the social media channels. 

Wiley Partners with Benetech to Make Content More Accessible to All Readers

2015 May 21

Note: This blog is reposted from Benetech’s Blog.

By Robin Seaman, Director, Content Acquisition

Today, May 21, in recognition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), we are happy to share Global Accessibility Awareness Day logothat the global publishing company John Wiley & Sons has announced that, starting this month, it will begin including alternative text (alt text) in nearly all of its frontlist books. By incorporating alt text into its workflow, Wiley makes its content accessible to users of all abilities. The company developed its alt text guidelines in consultation with Benetech’s DIAGRAM Center and other industry standards organizations. Wiley is one of the first major publishers to include alt text this broadly. Our team is honored to have contributed to this important win on the path towards accessibility in mainstream publishing.

Alt text is a description that provides contextual meaning to images and illustrations. A building block of accessibility, alt text offers an alternative way to perceive images and illustrations for readers with disabilities, such as those who are blind or have visual impairments. Non-visual browsers and screen readers express alt text, thus enhancing comprehension and providing a richer reading experience for these readers. As an element of universal design, alt text improves not only the accessibility of digital images but also the versatility of digital content for all readers’ benefit: for instance, it can enable read-aloud for a user who prefers to listen to a book.

DIAGRAM Center logo

Benetech established the DIAGRAM Center—a research and development center and an initiative of our Global Literacy Program—in order to make it easier, cheaper, and faster to create and use accessible digital images. The DIAGRAM team and partners are exploring and developing cutting-edge image accessibility technology solutions for text alternatives as well as different learning modalities, such as tactile graphics, sonification, haptic interfaces and 3D printed images.

In its announcement, Wiley quotes Benetech President, Betsy Beaumon, who says: “Readers accessing content through digital audio simply hear the word ‘image’ when alt text is not provided, depriving them of information critical to understanding the relevance of the image. By ensuring that alt text is provided for all images, Wiley is showing great leadership in the growing movement in the publishing industry to ensure that content that is born digital is also ‘born accessible.’ This is a milestone achievement.”

Thank you, Wiley, for your partnership and leadership in making accessibility a critical and integral component in the creation of all content!

Special Education Teacher Champions Year-Round Reading Programs

2015 May 18

Melissa Hawkins, a middle school special education teacher in Baltimore, believes that reading year-round is a critical component of student’s academic success.Melissa Hawkins headshot

As the chairperson of the Reading Committee at her school, she is the driving force behind several innovative reading initiatives that use a multi-pronged approach to engage and motivate students all year long. For example, STRIVE for 25! rewards students when they read 7, 14, 21, and 25 books by the end of the school year with a variety of prizes including snack coupons, certificates of completion, and a chance to win a Kindle.

However, this is just one part of the equation. Ms. Hawkins also teaches Baltimore educators about Bookshare in conjunction with the Baltimore County S.T.A.T. (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow)—an initiative that ensures that every school has a digital learning environment to prepare globally-competitive students—and the Maryland Assistive Technology Network (MATN) at Johns Hopkins University Center for Technology in Education.

“In my presentations, I see general and special education teachers realize the value of accessible books because as students understand what they read, they read longer, they build fluency, and they receive reinforcement. Their confidence grows and they begin to tackle books on or above grade level.”

Public Library Program Helps Students “SAIL” through Summer

Ms. Hawkins’s advocacy efforts do not stop after the final school bell rings. She knows that summer reading is just as critical as reading during the school year to maintain learning levels. According to a study by the American Library Association, “Independent Reading and School Achievement,” students who use their public libraries and read independently achieve greater success in school. This summer, through a partnership with the county library system, teens receive a special library card that allows access to print books, ebooks, audio books, databases, digital resources and more. The program is called SAIL – Students Achieve in Libraries. Ms. Hawkins promotes the county library system’s summer reading program in collaboration with the Library Media Specialist. The program incentivizes students to read over the summer with prizes such as gift cards and a Kindle if students read three or more books.

Turn It Up & Tell the World banner“Teachers are always concerned about the drop in skills over the summer,” says Ms. Hawkins.  “With Bookshare and accessible books and programs like SAIL, we can help to prevent summer slide. Reading accessible books enables students with print disabilities to experience reading in multi-modal ways,” she says. “As students hear books aloud, learning comes alive and they play an active role in reading.”

Are you looking for a fun and engaging summer reading program for students? We have just what you’re looking for. Learn more about Bookshare’s super fun Turn It Up & Tell the World Summer Reading Challenge!