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Indiana Assistive Technology Expert Finds “Gem” in Bookshare

2016 July 6

Special thanks to Laura Medcalf  for her contribution to the Bookshare blog. We appreciate the mission of the Indiana Assistive Technology Act (INDATA) Project and Laura’s “on the record” testimonial. 

Laura in a sound-proof studio front of a microphone ready to record a podcast.“When you read my blog or listen to my podcasts for the Indiana Assistive Technology Act Project (INDATA), you will notice a common theme. I focus on one form of disability or assistive technology that benefits individuals with a single disability (e.g., visual impairment, hearing loss, autism, etc.).

Assistive technology is my passion and my goal is to educate Indiana patrons (“Go Hoosiers!”) and readers across the world who are interested in quality assistive technology resources.

“The term ‘assistive technology device’ means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” –Assistive Technology Act of 1998Sometimes, through my research, I discover a resource that is a true gem because it can substantially and positively impact thousands of individuals with a myriad of disabilities, and Bookshare is one such gem.

The online accessible library combined with reading tools and apps are what I refer to as “evergreen” in the assistive technology world. The resource stands the test of time with a history of innovation and services that are more relevant and beneficial today, especially in educating K-12 youth and post-secondary students who qualify.

Six Reasons I Recommend Bookshare:

  1. Bookshare’s mission and functionality fit the description of what AT is meant to accomplish: improving the functional capabilities of people with disabilities.
  2. Bookshare benefits persons of all ages with print disabilities, including those who are blind or visually impaired, or those who have a physical or learning disability.
  3. The library helps people with print disabilities become independent and self-reliant.
  4. The collection has an abundance of digital accessible titles to satisfy diverse interests from academic to professional and self-development to leisure.
  5. Members can read accessible ebooks with various reading tools and apps to accommodate many learning and reader preferences.
  6. Membership is free for U.S. schools and students who qualify.

My longtime respect for Bookshare continues as does my hope that more people with print disabilities can truly enjoy a universal and equitable reading experience. I will continue to cover the evolution and benefits of the online library in my blogs and podcasts as I truly believe it can help to remove barriers so that more individuals can be recognized for their abilities rather than their disabilities. Giving the gift of this reading resource is truly a gem of an opportunity and we can all celebrate that.”

Learn More with link

About Bookshare

Visit the Bookshare website to sign up as an organization if you represent a U.S. school. For parents or caregivers, you can sign a child up for an individual membership. Both options are free for U.S. students who qualify. There is a minimal annual subscription for non-student and international members.

INDATA and Easter Seals Crossroads logoAbout Laura Medcalf and INDATA

Laura Medcalf studied special education and creative writing at Ball State University. She is responsible for researching and writing content for INDATA and hosting the Accessibility Minute Podcast, a sixty-second podcast covering everything on accessibility which airs on Fridays.

Easter Seals Crossroads has been providing assistive technology solutions in Indiana since 1979. In 2007, it partnered with the State of Indiana, Bureau of Rehabilitative Services, to establish the Indiana Assistive Technology Act (INDATA) Project. Core services include: information and referral, funding assistance, public awareness and education, device demonstration, device loan, and re-utilized computers and equipment. The project is one of fifty-six similar federally-funded projects designed to increase access to and awareness of assistive technology.  To find a similar project in another US state or territory, visit: www.RESNAProjects.org.

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Follow Us to the NFB and ACB 2016 Conventions

2016 June 29

The Bookshare team from Benetech is excited to attend two of our favorite conventions — the 76th Annual National Federation of the Blind (NFB) National Convention in Orlando, Florida, from National Federation of the Blind Logo "Live the life you want."June 30 to July 5, and the 55th Annual Conference and Convention of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from July 1 to July 9, 2016.

Benetech salutes these important organizations and their efforts to ensure equal opportunity for blind and visually impaired people. In support, the Benetech / Bookshare team will attend both conventions and looks forward to meeting Logo for American Council of the Blindattendees, rekindling relationships with long-time members and supporters, and establishing new ones.

We invite all attendees to meet our staff and learn about the latest Bookshare news and updates on Benetech’s broader efforts to make books and reading accessible for people with disabilities. Here’s a preview:

Meet Us at NFB

At NFB, attendees can meet the Bookshare staff at booth #B23 on the exhibit floor to sign up for or renew memberships, ask questions, and learn more about Bookshare. We will also be giving a series of presentations to various NFB committees and attendees at divisional meetings.

Meet Us at ACB

At ACB, attendees are invited to meet the Bookshare staff during Bookshare Office Hours on July 5th from 7:15 am to 8:30 pm in the Lake Minnetonka room. Please stop by, meet our staff, sign up, renew your memberships, and get your questions answered.

Versatility of Braille

Photo of Allison HillikerWe also encourage you to read this insightful article on the versatility of braille, written by Allison Hilliker, our Bookshare Customer Support Specialist. Allison’s article was recently published in NFB’s Future  Reflections magazine titled: “A New Perspective on Literacy for Students with Low Vision.”

 

 

 

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Benetech Partners with Georgia Libraries for Accessible Statewide Services to Bring Bookshare to Patrons with Print Disabilities

2016 June 28

GLASS offers over 425,000 accessible ebooks in its pursuit of total accessibility

Benetech, provider of Bookshare, is proud to announce a new partnership with Georgia Libraries for Accessible Statewide Services (GLASS), making over 425,000 accessible ebooks available for free to patrons who cannot read printed books due to blindness, low vision, dyslexia, and other print disabilities. GLASS is the statewide network of talking book centers that provides library services for the blind and others whose physical abilities require the use of books and magazines in digital audio formats or in braille.

Beginning July 1, every Georgian with an eligible print disability will have free access to Bookshare’s vast Logo for GLASS: Georgia Libraries for Accessible Statewide Servicesonline library including bestsellers, literature, non-fiction, picture books, educational texts, career guides, and much more as GLASS patrons.

“GLASS is happy to be able to offer access to Bookshare as a library resource at no expense to eligible library patrons,” said Pat Herndon, MLIS, Director of GLASS. “Georgia is only the second state to offer this program to its eligible readers. We are thrilled to make this valuable resource available to GLASS patrons and Georgians with a certified print impairment.”

Rob Turner is using a refreshable braille display

Rob Turner is using a refreshable braille display.

Currently, all U.S. students with qualifying disabilities can access Bookshare’s library for free under an award from the Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). This new partnership serves eligible Georgia patrons of all ages, whether they are students or not.

With Bookshare ebooks, members can customize their reading experience in ways that work for them. Members can listen to words read aloud with high quality text-to-speech voices, read with enlarged fonts, see and hear as words are highlighted, read in braille, and more. Further, members can read on a wide variety of devices, including tablets, smart phones, computers, assistive technology devices, and MP3 players using a variety of free and paid apps. Bookshare offers free apps including Bookshare Web Reader, which can be used on any computer and laptop, as well as Go Read for Android.

“We are proud to partner with GLASS to open up new horizons for Georgians with print disabilities. Girl reading on an electronic deviceBookshare offers them access to an extensive collection of accessible ebooks free of charge and for use on a wide variety of devices,” said Brad Turner, Vice President of Global Literacy at Benetech. “We look forward to continuing our collaboration with GLASS and are working to set up similar agreements with other public library systems across the U.S. so that all persons with print disabilities have full access to the world of books.”

This partnership is the second of its kind between Bookshare and a large U.S. public library. The first, with the New York Public Library (NYPL), provides unlimited downloads of accessible materials for patrons’ personal use and more than doubles the number of titles available to NYPL patrons with print disabilities.

Beginning July 1, Georgians with qualifying disabilities who wish to sign up for free access to Bookshare should go to the GLASS website for more information, email glass@georgialibraries.org, or call 1-800-248-6701.

About Bookshare

Bookshare is the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities. Through its extensive collection of educational and popular titles, specialized book formats, and reading tools, Bookshare offers individuals who cannot read standard print materials the same ease of access that people without disabilities enjoy. In 2007 and 2012, Bookshare received two five-year awards from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), to provide free access for all U.S. students with a qualifying print disability. The Bookshare library now has over 425,000 books and serves more than 400,000 members. Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that develops and uses technology to create positive social change. www.bookshare.org.

About Benetech

Benetech is a different kind of tech company. We’re a nonprofit whose mission is to empower communities in need by creating scalable technology solutions. Our work has transformed how over 400,000 people with disabilities read; made it safer for human rights defenders in over fifty countries to document human rights violations; and equipped environmental conservationists to protect ecosystems and species all over the world. Our Benetech Labs is working on the next big impact. Visit www.benetech.org.

About GLASS

A division of Georgia Public Library Service, Georgia Libraries for Accessible Statewide Services (GLASS) supports accessible library services in Georgia by promoting the use of assistive technology and by providing accessible reading materials to those who, due to a disability, are unable to read standard print. GLASS is supported in part by a grant to GPLS from the Library Services and Technology Act through the Institute of Museum and Library Services. www.georgialibraries.org/glass

 

Bookshare Member Amare Leggette Competes in 2016 National Braille Challenge

2016 June 15
by Bookshare Communications
Amare reading a Bookshare book in Braille

Amare reading a Bookshare book in Braille

Amare Leggette, an energetic eight-year-old from Eastover Elementary School in Charlotte, North Carolina, will compete against nine students in the Apprentice age group at the 2016 National Braille Challenge.

“Amare is a fast reader and eager learner,” says Holly Jeffries, his teacher of the visually impaired. “He has a natural ability to skim, comprehend, make contractions, and knows when to reread text. He also loves new vocabulary words and enjoys putting them on our school braille word wall. I know he is prepared for the competition and is ready to take home the prize!”

Classroom Braille Word Wall

Classroom Braille Word Wall

Blind since birth, Amare has read since the age of two thanks to his mother, a teacher, who worked with him. His teacher says, “He has incredible recall and memorized his math tables at an early age.”

Now in second grade, Amare reads above grade level and is studying fifth grade math. In the national competition, he will perform a series of high-level skills in spelling, braille contractions, timed reading, comprehension, proofreading, and answering questions.

Holly Jeffries sitting aside Amare Leggette

Holly Jeffries, Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, NC, with Amare Leggette

Ms. Jeffries, a seasoned educator who has taught children (K-5) who are visually-impaired and homebound, says, “Amare is wonderfully bright! In his first week of school, he read twelve braille books – that is one third of our entire school collection. He has already completed all of his third grade reading assignments. Bookshare supplies an excellent resource of knowledge. Using the online library, Amare gets the books he wants to read quickly, and I’ve timed him reading at over 150 words per minute!”

Bookshare, a Key Braille Resource

In Bookshare, English language books can be accessed in contracted or uncontracted braille, in either Unified English Braille (UEB) or English Braille, American Edition (EBAE). Jeffries says, “When you have a student like Amare, who can read a book in just one night, our job is to meet that demand. With Bookshare, we can readily download unlimited accessible books in braille, audio and large print formats.”

Amare is not the only one of Jeffries’ students who is a high performer. They all attend general education classes and are expected to be on par academically using similar curriculum materials. Jeffries says, “Students with disabilities possess such character, determination, and courage. We must set high expectations for them as early as possible so that they can master braille literacy for a strong foundation.”

A college professor encouraged Jeffries to explore Bookshare which is free for U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities. In 2008, she introduced the online accessible library to her district to find curriculum resources in braille, audio, and large print. Several teachers wanted to learn how to use the library at that time. “We signed our school up for an Organizational Membership and then signed students up for Individual Memberships,” says Jeffries. “Today, our school is not hindered by needing a book in braille and not finding it, or having to wait weeks for a copy. School braille books also get worn out, and pages aren’t fresh and crisp. Additionally, it’s not so easy to purchase them in local stores at $30 or $40 each. Students don’t want to carry heavy volumes around because it makes them stand out.”

winn dixieWhen Amare isn’t reading or studying math, his teacher selects books and adds them to Amare’s Reading List so that he can relish in them over the summer. One of his favorite stories is Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate Dicamillo. He also enjoys books about space, weather, trains and holiday traditions.

Reading Braille at an Early Age

Amare’s parents read to him at an early age and believe in early intervention. They say their son knows his way around a braille book and can quickly scan the index, table of contents and bookmarked chapters. He also likes to present book reports on biographies and create posters. Mrs. Leggette says, “Bookshare has been a great learning tool for Amare to explore and excel.”

Amare’s parents, along with his grandparents and Ms. Jeffries, will attend the competition and are excited to watch him compete. Jeffries says, “The National Braille Challenge is always motivating! We know that Amare will do his very best. He has already made me, our school, our state, and his family so proud.”

The Bookshare team would also like to congratulate Amare Leggette for his accomplishments. We wish him and all the 2016 contestants much luck and success in the challenge and in all that they aspire to do. Read about the fifty finalists.

About the National Braille Challenge®

The Braille Challenge® is an academic competition designed to motivate blind students to emphasize their study of braille, while rewarding their success with fun-filled, but challenging, local and national events. Any visually-impaired student who reads braille is eligible to participate in the preliminary Challenge contest events, which are held from January through March throughout the U.S. and Canada.

This year, (2016) the preliminary Braille Challenge was held in forty-six sites and proctored by eighty individual teachers of visually-impaired students. Each contestant received a certificate of appreciation in braille and feedback on their performance. The top fifty contestants are then invited to Los Angeles for two days of competition, camaraderie, and fun. Braille Challenge categories include reading comprehension, braille speed and accuracy, proofreading, spelling, and reading tactile charts and graphs.

The 2016 National Braille Challenge is June 17-18th, 2016, at the Los Angeles Center, 741 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029.

 

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Start a Summer Reading Bonanza with Bookshare Bingo

2016 June 7
by Bookshare Communications

Summer and a good book go together like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Frog and Toad, Harry Boy reading on a tablet sitting on the grassPotter and Lord Voldemort, Winnie the Pooh and, well, you get the idea. And in case you are wondering what to read this summer, we have one hundred and fifty-five suggestions of juicy books into which you can sink your teeth. Whether you are lounging at home, reclining in a hammock, cooling off at the pool, catching some rays at the beach, going on a road trip, flying in a plane, or visiting grandma, you can take your favorite Bookshare books with you.

The Bookshare team has hand-picked a wide variety of wonderful books for all ages:

Here’s a taste of the kinds of books you can find on each list.

What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?Book cover of "What Do You Do with a Tail Like This" by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page By Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

A nose for digging? Ears for seeing? Eyes that squirt blood? Explore the many amazing things animals can do with their ears, eyes, mouths, noses, feet, and tails in this interactive guessing book that was awarded a Caldecott Honor.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, prevented Book cover of "Wonder" by RJ Palaciohim from going to a mainstream school. Starting fifth grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid — but his classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Over three million people have read the #1 New York Times bestseller, Wonder, and have fallen in love with Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face.

Book cover of "The Scorpio Races" by Maggie StiefvaterThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Nineteen-year-old returning champion Sean Kendrick competes against Puck Connolly, the first girl ever to ride in the annual Scorpio Races, both trying to keep hold of their dangerous water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Book cover of "Everything I Never Told You" by Celeste NgChinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.

Make Summer Reading Even More Fun with Bookshare Bingo

To increase the fun quotient even more, join us for the Bookshare Bingo summer reading event. Here’s how it works:

  1. Discover and read fun and interesting books.
  2. Complete a row, column, or diagonal on the Bingo card by reading books in select book categories.
  3. Submit your Bingo card starting June 15.

Bingo card with categoriesIf you get a Bingo, you’ll get a free gift from Bookshare (while supplies last). Visit the Bookshare Bingo page for more information!

Tips for Parents to Encourage Summer Reading

Our goal is to help increase motivation, interest, and engagement for all readers, especially younger ones. We hope the combination of Bookshare Bingo, summer reading lists, and the helpful tips below will encourage readers throughout the summer and beyond:

  • Let kids read whatever they want – nothing is too easy.
  • Try echo reading – read a page and then have your child read the same page (or take turns reading alternate pages).
  • Read aloud through middle school – a child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to listening level until about eighth grade, according to a study.
  • Plan reading “dates” – parent and child each take a favorite book to the park or coffee shop and read silently for ten minutes.
  • Don’t force kids to finish a book that’s too difficult, frustrating, or uninteresting
  • Celebrate the completion of each book and post a list for all to admire.

Bookshare can help make summer reading a priority and a delight. Enjoy a book today.

Can Accessible Ebooks Be the Pathway to Reading Comprehension and Summer Fun?

2016 June 3

Linda sitting at her desk.Parents of children with disabilities often ask Linda Sherouse, a Library Media Specialist at North Hampton School in New Hampshire, how can I encourage more quiet time for my child who has a disability?” Linda’s reply is to find a good book and consider resources, like Bookshare, the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities. “Over the years, I’ve helped many kids love to read voraciously and on their own,” says Linda.

Bookshare – A Viable Reading Resource

As an avid proponent of accessible books, Linda provides reading support for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. She interacts with just about everyone in her school — from general and special education teachers, case managers, curriculum specialists, and administrators — to students and their parents. “When teachers come to me with a child who has a 504 Plan or Individualized Education Program (IEP) who qualify, I immediately recommend Bookshare as a viable resource,” she says. “We explore books in our library that students are interested in and then download them from Bookshare onto their iPads. After signing them up and giving them technology accommodations, we’ve seen students with vision and learning disabilities enjoy reading for the first time – an awesome experience for everyone!”

Changing the Minds of Skeptical Parents

One parent, who was reluctant to have his child introduced to accessible ebooks, was amazed at the difference in his son’s reading experience after his first audio book. “He became enthralled with a popular teen series over summer vacation,” describes Linda. “His father recognized that his son could spend quiet time reading and that Bookshare was the resource that made it happen. For the rest of vacation and now in school, the student is well equipped with a Bookshare membership and reading tools that meet his needs and learning preferences.”

teen wearing headphones and sitting in front of a computer.

student with headphones reading on a computer in his classroom.

Improving Reading and Vocabulary Skills

Another student, who tired easily staring at printed books, used Bookshare to improve his reading skills and vocabulary. Linda says, “We put his reading assignments onto the iPad and selected a digital audio book for pleasure reading. He kept listening to his favorite stories through text-to-speech and became a different child. Now, his schoolwork is on par, and his appetite for reading popular literature at home is rising.”

From Resource to Inclusive Environments

Linda mentions that it often took years to find the right tools and strategies for students with print and learning disabilities. Her approach now begins by reading a chapter from a digital book and asking the student to read a chapter back. She says, “It doesn’t take long for their comprehension to improve and for them to experience an aha moment. After a short time, they are listening and some are following along with the highlighted words. Through Bookshare, we have immediate access to many types of digital accessible formats to accommodate learners with different challenges. Some of our students also moved from a resource setting to an inclusive classroom.”

Don’t be a Skeptical Parent or Teacher

To parents who are skeptical about technology and accessible ebooks, Linda says, “Reading can be so much fun! Many parents are now eager to help their child read. They encourage them to participate in discussions and to make reading and learning connections. They make statements like these:

  • I just cannot believe everything my child has learned.”
  • My child is telling me about a story in context.”
  • My child has finally found books that he/she cannot put down.”

Linda’s response is always familiar with a dash of excitement about children now understanding literature and language in context. She says, “These incidents prove that any student with a disability can be an independent reader with the right tools, information, and resources.”

Try Bookshare Today!

If you have students that cannot read traditional print books due to disabilities like blindness, low vision, or a physical or learning disability like dyslexia, he/she may qualify for free membership to Bookshare. Sign up now so students can enjoy all the benefits of accessible ebooks for schoolwork and over the summer. For even more fun, check out our summer fun Bingo challenge.

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Bingo! Students Who Read Beat Summer Slide

2016 May 27

Set students up for summer reading success with books from Bookshare.

The dreaded summer slide. Research suggests that a summer break can cause an average student to loseKids who read beat summer slide - graphic showing how access to books during summer prevents a drastic loss in reading skill, especially for kids in need. up to one month of instruction, with disadvantaged students disproportionately affected (Cooper, 1996).  Fortunately, access to books during summer helps students beat the summer slide, and Bookshare’s accessible online library is the perfect resource for kids who cannot read traditional print books due to disabilities like blindness, low vision, physical disabilities, and learning disabilities like dyslexia.

Checklist for Teachers

How can you make sure your students are set up with accessible ebooks from Bookshare? Here are some tips to help make a smooth transition to summer:

  • Make sure students can access Bookshare on their own over the summer by giving them a Student Login.
  • Get students books for the summer by creating and sharing Reading Lists.
  • Set up graduates and students moving on to new schools with Individual Memberships so they can continue to use Bookshare on their own.
  • Get ahead by requesting books now that students will need in the fall.

Bingo card with book categories in each squareFind Summer Reads with Bookshare Bingo

Looking for summer reading books? You can find great titles and have a ton of fun by joining the Bookshare Bingo reading event!

Through Bookshare Bingo, members can discover a variety of fun and interesting titles. You can get a Bingo by reading books from different categories listed on the Bookshare Bingo card. To help get you started, we have created a list of book recommendations for all ages to explore. And, while supplies last, participants will get a free gift. The summer reading program begins June 15th, and you can get ready now by adding books to member Reading Lists. Get ready for Bookshare Bingo!

 

 

Bookshare Supports Librarian’s Goal for Inclusive Library Service

2016 May 10
by Bookshare Communications

Many thanks to Kate Owen at Thetford Academy for sharing her advocacy of Bookshare and for training more teachers to be proponents of accessible ebooks.

Kate’s Vision

Kate Owen looking over a pile of books in her school library.

Kate Owen looking over a pile of books in her school library.

As an educator and librarian, I have always worked to build an inclusive library service to meet the needs of all learners. This year, over one-third of our students are eligible for extra services according to their IEP or 504 plans. Many of these students qualify for Bookshare. The online accessible library has become an integral part of building an inclusive library to accomplish my goal.

Not So Long Ago…

When I first became a school librarian, serving students with print-based disabilities meant surmounting some very real hurdles. The process to obtain accessible formats was tedious and often a barrier to the adoption of accessible materials. Lots of paperwork was given to parents and their child’s physician. Once enrollment was complete, we had to hope that the book assigned to a class was available in audio format. Wonderful volunteers read many books aloud, but even so, it was not uncommon to find that the book we needed simply was not available.

If there was an audio recording it could only be played on a special playback machine. If you were serving more than one or two students in a class, logistics became even more challenging. Once, we had to buy special headphone splitters, which meant a trip over an hour away to the nearest Radio Shack. Bookshare has transformed this process for schools, educators and librarians.

Real-Time Access to Digital Books

Today, with Bookshare, I can instantly provide real-time reading for qualifying students. I can develop Reading Lists ahead of a semester and easily manage last minute curriculum changes.

Stack of textbooks.Bookshare’s library collection is vast, including more than 400,000 titles and the latest versions of textbooks through a partnership with NIMAC. Almost every book we need is available in Bookshare too. Only once, have I requested a book. The process was easy and the title was soon made available.

Help a Student With a Print Disability Read for Life

I want every student to be empowered with tools such as Bookshare that help them become independent and self-directed learners. One way to accomplish this goal is to support classroom teachers by helping them to learn how to use Bookshare’s library effectively. If I am doing my job well, more teachers will become proponents of digital accessible materials and books, just as I am.

In the long run, when qualifying students leave our school with both a high school diploma and an Individual Membership, they can use the online library for a lifetime of learning.

I hope that all students, no matter where they live or the challenges they may face, can accomplish great things, including the freedom to read and explore every book available to mankind.

Discover Bookshare

Are you a librarian or teacher who works with students with visual, learning or physical disabilities? Bookshare can open the world of reading for these students through accessible ebooks and reading tools. Remember, Bookshare is free for qualified U.S. students and schools.

  • More books to read. Access over 400,000 titles for school, work, and fun.
  • Easy reading. Read directly on an Internet browser with Bookshare Web Reader.
  • More ways to read. Read on laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, smartphones and more.
  • Better organization. Save books on Reading Lists.
  • Easier sharing. Assign books with a Student Login and let them read on their own.

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Note: Thetford Academy is the oldest continuously-operating secondary school in Vermont. It is a private school with a public mission — to serve as the high school for students in several surrounding towns. In 2019, the Academy will celebrate its 200th anniversary. Congratulations!

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Bookshare’s Collection Development Manager Started a Love Affair with Books at a Tender Age

2016 May 4

Guest post by Carol James, Bookshare Collection Development Manager

When I was a little girl, I would toddle into my parents’ bedroom many mornings. I’d pull books out of

Carol James as a young child "reading" books.

Carol James as a young child “reading” books.

their case and pretend to read them. When I was done (so I’m told), I would carefully consider where they should go as I put them back on the shelf. I can’t remember what I was thinking – but even then, I knew each book had a “right place”!

Looking back on a lifetime working in libraries, I guess I’m still doing the same thing – but on a different scale, with different tools. Like every librarian building a collection, I have two goals: that we have the book you want, and that it’s “shelved” where you’re going to look for it. If I’m doing my job right, you don’t know I exist, because you’ve found what you want with ease.

Before coming to Bookshare, I spent almost twenty years acquiring and cataloging materials for a large biotechnology library – mostly books and journals on subjects I knew nothing about! I had to learn how the scientists were going to look for and use the resources, so I could tag them with the words they would use when searching our catalog and make them available in formats they would find most useful.

Book cover of "To Say Nothing of the Dog," by Connie WillisI’ve come to think of Bookshare’s collection of digital books for people with qualifying print disabilities as many libraries pressed into one. We’re a school library for our student members; we’re an academic library for those who have gone on to college and graduate schools. For people who just love to read and stay informed, we’re a terrific public library with the latest bestsellers and popular books on all kinds of subjects. And, increasingly, we’re able to serve our members in their professional lives with great vocational, professional, and technical titles.

Over 850 generous publisher partners share their digital content with us, helping our library swell from fewer than 150,000 titles in 2011 to over 400,000 today. Thanks to our funding from the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, we’re also able to create accessible versions of books needed for classroom use by our student members if we’re not able to receive an electronic version from a publisher partner. In addition, we are grateful for the many volunteers who submit titles to the collection. Our Collection Development team of eight dedicated professionals is working hard every day to make sure we have the books you need – and that they are easy to find and use.

It’s an exhilarating challenge to have – to serve the needs of such a diverse population of users, across Book cover for "Island of Ghosts," by Gillian Bradshawsuch a broad range of content. I don’t think I ever could have imagined having such a wealth of books to offer as we do at Bookshare when I started my first college library job, filing drawer after drawer of 3 x 5 catalog cards. My team and I are working diligently to find ways to make our collection easier for you to discover and use, and to share the wonderful new content that’s arriving every day. Of course, every title has a “right place on the shelf,” and we’re going to put it there for you to enjoy.

Take a fresh look at everything Bookshare has to offer!

In recognition of Children’s Book Week, National Teacher Appreciation Week, and book lovers everywhere, Carol shares two recommendations from a long list of favorite books that are suitable for YA readers and above:

To Say Nothing of the Dog; or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last by Connie Willis, winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, this story is a comedic romp through an unpredictable world of mystery, love, and time travel… Ned Henry is badly in need of a rest.

Island of Ghosts by Gillian Bradshaw – a historical novel about Ariantes, a Sarmatian, a barbarian warrior-prince, uprooted from his home and customs and thrust into the honorless lands of the Romans.

Carol James in front of books that have been scanned and added to the Bookshare collection.

Carol James in front of books that have been scanned and added to the Bookshare collection.

For even more books, browse the Bookshare collection!

Carol James is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. She has worked in libraries at Pacific Bell, Genentech, and Elan Pharmaceuticals before joining the Bookshare team as Collection Development Manager in 2010. 

About Bookshare

Bookshare is the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities. Through its extensive collection of educational and popular titles, specialized book formats, and reading tools, Bookshare offers individuals who cannot read standard print materials the same ease of access that people without disabilities enjoy. In 2007 and 2012, Bookshare received two five-year awards from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), to provide free access for all U.S. students with a qualifying print disability. The Bookshare library now has over 400,000 books and serves more than 400,000 members. Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that develops and uses technology to create positive social change. www.bookshare.org

#SVGives: 10 for 10 Brings Bookshare to More Readers

2016 April 27

Silicon Valley Gives logo

UPDATE: Thank you to the generous donors who helped us reach our goal of $10K to bring Bookshare to more readers!

 

Small gifts, big impact.

Last year, in just one day, over $8 million dollars was raised for Bay Area nonprofits through Silicon Valley Gives, a community-wide day of giving hosted by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Benetech is one of hundreds of nonprofits in Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Benito, and San Francisco counties who are joining together to lift up and empower communities in need.

Every contribution has an impact.

No gift is too small. That’s why we are launching our 10 for 10 campaign. $10 goes a long way, especially when it’s matched by a $10K donation.

Every title in Bookshare is an opportunity.

Photo of Judy Gutierrez and her daughter Laura, a Bookshare member with ten dollars for ten thousand in lower right corner

Judy Gutierrez and her daughter Laura, a Bookshare member who has dyslexia

Bookshare, a Benetech initiative, is an online library that is making reading possible for over 400,000 people in over 50 countries, including Silicon Valley. With Bookshare, members can access over 400,000 titles that let them listen to books, follow along with highlighted text, read in braille, and customize their experience in ways that make reading and education possible. Around the world, there are over 500 million people with disabilities, like blindness, dyslexia, and physical disabilities, who don’t have access to basic literacy. Since they cannot read traditional books, they often fall behind in school at an early age which has repercussions later in life.

Here is what students, teachers, and parents say about Bookshare:

“Laura’s comprehension and fluency skills have increased. Her teachers say that she is well on her way to reading at grade level.” —Parent of student with dyslexia

“It is no longer difficult to find accessible books, and I will use Bookshare for a lifetime.” —Student with low vision

“Bookshare levels the playing field in school and keeps students reading.” —Educator of students with special needs

Elina Hughes, Bookshare member, with her dog Zoe and Bookshare Sr. Product Manager Ginny Grant

Bookshare is the thriving community it is today thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of all the members, parents, teachers, mentors, volunteers, partners, and friends. We’re so grateful for your continuous support that allows us to bring the gift of reading and educational opportunities to others who need our services.  

For just $10, you can create even more opportunities for readers like Laura and Elina. Through May 3, your gift will be matched by a $10,000 gift from the Krishnan-Shah Family Foundation through Silicon Valley Gives. Let’s go 10 for 10!

Button that says give today