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Bookshare Mentor Teachers Go Extra Mile to Inspire Independent Readers

2014 September 16
 Colorful image of paper dolls holding hands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monica Rathsack

Monica Rathsack, Physical Therapist, Appleton, WI

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

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Melanie Shaefer.JPG

Melanie Schaefer, AT Consultant, Bend OR

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

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Leisha Crawford, Special Education Teacher, Grand Rapids, MI

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

About the Bookshare Mentor Teacher Program

The Bookshare Mentor Teacher program began in 2010 to support the nation’s top teachers and assistive technology specialists. It provides training tools to engage educators, parents, and students in the effective use of Bookshare’s online accessible library and reading technologies. Over 500 educators and specialists have now joined the network and work in their local communities and schools to advocate on behalf of students with print disabilities. Bookshare Mentor Teachers also develop and share best practices with other teachers across the United States.  Join us!



Get Inspired with an Individual Membership

2014 September 8

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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


Carson’s Journey with Technology Makes English Teacher Proud!

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

Teacher, Sallie Spencer with Carson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winners of the 2014 Summer of Sleuths Contest!

2014 August 29
by Bookshare Team Member
Bookshare logo and a magnifying glass hovering over 3 fingerprints, Summer of Sleuths Reading Contest

Bookshare logo and a magnifying glass hovering over 3 fingerprints for 2014 Summer of Sleuths Reading Contest.

We promised members that Bookshare’s 6th annual Summer of Sleuths reading contest would be the best summer contest to date. And guess what? It was!  Congratulations to everyone who participated!

From June 16 to August 1, 2014, 285 individual members, from kindergarteners to adults, grabbed their magnifying glasses and got busy reading and solving fun mysteries from detective stories in the Bookshare library.

Did you have fun? Share your favorite book with us on Facebook or Pinterest, or Tweet about your experience at #SummerOfSleuths.

Drumwinner Roll Please…Here Are Our 2014 Winners by Category!

Congratulations to all of the following contestants.  Winners were able to choose from great prizes like detective gadgets, gift cards, and free one-year Bookshare member extensions for non-students.

Kindergarten through 8th Grade:

  • Ondrej Ball
  • Michael Bartlett
  • Heidi Ruiz
  • Cassidy Mcquain
  • Avery Hof
  • Jacob Kruger
  • William Klick
  • William Mott
  • Elena Johnson
  • Delaney Kraemer

9th Grade to Adult:

  • JaGuane McHenry
  • Ginger Styers
  • Vanh Vue
  • Tara Annis
  • Ryan Thomas
  • Molly Moore
  • Emily Romero
  • Keyara Teeny
  • Angela Shaffer


  • Keao Wright
  • Charlotte Poetschner
  • Alyson Ball
  • Evelyn Nash
  • Lynette Kersey
  • Lianne Overgard
  • Katie Pleva
  • Brenda Loughman
  • Adnana Saric
  • Karen Dafopoulos
  • Sarah Cranston
  • Janet Acheson
  • Naomi Knudsen
  • Debbie Rose
  • Paul Boyd
  • Samrawit Biyazin
  • Travis Butler
  • Leah Shields
  • John Niedbala
  • Erica Costa

Summer Reading Doesn’t Have to End!

Reading can be a lifelong pastime that is fun and informative. We encourage all members to check out this list of great detective books selected for the contest. You might enjoy reading the books even if you didn’t participate in our contest.

Remember to join our community on Facebook for lots more news about books in the collection and fun events. To participate in Bookshare events, you’ll need an Individual Membership. Why not sign up or renew your account today?


Team-Up for Textbooks: Volunteer to Help Students with Print Disabilities

2014 August 26
Image of the words Volunteer Opportunities with a big exclamation point.

Image of the words Volunteer Opportunities with a big exclamation point.

Post written by Brenda Hendricksen, Volunteer Program Manager for Benetech and published on August 19, 2014 on the Benetech blog.

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By Brenda Hendricksen, Volunteer Program Manager posted in Bookshare on August 19, 2014 – See more at:
By Brenda Hendricksen, Volunteer Program Manager posted in Bookshare on August 19, 2014 – See more at:
By Brenda Hendricksen, Volunteer Program Manager posted in Bookshare on August 19, 2014 – See more at:

Across the U.S., thousands of students with print disabilities will start their school year without the textbooks they need for class.

These students need their books converted to accessible formats. To meet that need, the Benetech Volunteer Program is launching a new project for the 2014-15 school year—and we’re inviting you to join us!

When a Bookshare member needs a book for school that is not yet in our collection, the member submits a request and Bookshare creates an accessible digital version of that book. However, students often don’t know what books they need until the first days of school—a hectic time when Bookshare receives thousands of book requests. During this time, the process of making a textbook accessible can take from 8-12 weeks, with proofreading being the most time-intensive and costly component. Meanwhile, students with print disabilities risk falling behind in school as they wait for the books they need.

Volunteers can help fulfill students’ book requests faster during periods of peak demand by joining in Benetech’s newest volunteer initiative: Team-Up for Textbooks!

Here’s the idea: through targeted outreach to parents, schools, and community partners, we will recruit volunteer teams to proofread student requested textbooks. By teaming up, we will not only speed up the delivery of student textbooks, but will also build awareness to strengthen the web of support for students with disabilities.

Logo for Bookshare's volunteer initiative Team Up for Textbooks.

Bookshare logo with words Team Up 4 Textbooks

Sign up today and make a difference for a student with a disability now while creating a lasting resource that will support students for years to come!

To sign up visit:

For more information about Bookshare and other volunteer opportunities, visit the Bookshare website.




Get Inspired for Back-to-School!

2014 August 19
by Bookshare Team Member

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

Reading is the key to inspiration, and you can start the new school year off on the right foot by making sure you have the books you need for  class. Whether you are new to Bookshare or have been using it for years, follow these easy steps to get ready for Back-to-School!

  1. Update your account: Log in to Bookshare  or sign up online! (Trouble logging in? Reset your password.)
  2. Find books
  3. Save and organize your books
    • Add books to Reading Lists to make them easier to access.
    • Teachers, share Reading Lists with students with Individual Memberships so they can access books independently.

Technology Spotlight: Read Easily with the Victor Reader Stream

2014 August 12
by Bookshare Team Member
Image of Victor Reader Stream

Image of Victor Reader Stream

From time to time, Bookshare shares information about technologies to improve the reading experience for our members. This month, we want to feature the updated Victor Reader Stream by HumanWare.

The Stream, as many call it, is a popular accessible media player and eBook reader you may already use as a Bookshare member. The newest version takes advantage of advanced Bookshare features available through our Partner Program and combines it with some great wireless capabilities.

The Victor Reader Stream makes it easier for members to search, browse and open Bookshare books to get to the content you really want. Through its wireless capability and without having to use a computer, you can do the following:

  •  Search for books by title, author, or full text within the book.
  • Browse dynamic lists of books available on Bookshare such as most popular, most recently added and by more than 30 different categories.
  • Open and add a book to the bookshelf wirelessly and automatically with a single key press.

Additionally, there are other great features like being able to look up encyclopedia articles and define words directly from within Bookshare books, search for books and read short synopsis before opening the full article, add and save books for future reading offline, access NFB Newsline, Internet radio, and much more!

Listen to this audio demonstration of the Victor Reader Stream on the HumanWare website to get more information. We encourage you to learn about all the great reading tools that work with Bookshare books on our website.

Would you like to feature your technology with Bookshare? Check out the Bookshare Partner Program for details on how you can implement advanced features using Bookshare’s easy-to-use API.


We’re Experiencing Exponential Growth at Bookshare!

2014 August 7
by Bookshare Team Member

We’ve reached two major milestones in our work to advance reading equality to underserved populations, and we’re shouting it out to the world!

Colorful text in variety of fonts reads... "Life is a Journey, make sure to pack enough books."

Colorful text in several fonts and sizes states…         “Life is a journey, make sure to pack enough books!”

First, the collection now surpasses a quarter of a million titles, 286,033 to be exact as of today. We achieved this milestone thanks to the sheer dedication of volunteers, our staff, and partnerships with over 500 leading publishers, like Random House, Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Wiley, and many others who donate their digital files.

Did you know that Bookshare also has well over 14,000 textbooks in the collection? Yes, that’s true! We also have vocational, research, teacher-recommended titles, and popular books.

The second milestone is that Bookshare now serves over 310,000 people with print disabilities! This includes students and adults in the U.S., as well as individuals in over 50 countries! This year, we also formed partnerships with Wounded Warriors and to provide library memberships for qualified Veterans.

Memberships are free for U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities thanks to awards from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Members get access to free reading tools that read our accessible ebooks in formats like DAISY Text, DAISY Audio, Braille Ready Format (BRF), and MP3.

Jim Fruchterman, our CEO, founded Benetech, Bookshare’s parent nonprofit organization. His goal with Bookshare was to create a digital library that would give blind users the freedom to read independently, to be more included in society, and to strengthen educational and employment opportunities. Jim says, “These milestones represent a giant leap forward in the number of students and individuals we serve. With the collection expanding daily, we can ensure equal access to the books our users need for education, employment, and social inclusion.”

Leading our charge is Betsy Beaumon, VP and General Manager of Benetech’s Global Literacy Program. Betsy says, “It’s a privilege to know that we’re making a major, positive impact toward reading equality with titles that touch so many people, interests, and needs. We celebrate these milestones with members, students, and their teachers, as well as partners and publishers, universities and schools, our staff, advocates, and volunteers who all work together to make this mission possible.”

You can read Bookshare’s official news release on the PR Web news wire, and as always we appreciate your retweets, pins, and Facebook shares. Thanks!

HathiTrust Victory Advances Accessibility

2014 July 31
Jim Fruchterman

Jim Fruchterman

The recent Authors Guild v. HathiTrust case provides a victory that advances accessibility for people with print disabilities. This post originally appeared on Jim Fruchterman’s Beneblog.

On Tuesday, June 10, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York made a major ruling that emphasizes the legality of fair use for book digitization. In Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, a unanimous three-judge panel concluded that digitizing books in order to enhance research and provide access to individuals with print disabilities is lawful on the grounds of fair use—that is, a limitation and exception to the exclusive rights granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work (Section 107 of the U.S. copyright law). This is an immense victory for fair use as the basis of a balanced intellectual property system, and we, at Benetech, are delighted by it and by its tremendous positive implications for the public interest.

What is this court case and why do we care so much about it? As a non-lawyer, let me explain from the point of view of a technologist who cares passionately about accessibility for people with disabilities.

The HathiTrust Digital Library (HDL) is a partnership of academic and research institutions that had created (with help from Google) a collection of millions of titles digitized from libraries around the world. It allows users to search book content that contains a match for their search terms. To most patrons, HDL merely delivers titles and page numbers as results, but the University of Michigan’s Library, one of the HathiTrust members, does allow access to the full text of copyrighted works for people with qualifying print disabilities. In September 2011, the Authors Guild sued the HathiTrust, alleging massive copyright violations. A federal district court ruled against the Authors Guild in October 2012, finding that HathiTrust’s process was fair use under U.S. law. One of the key justifications that the court used was the value of the scanned books for people who are blind, who could benefit so much more from an accessible digital version of a library book (which can easily be turned into braille or read aloud) than from a physical copy sitting in a dusty stack. The Authors Guild then appealed the ruling.

As the parent nonprofit organization of the Bookshare online library, a leading provider of accessible books to people with print disabilities in the U.S., we at Benetech were concerned that the Authors Guild’s arguments in their appeal would remove the legal authorization for the services that we provide, relegating people with disabilities to second-class status. I was an expert witness for the National Federation of the Blind (which had joined HathiTrust as a defendant) in the district court case, and Benetech filed an amicus brief in the HathiTrust appeal case supporting the decision of the district court. You can read more about our position in the Amicus Brief, which we filed jointly with our peer organization, Learning Ally.

Now, a year later, the Court of Appeals agreed: the HathiTrust creates immense public value and its core activities entirely comply with copyright law. They decided that it is fair use both to create a full-text searchable database of copyrighted works and to provide those works in alternate formats that are accessible to patrons with disabilities. Furthermore, they even decided the Authors Guild did not have standing to bring the suit in the first place.

With regards to fair use for accessibility, it is encouraging to see the court citing the historic legislation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, thus advancing a view of fair use that’s consistent with the norms that Benetech has long advocated for. We saw this view underscored in last year’s Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled—an international copyright treaty that would make copyright exceptions for people with disabilities a global norm and allow organizations like ours to share accessible books across national borders.

Given the Court of Appeals’ momentous ruling in the HathiTrust case, Benetech stands on firmer ground than ever as we deliver our Bookshare services under the protection of fair use, in addition, of course, to Section 121 of the U.S. copyright law, also known as the Chafee Amendment. A full explanation of how Bookshare is made legally possible by these two copyright exceptions can be found in my January 2014 post, The Case for Copyright Exceptions and Fair Use.

This fair use victory is crucial not only for our present work, but also for our social mission at large and for the future of our work under our Global Literacy program. In particular, we’re excited about the promise that the appeal court’s ruling holds for the expansion of our efforts to improve access to images. Before this case, I’m not aware that there had been an explicit discussion of the legality of the practice of granting individuals with disabilities access to images in alternate formats. The Court of Appeals explicitly included image accessibility in its ruling. It states the following about the HDL’s digitation process:

The image files will provide an additional and often more useful method by which many disabled patrons, especially students and scholars, can obtain access to these works. These image files contain information, such as pictures, charts, diagrams, and the layout of the text on the printed page that cannot be converted to text or speech. None of this is captured by the HDL’s text‐only copies. Many legally blind patrons are capable of viewing these images if they are sufficiently magnified or if the color contrasts are increased. And other disabled patrons, whose physical impairments prevent them from turning pages or from holding books, may also be able to use assistive devices to view all of the content contained in the image files for a book. For those individuals, gaining access to the HDL’s image files―in addition to the text‐only files―is necessary to perceive the books fully. Consequently, it is reasonable for the Libraries to retain both the text and image copies.

From Benetech’s perspective, this is truly a groundbreaking decision, as we have been working at the frontier of image accessibility through our DIAGRAM Center—a research and development hub dedicated to making it easier, cheaper, and faster to create and use accessible digital images. The imperative to make images accessible to individuals with disabilities is becoming increasingly pressing as digital content is quickly shifting to include richer, more visual components, and is especially critical for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. The DIAGRAM Center’s community is in the midst of efforts to make image accessibility significantly less costly by turning inaccessible images, such as equations in a digital math book, into machine-readable information. Section 121 doesn’t explicitly discuss image accessibility, and we’d been hoping that fair use covers much of the DIAGRAM Center’s work. The appeal court’s ruling has now addressed this and we are much more confident that the legal framework for our efforts will be grounded in the provisions of fair use.

At Benetech, our goal is to advance a world in which the benefits of technology touch the lives of all people, not just of the richest and most able five percent of humanity. No matter what area we work in, we need intellectual property laws that balance the interests of society with those of creators. For this IP system to work for all it’s critical that copyright exceptions such as fair use be defended as a laboratory for innovation. We are delighted that the Court of Appeals has done just that by championing a robust view of fair use that encourages technological advances, rewards creativity, and benefits society. With the leverage of technology and the foundation provided by well thought-out IP laws, we can inspire both economic growth and social good.

Hot Off the Press! Bookshare’s Summer 2014 Bulletin

2014 July 28
by Bookshare Team Member
Image of Header of Summer Bulletin, books with a laptop and the words News for Bookshare Bringing Reading to Life

Header of the Bookshare 2014 Summer Bulletin

Bookshare members and supporters, the Summer 2014 Bulletin is out, and you can catch up on the latest happenings at Bookshare and Benetech, our parent nonprofit. What’s in the news?

  • Bookshare is celebrating two major milestones—serving more than 310,000 people with print disabilities and providing access to over 250,000 titles. Wow!
  • There’s still time to enter the Summer of Sleuths reading contest. Enter before 5 PM on August 1 for a chance to win awesome prizes!
  • Get great tips on using Bookshare from our Support Team.
  • Learn about our Parent Ambassador Program and great professional development opportunities for educators.
  • Learn how you and your company can support Bookshare with matching gifts.

Read the Summer 2014 Bulletin today and please subscribe to our blog!

For real-time news, we encourage you to subscribe to this blog. Just enter your email address in the upper right corner to receive a notice of the latest Bookshare blog. You can also stay connected on social media for product updates, cool stories, events, and popular book titles. Thanks for sharing our Summer Bulletin, retweeting the news, and pinning your favorite Bookshare images!