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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!

Turn It Up & Tell the World Reading Challenge

2015 May 11
by Bookshare Communications

Member holding a megaphone and sharing the types of books he likes

Are you ready to turn it up?

Get ready to have a blast with the Bookshare reading challenge! This summer, we invite you to Turn It Up and Tell the World what to read.

Who knows what’s cool better than you? No one – that’s why we want you to read and share your favorite summer books. You’ll help other members discover awesome new titles, and you’ll get tons of thanks and kudos from the Bookshare community on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the Bookshare website!

How Does It Work?

  1. Read – find cool titles on Bookshare and read them
  2. Share – using Facebook, Twitter and the Bookshare website, share what’s cool about the books you read
  3. Get Thanks and Kudos – get recognized by the community, join discussions on Facebook and Twitter, and have your books featured on Bookshare

That’s it!

Your favorite books will become popular, and you’ll get the kudos you deserve!

Get Ready

The Turn It Up and Tell the World reading challenge starts on June 22nd. Make sure you’re ready by following these steps:

Don’t miss this challenge! Make sure you get all the important news and updates. Good luck!

Experience Our Impact: Join Us for an Open House on May 3

2015 April 30
by Bookshare Team Member

People conversing and enjoying themselves at a Bookshare Open House

Please join us for a special Bookshare Open House at the headquarters of Benetech, our parent nonprofit.


What will you get to experience?

  • See and touch our latest work in 3D printing
  • Try our reading tools, like Bookshare Web Reader
  • Learn about our important work with mentor teachers and parents through partners like, and more!

Don’t miss the special event:

When: Sunday, May 3, 2015
Time: 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Where: Benetech’s Office

480 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306

(Parking is available in Lot C-5 behind the building)

RSVP: Via or Facebook

We look forward to seeing you at the Open House, as well as at Silicon Valley Gives on May 5!


Support Bookshare on May 5!

2015 April 28

Silicon Valley Gives logo

Bookshare is the thriving community it is today thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of all of you—members, parents, teachers, mentors, volunteers, partners, and friends!

We’re so grateful for your continuous support and can’t wait to bring the gift of reading and educational opportunities to even more people. Please help us bring Bookshare to others who need our services by supporting our Silicon Valley Gives (SVGives) fundraiser on May 5, 2015.

For those of you who may not have heard of it, SVGives is a community-wide day of giving hosted by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. On Tuesday, May 5, Bookshare’s parent nonprofit, Benetech, is joining the Silicon Valley Community Foundation for 24 hours of giving to expand Bookshare’s reach.

Stamp that reads Double Impact 2XWe have an exciting update to our SVGives campaign: a donor match! All gifts to Bookshare on May 5 will be generously matched by the Newcomb Foundation and the Krishnan-Shah Family (up to $85,000). This means that your gift to Bookshare will go twice as far in changing the lives of more people, in the United States and abroad.

You may be receiving communications from our team with an appeal for financially supporting Bookshare on SVGives. Please take a look and give whatever you can to allow us to continue our work and do even more so that everyone has access to books and information, and a fair chance to succeed at school and beyond.

Support Bookshare on SVGives!

All gifts to Bookshare between now and 11:59 PM on May 5 count for SVGives Day and will double their impact.

Thank you in advance for your support.

College Student, Sam Myers is Future Ready with Bookshare!

2015 April 25

Sam Myers uses Bookshare to access audio textbooks for his college courses.

Sam Myers, a senior psychology student at the University of Wyoming, was looking for assistive technology software that would read his textbooks aloud. Because of a visual impairment in one of his eyes, Sam could not read for long periods of time without straining his vision, and large amounts of reading became very tedious and time consuming.

As an audio-learner, Sam thought audio textbooks could possibly assist with his college reading and help to improve his performance as a student. He already had an iPad and tried to use the built-in screen reader feature, called VoiceOver, however, VoiceOver was not compatible with the e-textbooks for his courses. That’s when Sam turned to Wyoming Institute for Disabilities (WIND) for troubleshooting and assistance through the Wyoming Clearinghouse for Accessible Educational Materials and Wyoming Assistive Technology Resources (WATR).

By working with WIND staff, Sam learned of a resource called Bookshare, the world’s largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities that provides free memberships to qualifying U.S. students and schools. With the assistance of WIND and verification from his doctor, Sam was able to gain free access to Bookshare for all his textbooks for the semester.

“I have a lot more time now that I am reading my books through audio,” said Sam. “It is much less strain on my eyes and I am even able to study while I am doing my physical therapy exercises. Learning about Bookshare is going to be a great tool for graduate school. Assistive technology solutions are not transparent to everyone, so it is good to have a program like WIND and people who are so willing to help.”

Special thanks to Sam Myers, the University of Wyoming and the Wyoming Institute for Disabilities for allowing us to republish this post.


Bookshare Volunteers Rock!

2015 April 20

flowers with sign that says Thank You VolunteersOn this Volunteer Recognition Day, we thank our volunteers who make Bookshare the best it can be. Bookshare and Benetech, our parent nonprofit, are so fortunate to have the generous support from volunteers around the world. You are positively impacting people with print disabilities, and we appreciate your life-size contributions!

In this blog, let’s catch up on the latest and greatest from the Bookshare volunteer community.

Congratulations to Marcus Garner!

Did you know that every year through the Mayrie ReNae Scholarship Fund, Bookshare provides a free membership for someone in need? Mayrie is remembered for her volunteer work and valuable guidance as a Bookshare staff member.

Marcus Garner with his Award

This year’s winner of a year-long Bookshare membership is Marcus Garner, a community activist who traveled to Nicaragua to lead a youth empowerment program for visually impaired teens.

Marcus is an alumnus of the New Foundations professional development program at the Lions Center for the Blind in Oakland, California. The Lions Center is a valued partner.

What’s New for Volunteers on the Bookshare Website?

Check out the revamped volunteer section of the Bookshare website. This volunteer home page is filled with information and tools to help volunteers get involved.

Here’s what’s new:

Updated scanning and proofreading instructions
• Links to submit a book, check out a book, and find your books in process in the left-hand navigation bar
More volunteer opportunities besides proofreading and scanning

U.S. Department of Education Does an Image Slam

This past month, senior leaders at the U.S. Department of Education got first-hand volunteer experience with an image slam. What’s an image slam?  It’s a hands-on session where volunteers make book images accessible by providing image descriptions using the Poet Image Description tool. Poet was developed by the DIAGRAM Center, another important Benetech initiative that is striving to change the way image and graphic content is produced and accessed for people with print disabilities.

According to Benetech President, Betsy Beaumon, “This is a critical and hopeful moment where rapid changes in the fields of consumer technology, education, and publishing make it possible to realize our dream of reading and information equality.” Want to learn more about Benetech’s work? Read Betsy’s official blogs on and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS).

Faster Approval Queues

Special thanks to our dedicated volunteer team that manages the Bookshare approval queue. Its expertise has helped to get books into the collection faster than ever! Every day, this team continues to speed up the process to enhance and grow our library. Great job!

Proofing Children’s Books in High Demand

Kudos also to our in-house volunteers and the team at the University of Chicago, Delta Gamma Chapter. Their efforts have helped to get more high-demand children’s books proofread and added to the collection. These volunteers use a hard copy to proofread, and then add image descriptions to ensure that our young members don’t miss out on great titles!

Volunteers Make Wishes Come True!

Did you know that Bookshare offers members a Wish List where they can request books for pleasure reading outside of the classroom? We encourage volunteers to check out the Wish List for inspiration when looking for books to scan. Unless a volunteer scans them, Wish List books won’t be added to the collection, and members won’t have access to them. Help make a wish come true!

Share Your Volunteer Story or Photo

Bookshare volunteers have inspirational stories that demonstrate tremendous care for others. Send us your volunteer stories, comments, and photos, and we will feature you on our blog.

Bookshare’s Summer Internship
Bookshare’s third annual summer internship program is now open for rising high school juniors and seniors and college freshmen and sophomores. Learn more about this great opportunity!

Bookshare Volunteers Rock!

Thank you so much for what you do.

MadeleineMadeleine coordinates the efforts surrounding Bookshare’s volunteer program with over 100 volunteers in-house and remotely around the world.

What’s Next for Bookshare Members after College?

2015 April 13
by Bookshare Team Member

Bookshare enriches the lives of people with print disabilities well beyond school into their adult lives.  Often members tell us they now enjoy exploring new interests and hobbies and finding resources to help them with their careers. Members stay connected to the world through local and national news. They catch up on the hottest books their friends are reading, and they pursue lifelong learning.

Our staff is catching up with college students about how they plan to use Bookshare after school, and today’s blog features Amber Steet, a Bookshare member since the ninth grade.

Meet Amber Steet

Amber Steet's PictureAmber has a full course load at the University of Texas at San Antonio and will graduate next year with honors and a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies in education and anthropology. After college, she plans to work as a teacher of the visually impaired.

When we caught up with her, Amber was gearing up to participate in a National Student Exchange Program and receive one of the highest individual honors given to college students: Who’s Who among Students in American Universities and Colleges.”

Amber has an impressive track record of academic achievement, leadership, and extracurricular activities. She is an officer in the Honor’s Society, mentors elementary students, and plans to continue to volunteer after college, most likely in a hospital. We congratulate Amber on all of her accomplishments and pursuits!

Is Bookshare in Amber’s Future?

“Yes, I’m positively going to continue my membership to Bookshare, even after school,” she says. “The library gives me free reign to read and gain knowledge.”

In her spare time, Amber likes to indulge her unique reading interests, including a love of the paranormal and gripping cover-up and conspiracy stories from favorite authors like Jim Marrs.

When asked how she plans to tap into Bookshare as a teacher, Amber said, “Hopefully to read what I enjoy and find career resources and stories that will benefit me as a teacher and for my students.”

We ask all current and future Bookshare members, what’s next for you?  Are you signed up to enjoy lifelong learning?

We hope so!
Watch Amber’s Summer Video About Reading Bookshare Books on a BrailleNote.

Students on School Accounts Can “Read Now” Using Popular Bookshare Web Reader

2015 April 6

Orange button that says READ NOW, Bookshare Web Reader

Did you know that Bookshare Web Reader, the popular web-based reading tool that was previously available only to Individual Members, is now available for students on school accounts too? Yes! Bookshare Web Reader is so easy to use!

All you need is a computer with an Internet connection, and you can find, open, and start reading Bookshare books directly within popular Internet browsers like Google Chrome and Safari.

Your reading experience is easier, faster, and efficient!

There is no software to install, and you don’t need to worry about downloading and finding book files on your computer or reading device. Simply select “Read Now” to start reading Bookshare books!

How does Bookshare Web Reader work for Organizational Accounts?

Teachers assign books to students on Reading Lists and give them a username and password. Students log in anywhere there is Internet access—at school, at home, or on the go—and read assigned books. That’s it!

Watch this quick video tutorial about Bookshare Web Reader!

How does Bookshare Web Reader benefit teachers and students?

  • Manage reading easily. No more software installation or downloading books to folders or directories.
  • Build student independence. Let them log in and read on their own.
  • Save time! No more opening books for Bookshare members to read.
  • Read anywhere.  Students just need a PC or Mac with Internet.
  • Enable a multi-modal reading experience. Listen and follow highlighted text in a compatible browser.*
  • Encourage summer reading and help your students now learn to use Bookshare Web Reader.

Want more information? Check out these training guides and sign up for a webinar!

Try Bookshare Web Reader today, and look out for more news on our popular summer reading event! Details coming soon.

*To access Bookshare Web Reader’s full features, please make sure to use a compatible browser.






AT Specialist Designs Bookshare Course to Support District Initiative

2015 March 29
by Bookshare Team Member
a head and shoulders image of Stephanie Caceres

Stephanie Caceres

In 2014, Stephanie Caceres, a Bookshare Mentor Teacher, developed an online training course for middle and high school teachers in her district to learn about Bookshare and apps like Read2Go and Go Read. “It’s not what you know, but what you are willing to learn,” says Ms. Caceres, a former special education inclusion teacher and now an assistive technology specialist for Worcester County Public Schools, Maryland.

She developed her training module with the support of her district supervisor, Rae Record, who encourages innovation and the use of technology to make sure that more students can easily access the curriculum. This initiative also encourages special education teachers to dig deep into the benefits of Bookshare. “With Read2Go and Go Read apps for tablets, Bookshare is much more accessible in the classroom,” says this AT Specialist.

Teachers who complete her eight hour course receive a stipend from the district. They appreciate the incentives their district provides to enable them to work through the course on their own time schedule and to be reimbursed.

“When Stephanie contacted us about her training module, we thought what a great idea,” says Kristina Cohen, Sr. Education Manager for Benetech. “We were impressed by her creativity and initiative. This type of professional development can make a positive impact on teacher learning. We hope more educators will consider a similar initiative.”

Cover of “All About Bookshare, Read2Go and Go Read”

Stephanie’s “All About Bookshare, Read2Go and Go Read” Guide includes information and videos on:

Criteria to complete her course includes:

“Too often professional development falls to the bottom of the list for teachers who are working hard to educate our students,” adds Caceres. “It’s a time and priority issue. Our district is involved in many new initiatives to support student learning. As a special education teacher, I recognize the importance of student accessibility and having as much success as I have with Bookshare, I knew I could create an effective learning module. It’s a beneficial educational resource and a win-win for our school, our teachers, and our students.”

Since her district has widely adopted Bookshare and mobile apps, Caceres has worked closely with many teachers and students to share the benefits of Bookshare. “My supervisor is excited about the module and believes it should be doable for teachers. In the long run, we will ultimately help more students with print disabilities enjoy an improved reading experience using accessible books and on-the-go apps. This can lead to opening the world of reading for the first time.”

About the Bookshare Mentor Teacher Program

Bookshare’s Mentor Teacher program supports the world’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 600 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 around the globe. Join us!










Canada Reads with Bookshare!

2015 March 23

 World Map with Canada point and Bookshare Logo

Calling all Canadians…do you love to read a good story?

How about 225,000 amazing stories, all available at your fingertips for FREE?

Canadians with qualified print disabilities can easily access all the latest ebooks, like NYPD Red 2 by James Patterson, Oprah’s Book Club titles, like I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb, and CBC Canada Reads books, like When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid.

Free ebooksHow Is This Possible? 

The Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) partnered with Bookshare, the world’s largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities, to offer a huge collection of over 225,000 titles, including new releases, bestsellers, mysteries, romance, science fiction, autobiographies, and books for school and career.

In addition, Bookshare books do not have expiration dates, and people with print disabilities can read many different ways and on a variety of reading tools!

More Ways to Read!

With Bookshare, you get many reading options—more than any other accessible library. You can read books on tablets, smartphones, computers, assistive technology devices, MP3 players, and more. And because Bookshare books come in accessible formats like DAISY and BRF (Braille Ready Format), they can be read the following ways:

  • Listen to words read aloud
  • See and hear words read on a screen
  • Read with enlarged fonts
  • Read with refreshable braille

What Do You Get with Bookshare?

With a Bookshare membership, you get all of the following:

  • Unlimited access to more than 225,000 titles with no expiration dates!
  • 24/7 availability to the Bookshare website
  • Free reading tools for PC, Mac, and Android devices
  • Friendly and helpful customer support
  • Access to a lively and supportive community of Bookshare members

 Sign Up Today with These Four Easy Steps!

  1.  Make sure you qualify as a Canadian with a print disability.
  2.  Contact your local local library to register for CELA services.
  1. Sign-Up for Bookshare!
  2. Email proof of disability to:

Welcome to all our Canadian members.

P.S. If you know someone who could benefit from this offer, please share this information!

Thank you.