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Two FREE “Bookshare for Educators” Workshops during ATIA 2014 Conference in Orlando

2014 January 13
by Bookshare Team Member
Photo of teachers learning together seated at a table.

Educators seated at a table learning together.

Educators near or close to Orlando, Florida, and those who will attend the ATIA 2014 conference, reserve your seat now for FREE Bookshare training workshops on Friday, January 31.

This is your chance to get hands-on training and answers to questions directly from our Bookshare trainers.

You do not have to register for ATIA to participate.  The events will take place at the Caribe Royal Hotel in conjunction with ATIA 2014. Once we reserve your spot, we’ll send you details in a confirmation email.  Space is limited, so please sign up on the waiting list for these in-depth training sessions:

1)      Bookshare for Beginners – New members and sponsors can learn how to get started with Bookshare and download their first book for students.

2)      Bookshare Advanced – Learn how to use Bookshare across different assistive technologies as well as effective ways to get more out of your account with the latest tools and features.

3)      Bookshare Member Feedback Meeting – This is a great opportunity to get to know our staff and let us know what you think about Bookshare and how it can be improved.

Kristina Cohen working on a computer.

Kristina Cohen, Bookshare Sr. Education Program Manager in a training session using a computer and projector.

ATIA conference registrants are also invited to attend these great sessions by our staff:

  • Discovering Accessible Common Core Materials, Thu, Jan 30, at 8:00-9:00 AM in Bonaire 6
  • Digital Access to the Common Core, Thu, Jan 30, at 9:20-10:20 AM in Boca I
  • Route 66: Providing Access to Adolescent Literature, Thu, Jan 30, at 1:00-2:00 PM in Boca IV
  • What’s Next in Accessible STEM Learning Materials and Assessment? Fri, Jan 31, at 2:20-3:20 PM in Curacao 1

We look forward to learning more about your Bookshare goals in sunny (and hopefully warm) Orlando, Florida.

See you soon!

The Bookshare Staff

Calling All K-12 Bookshare Members: Enter the White House Student Film Festival by January 29 2014!

2014 January 7
by Bookshare Team Member

Are you or do you know a Bookshare student member in grades K-12 who enjoys filmmaking? Do you use Bookshare to help with your studies at school?  If yes, President Obama has a super cool contest for you!

President Obama looking over the shoulder of a young female student using a computer for learning.

President Obama looking over the shoulder of a young female student using a computer for learning.

Enter the White House Student Film Festival!

The White House is holding its first ever film festival to showcase the power of technology in schools and students who win may get to  visit the White House!

We know that you use Bookshare to learn all sorts of amazing things.  Do you use Bookshare Web Reader to read and listen to your textbooks and do projects or experiments?

Does Read2Go help you keep up with assignments wherever you go?

Are you accessing more books with Bookshare and a braille display than you ever did before?

This is your chance to let President Obama and the rest of the world know about it.  Finalist videos will be featured on the White House website, YouTube channel, and social media sites.

Here’s a fun video by Bill Nye, the Science Guy describing the contest.

Announcing the White House Student Film Festival

How to Enter

  • Create a short video (3 minutes or less)
  • Address one of these themes: 1) How you currently use technology in your classroom or school, or 2) the role technology will play in education in the future.
  • Read the official rules to make sure your entry is valid, and visit the White House Film Festival website for more information.

Entries are due by January 29, 2014. So think of a good idea or script, grab a video recorder or smartphone, and start filming!

We’re excited to see what you create. Feel free to share your videos on the Bookshare Facebook page as well.

Good luck!

The Bookshare Team




Praise for Accessible Books and Reading Technologies by Bookshare Mentor Teacher

2013 December 26
by Bookshare Team Member
Theresa Brousseau, MS, MS Ed, Teacher of the Visually Impaired and Bookshare Mentor Teacher

Theresa Brousseau, MS, MS Ed, Teacher of the Visually Impaired and Bookshare Mentor Teacher

As 2013 comes to an end, we want to send our heartfelt thanks to all educators, sponsors and Bookshare Mentor Teachers who continue to partner with us to provide accessible educational opportunities to their students.  With that sentiment, we’d like to share this letter from  Theresa Brousseau, a teacher of the visually impaired, who wrote us this letter.

“Thanks to Bookshare, I feel good that I’m able to help more students with print disabilities achieve their goals, make progress and be successful!  As a VI teacher, the students I work with require reading assignments in accessible formats to access the curriculum.  We find many teacher-recommended books and K-12 textbooks readily available in Bookshare in formats such as DAISY Text, DAISY Audio, MP3 and BRF (Braille Ready Format) to meet their needs.

“In the past, finding required schoolbooks took time at the expense of students, who would wait for books with long delays.  Now, they receive their books at the same time as their peers, making learning more uniform and equitable, especially when it comes to doing research and homework.

“Bookshare provides access to both the digital formats and the reading technologies they need to keep the pace.  Many students are more engaged in learning and there are no more excuses about not having appropriate materials to do class assignments or homework.

“Bookshare is great for students who are visually impaired, as well as for students with print disabilities who are struggling readers, such as those with severe dyslexia.  Now, these students can perform on grade level with audio materials that have text-to-speech.

“I also appreciate all of the portable devices that support students’ individual preferences and learning styles. Using technology is more socially acceptable, and students feel good about tapping into digital accessible books versus being seen as different using audio books on tape or CDs.”

About the Bookshare Mentor Teacher Program

The Bookshare Mentor Teacher program began in 2010 to support the nation’s top teachers and assistive technologists with training tools to engage educators, parents, and students in the effective use of Bookshare’s online library and reading technologies.  Since that time, over 500 educators and specialists have joined the network. They work in their local communities and schools to advocate on behalf of students with print disabilities.  They also develop and share best practices across the United States.

Learn more about the Bookshare Mentor Teacher program at:

Bookshare Listed Among World’s 100 Most Inspiring Applications of Digital Technology for Social Innovation

2013 December 19
by Bookshare Team Member

This post is reposted from the Benetech Blog.

Logo of the Nominet TrustThe Nominet Trust, a United Kingdom leading social tech funder, included Bookshare, a Benetech Global Literacy initiative, on its list of 100 global ventures using digital technology to solve some of the world’s biggest social problems.

Through its innovative technologies, Bookshare is raising the floor for people with print disabilities (such as visual impairments, physical disabilities, or severe learning disabilities) by providing them with the world’s largest collection of accessible copyrighted content and reading tools. Bookshare currently has over 250,000 members and a collection of more than 220,000 titles, which are delivered as digital files and available for download any time, day or night, in a variety of accessible formats. “It’s a life-changing service” for those with visual impairments or other print disabilities, states the Bookshare listing on the Nominet Trust 100.

The recently announced Nominet Trust 100, or NT100, identifies ingenious uses of technology changing lives in areas ranging from poverty to human rights, education and healthcare. A steering group, led by innovation expert Charles Leadbeater, compiled the list. The Nominet Trust calls it “a dynamic public database of social tech innovations around the world that will accelerate the use of technology as a tool for social change.”

The NT100 will form the basis for a growing online resource for social enterprises called “The Social Tech Guide.” It is designed to celebrate the people who are using digital technology to change the world for the better and to inspire social entrepreneurs to follow in the footsteps of these leading social technology pioneers.

The NT100 can be found online at More information is available on the Nominet Trust’s website.


Top Four “Hits the Solar Plexus” Good Reads for Bookshare Adult Members

2013 December 16
by Bookshare Team Member

This blog is contributed by Bookshare member and staff person, Liz Halperin.

Liz Halperin and her guide dog, Sir Welton with Jim Fruchterman in the Bookshare

Liz Halperin and her guide dog, Sir Welton with Jim Fruchterman in the Bookshare Offices

Hi everyone! I’m an avid reader and proofreader for Bookshare and work in the Collections Department. I’ve had the great fortune to read books that I might not have read otherwise.  This blog is about the books for adult readers I’ve recently read. These books took my breath away with the haunting power of their stories and quality of writing.

Alert!  Bookshare members might find some of these reads disturbing because of their sheer intensity.  My suggestions are NOT light-hearted books. If you are looking for something creative, intense, and well written, I hope you’ll read some of these titles!

Beloved, by Toni Morrison, 1993. I remember this book was popular when it was first published, and friends were telling me to read it. I thought it was going to be a typical adult-meets-adult story: they work through conflicts and end up together. So I didn’t bother with it. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s a story about slavery and one woman’s astounding actions. This one haunts me with its ethical questions.

Room, by Emma Donoghue, 2011. This book amazed me with its creativity in building an environment for two special characters. A mother, held captive with her five-year-old son, creates his whole world in their one room. The book was unsettling to read, then became a literary déjà vu when three women were found trapped in a basement by two brothers. They had been captives for 10 years.

Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo, 1939. I knew this story was based on a stage play, so I assumed it would be light-hearted and upbeat. But the book was a standout because it was written completely from the perspective of a man terribly wounded in war. The added forewords by the author in 1959 and again in 1970 are thought-provoking.

Little Bee, by Chris Cleeve, 2008. Chronicling the immigration of Bee, there are serious surprises here. Some reviews warned of a very gruesome scene. But this was one action scene that was important to the plot, and it did not strike me as worth scaring readers away. This story exemplifies maximum loyalty.

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, by Heidi Durrow, 2010. Rachel is the daughter of a Danish mother and an African American G.I. When she is the only survivor of family tragedy, her African American grandmother takes her in. It’s the 1980s and the girl must find her way, both internally and in her community. This may sound like a trite coming-of-age story about racial issues, but believe me, it has reason to be on my “hits the solar plexus” list.

Many thanks to Liz for her top picks!

The Bookshare Staff

Happy Holidays and to All Good Cheer!

2013 December 9
by Bookshare Team Member
colorful books stacked high with a red ribbon tied in a bow.

Colorful books stacked and tied with red ribbon.

Whether you’ve just celebrated Hanukkah or are getting ready for Christmas, Kwanzaa, or many other wonderful holiday traditions, we are sending much good cheer from our family to yours!

December is a great time to wrap up important events—like wrapping up a handmade gift or wrapping up with a cozy blanket to read a good book with a child or loved one.  Here at our offices, we’re wrapping up the year with more than 200,000 titles for our Members to enjoy!

We thank our Bookshare collections team for putting together this joyous list of winter holiday titles for all ages.

 Twelve Winter Holiday Books

Bear Stays Up For Christmas (grades PK-2) Who’d want to sleep when there’s so much Christmas magic going on?

The Story of Holly and Ivy (grades K-3) Holly and Ivy each want a home for Christmas—see if the little girl and the beautiful doll get their wishes.

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblin  (grades K-3) It will be a dismal Hanukkah for the villagers unless Hershel can outwit these unwanted visitors!

Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (Junie B., First Grader (grades 1-4) Ho ho, oh no! Junie picks tattletale May’s name in the class Secret Santa drawing.

Hanukcats (grades 2-5) You can bet your blintzes that when it comes to the Jewish holidays, cats have just a few things in mind: treats, toys, and mischief.

Kwanzaa (grades 3-5) Learn about the African roots of this wonderful tradition.

On Christmas Eve (grades 3-5) Tess really wants to meet Santa this year because she wants to ask him for something special—a gift that isn’t for herself.

When Santa Fell to Earth (grades 4-7) Twinklestar the reindeer lands Santa in a heap of trouble when they make a bumpy and unplanned landing.

Moominland Midwinter (grades 4-7) Who covered up all Moomintroll’s favorite places with this wet, cold, white stuff? Off he goes to find out!

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares (grades 8-10) New York teenagers carry on a wintry scavenger hunt, neither knowing quite what—or who—they will find.

Winter of the Candy Canes (grades 9-12) Candace is working as an elf at the theme park this holiday season—but sometimes it’s hard to keep things merry and bright.

Isaac Asimov’s Christmas (grades 9-12) Ten thought-provoking stories that ask the question “What does Christmas Future look like?”

NYC Tech Coach for Visually Impaired Students Shares Value of Bookshare’s Online Library

2013 November 29
by Bookshare Team Member

David Cohen, the Vision Technology Coordinator for the New York City Department of Education’s District 75/Citywide Services, is considered the go-to guy for anything tech-related. David has 18 years experience working with students who are visually impaired (VI) in one of the largest districts in the United States. He says a good portion of VI students in his districts now attend general education classes and that “technology is an empowering learning solution for students and the district.”

David Cohen Bookshare Mentor Teacher sitting at his desk.

David Cohen, a Bookshare Mentor Teacher sitting at his desk.

David’s main job is to work with staff, students, and parents to help them evaluate personalized learning needs. Whether it’s assistive technology, digital accessible curriculum, or other accommodations, David wants everyone to know about the hardware, software, and resources that are available. “Our district does a great job of encouraging and supporting technology integration,” he says.

This forward-thinker is always looking for the next tool or cost-saving learning solution to provide students with low vision greater technology access and digital accessible books.

In 2011, he wrote an article for the ATMAC blog called “Putting Bookshare Books on the iPad.”  ATMAC  is a blog focused on assistive technology and Apple devices.

“I remember embracing the iPad early for VI students,” he recalls. “While there are numerous options for students who are auditory or braille readers, there’s always been a disconnect in technology for students who require large print and alternate contrast for visual reading. “That’s where Bookshare comes in.” David is a Bookshare Mentor Teacher. “One reason I joined the national network is to keep abreast of the access movement,” he says. “I also like to share what my district has been able to accomplish using the free library and reading tools.”

David saw the potential in Bookshare to be a cost- and time-saving resource when expediting digital books for his schools and students. “In the past, there was always an issue to get reading materials in braille, large print, and audio formats, and the cost of these materials magnified the challenge. When you see a visually impaired or blind student carrying heavy volumes of books around, you know there is a problem. Once we initiated the Bookshare process, digital accessible books opened up a new era of learning and reading freedom for them.”

David also says that kids don’t want to look different. “When they carry odd-looking devices or heavy volumes of books, they are embarrassed. Now they have over 1,000 books from Bookshare on a Braille Notetaker, and many use iPads for homework. With the Read2Go app, it’s much easier to download and read accessible books. And it doesn’t take long to train them because they get the technology! They understand the value and want to learn more.”

When teachers see how fast students catch on, David says, “they get the value, too!” Today, as many as 80 VI teachers have organizational memberships to Bookshare and serve an estimated 800 to 1,000 students. David reminds them at the beginning of each school term to get their reading list together. “That way, our staff can help them download the books from Bookshare on Reading Lists, and they are easily available for students to get them on time. When you translate the free Bookshare membership and reading tools to the number of students who can qualify, it’s quite a good investment of time and dollars. This is the reward I get for doing my job—better access and learning equality for students and time management and cost savings for our schools.”

About the Bookshare Mentor Teacher Program

The Bookshare Mentor Teacher program began in 2010 to support the nation’s top teachers and assistive technologists with training tools to engage educators, parents, and students in the effective use of Bookshare’s online library and reading technologies.  Since that time, over 500 educators and specialists have joined the network. They work in their local communities and schools to advocate on behalf of students with print disabilities.  They also develop and share best practices across the United States.

Learn more about the Bookshare Mentor Teacher program at:

November – A Time to Give Thanks!

2013 November 25
by Bookshare Team Member

Any day is a good day to honor people, and November is the time to celebrate families, sacrifices made and the human spirit.  So today, we give thanks for you! Our members, volunteers, teachers, sponsors, parents, disability advocates, Veterans, and everyone who works to make the world a better place.

Original artwork by Bookshare member Elina Hughes of her beloved grandparents.

Original artwork by Bookshare member Elina Hughes of her beloved grandparents.

There are many ways we can express gratitude, such as painting a picture of loved ones, praising your child for reading a book, honoring a Veteran, sharing a life experience, hugging a pet, or enjoying a movie that is closed-captioned and accessible.

Whatever holiday or tradition you celebrate this week, here’s to life’s special moments!  And with that, we give you a list of titles about Thanksgiving to delight our young members in grades K-12.


Thanksgiving Mice   (grades K-2)

Four young mice share the story of how their ancestors came to America with the Pilgrims.

Thanksgiving Rules  (grades 2-4)

Percy Gifford offers ten rules to make the most of this holiday—but do they all center around food?

Nickommoh: A Thanksgiving Celebration  (grades 2-4)

Native Americans on Narragansett have long celebrated the harvest with a joyous gathering.

If You Were at the First Thanksgiving (grades 2-5)

Over half of the Pilgrims were children. What would life be like if you were among them?

Thanksgiving Day Parade Mystery  (grades 3-5)

How could a whole marching band just…disappear?

Turkeys, Pilgrims and Indian Corn  (grades 4-6)

Learn more about how the Plymouth settlers lived, thought, worked, and celebrated through this lively examination of holiday symbols.

Smashed Potatoes and Other Thanksgiving Disasters (grades 4-6)

When Megan and Jeremy’s mom can’t make their traditional holiday meal, the kids figure it can’t be too difficult to do themselves.

 Thanksgiving Thief (grades 4-6)

Nancy Drew and her friends are hot on the trail of a no-good turkey snatcher!

Constance  (grades 6-8)

Experience the first years of the Plymouth colony through the eyes of a young woman discovering what paths her life will take in this new world.

A Great and Godly Adventure  (grades 9-12)

An entertaining peek behind the legends that surround our Thanksgiving traditions, looking at how the first year of the Plymouth settlement really unfolded.

Special thanks to our Bookshare Collections Department for always creating super fun reading lists!


Jessie Rogers, Bookshare Member and Teen Author Talks About Her New Book, Fairy Sight

2013 November 18
by Bookshare Team Member
member party

Bookshare Member Party at NFB 2013 Conference. A crowded room of members raising their hands in game quiz.

Earlier this year, at our member party at the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) conference (2013), we met lots of cool members!  One of these members, was 17 year old, Jessie Rogers, a budding teen author.  Jessie’s first book is Fairy Sight, about a magical orb and it’s now available in the Bookshare collection and on Amazon.

Photo of Jessie Rogers (third in photo with blue and white dress) with three friends.

Photo of Jessie Rogers (third in photo with blue and white dress) with three friends.

Fairy Sight is about a magical orb that protects the kingdom of Adoraun. When the orb disappears, the prince believes his betrothed bride has taken it. He sets out on an adventure to regain the stolen magic and is thrust into a perilous battle with evil. Jessie had the inspiration to write the book after a visit to a local museum where she touched a plasma ball. Now, she goes by the pen name, ‘Blind Writer,’ and when asked about her disability, she says, “Yes, I’m blind, but I will never let that fact darken my world.”

This avid reader fell in love with words in 3rd grade through the encouragement of her teacher aide, Gladys Justice. Jessie pays tribute to Mrs. Justice in her book for the love and support.  As a young child, Jessie was encouraged to write poetry, songs and short stories. She also loved spending time in her library in Churchill TN reading/listening to audio books.  In 7th grade, a vision teacher introduced her to Bookshare. “That’s when my voracious appetite for reading grew exponentially!” shared Jessie. “You can find and read books faster in digital accessible formats.”

Jessie says, “I love Bookshare because the collections are vast and include my favorite genres — magic, vampires, and science fiction.  Books are easy to download directly to my smart phone with Read2Go or to my Victor Reader Stream.”  She estimates that she has 20 books downloaded on her reading list today and typically reads two books at a time. Her favorite book is “Moss Flower” by Brian Jacques and she also enjoys titles by Scott Westerfield and P.C. Cast, who writes the “House of Night” series.  A quick search in the Bookshare library on science fiction holds more than 10,100 titles.

When Fairy Sight was published, Jessie’s friends asked how they could read her book. “That’s when I knew I had to get it into Bookshare. I wanted teens, like me, to enjoy reading as much as I do and it only took a week to get it into the collection.”

In addition to her fans online, Jessie recently met a local fan at a youth church. The fan was reading Fairy Sight for a back to school writing assignment. What about a sequel?  Jessie is writing a dystopian thriller.  Bookshare looks forward to adding it to the collection. Watch an interview with Jessie on  a local TV station on You Tube  and visit her blog, “Musings from a Blind Writer.

Vision Loss Hasn’t Stopped Veteran from Pursuing Career and Personal Goals

2013 November 11
by Bookshare Team Member
Brian Higgins standing with his cane

Brian Higgins preparing for the white cane walk.

Brian Higgins is a six-year member of Bookshare. He is also a member of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) and a Supervisor of Computer Access and Technology in the Western Blind Rehab Center located in Palo Alto, California.

Brian likes the Bookshare library because of its vast collection of titles and the team’s responsiveness to his professional needs. “I’ve taken college textbooks for a Veteran returning to college in to Bookshare and they scan it,” he said. “And I also like to recommend Bookshare’s new special collection of military titles to my friends at the BVA.”

At work, Brian trains young adults, seniors, and disabled Veterans about computers, technology, and access. Individuals who come to his center may be returning to school, learning a new vocation, or using a computer for the first time. Brian teaches them about digital accessible books.

Since suffering vision loss 15 years ago, Brian has counted on the library for personal and professional eBooks. “Bookshare provides resources that I could not readily find prior to membership. I like to read history and am always on the hunt for books on electrical engineering, and computer programming, as well as college textbooks and technical manuals. Bookshare has them!”

Brian demonstrates his robotic dog for Bookshare staffer, Cherie Miller.

Brian demonstrates his robotic dog for Bookshare staffer, Cherie Miller.

Brian uses an iPad with Bookshare’s easy-to-use eReader app, Read2Go. He just downloaded “Natural Language Processing with Python” to investigate computer programming for an electronic guide dog robot he developed. “Some of your independence goes away, like driving, when you lose your vision,” he said. “I’m always thinking about how to use technology to help others—a similar mission to that of Benetech, Bookshare’s parent nonprofit organization. A robotic guide dog may be another good alternative to man’s best friend.”

Bookshare for Disabled Veterans

Today, Bookshare serves over 250,000 members with qualified print disabilities, including persons who are blind or have low vision, a physical disability, or a severe reading disability like dyslexia. The library is free to any U.S. student who qualifies, including disabled Veterans, thanks to awards made by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.

For nonstudent disabled Veterans who qualify, Bookshare offers a free 30 day trial membership where 20 digital accessible books can be downloaded and free reading tools and apps can be used.

After the trial, an annual fee of $50 allows full access to Bookshare’s collection of over 210,000 accessible eBooks, including a special military collection.  Titles can be easily searched, downloaded, and read on a variety of devices like a computer, tablet, smart phone, MP3 player, or refreshable braille device.

Disabled Veterans receiving services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs through the Vocational, Rehabilitation and Employment Program (VET Success) may also be eligible for a free membership. Veterans’ hospitals and related associations can contact

To sign up and for more information visit: