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Help Your Child Become a Reading STAR

2017 May 25

Sign that says Reading in Progress Do Not Disturb!Follow these guidelines to set your child up for summer reading success

As the end of school draws near, students dream of summer freedom – freedom to choose some fun activities as well as the books they want to read.

Is your child ready for summer reading? Make sure they have access to Bookshare, either with a Student Login provided by their teacher or with an Individual Membership. Then follow these guidelines to help your child become a reading STAR*:

SpaceBook cover for A Boy Called Bat by Elana K Arnold

  • Encourage reading anywhere and everywhere
  • Try places like the beach, the pool, grandma’s house, a tent in the backyard, a hammock, the park, a blanket fort, or in the car


  • Reading doesn’t just spontaneously happen.
  • Set aside specific times to read each day: before bedtime, while waiting for dinner, before going out to play, or whatever works best for your family

Access to booksBook cover for The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

  • Let kids be “free range” and choose their own books; we’ve got great recommendations below (if your child has a Student Login through school, make sure teachers have assigned books to your child for summer)
  • Have plenty of books downloaded for reading in the car
  • Download books that your child’s friends are reading so he or she can join the conversation
  • Visit the public library regularly, let your child find appealing books, note the titles, and then download those books in Bookshare when you get home


  • Try all types of reading: solo silent reading, take turns reading passages aloud with your child, or read the same book your child is reading and have a book club discussion
  • Children who observe parents reading become better readers themselves, so set a good example by turning off the TV and reading a book

Bookshare has Summer Reading Lists for All AgesBook cover for A Dragon's Guide to Making Perfect Wishes by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder

The Bookshare librarians have created special Summer Reading Lists for all ages and interests to kick start your child’s summer reading. Here are just a few of the engaging titles:

Book cover for Carve the Mark by Veronica RothBook cover for Alvin Ho by Lenore LookBook cover for Dory Fantasmagory by Abby HanlonBook cover for The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade by Max Brallier

What are you waiting for? Help your child find a comfortable spot, set aside some quiet time, choose a book, and dive in. They will be on their way to reading STARdom in no time.

*Thanks to Ali Posner, Ph.D., Education, for these helpful summer reading tips.

Veronica Lewis is a Champion of Self-Advocacy

2017 May 18

Bookshare member successfully navigates college life and offers valuable advice for students with disabilities

“A disability is something you have, not who you are.”Veronica Lewis holding her white cane

As graduation nears for many high school students, thoughts turn to college and the importance of survival skills. Topping the list is the ability to advocate for yourself because the days of spoon-feeding and hand-holding are over. This advice is especially important for students with disabilities, and a student who embodies this sentiment completely is Veronica Lewis.

“Self-advocacy is learning how to speak up for yourself, as well as learning, building a support network, problem solving, and knowing when to reach out for help,” says Veronica. “It’s an Graphic that says: 10 questions to ask when choosing a collegeextremely important skill to have, as there may not always be someone with you when a situation comes up. This skill has benefited me greatly outside of school, in college, and beyond.”

Veronica, a student at a university in the Virginia/Washington, D.C. area, is studying software engineering and assistive technology in order to develop tools for people like herself with low vision. Bookshare is a big reason why she wants to pursue this field. In 2011, she attended an assistive technology conference for students with disabilities where she learned about Bookshare. She quickly became a member and started downloading accessible ebooks from its extensive library, which now exceeds 550,000 titles.

Reading Before and After Bookshare

“Before Bookshare came along, I was limited to the large print section of the Book cover for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddonpublic library which was filled with romance novels and had no age-appropriate books for thirteen-year-old girls,” explains Veronica. “I tried to order other large print books but often the font wasn’t large enough, and the books were expensive and too big to lug around. Then came Bookshare and the Nook ereader which changed my life.”

Bookshare’s library of accessible ebooks solved the problems associated with selection, format, and cost. Membership is free to all U.S. students who qualify. “Thanks to features like enlarged fonts and adjustable color contrast I can have the same reading experience as my sighted friends,” she exclaimed. Veronica uses a variety of reading tools and electronic devices to read books: iPad, Nook and the Go Read app for Android, and Bookshare Web Reader. She enjoys disability literature, nonfiction, memoirs, and books for her English classes. “Most popular books are available instantly so I can read them and join the conversation. I love to get lost in a book,” says Veronica.

Advice for Students with Visual ImpairmentsVeronica Lewis reading an ebook on a tablet

Veronica recommends these tips to build a network of resources:

  1. Ask questions. Make sure you know exactly what services you can receive and how you receive them.
  2. The world doesn’t have a large print setting you can toggle on and off. If someone hands you a document with small print, develop a plan in advance for making it accessible so you can keep up with schoolwork.
  3. When considering colleges, evaluate the Disabled Student Services (DSS) and make sure the staff will work with you proactively to give you the tools you need. Read Veronica’s blog: Ten questions to ask when choosing a college.
  4. If you report a problem, offer a solution – help people give you the help you need.

Seeing the World with Four Eyes Open

Veronica started her Assistive Technology blog ( to reach out to people with low vision or blindness and let them know they can be successful. She strives to be a role model for younger students and show how they can do amazing things just like their sighted friends. She also offers valuable advice for teachers, parents, and friends of these students. Here are just a few of her engaging and informative blog posts:

On Veronica’s digital bookshelf:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Many thanks to Veronica for sharing her story and for being a strong advocate for Bookshare by urging the Virginia members of Congress to support renewed funding for Bookshare. Follow Veronica on Twitter: @Veron4ica

Set Students Up for Reading Success this Summer and Beyond

2017 May 11

Teachers: follow this checklist before school ends so students are ready for a summer reading bonanza

Great readers are made, not born. For students with disabilities, the path to reading greatness may Book cover for The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloydrequire tools and support. We know the final weeks of the school year are hectic, so here’s a handy checklist to help you get your students ready for delightful summer reading and the upcoming school year.

According to Reading Rockets, studies show that most students experience a loss of reading skills over the summer months, but children who continue to read will gain skills. Help students avoid the dreaded “summer slide” by completing these steps before the final school bell rings.

If your students are already set up to access Bookshare independently, jump ahead to learn about our special Summer Reading Lists.

End-of-Year Checklist for Teachers

  • Get students access to Bookshare with a Student Login or Individual Membership
    1. With a Student Login, they can log into Bookshare with their own username and password and read books assigned by teachers (video/PDF)
    2. With an Individual Membership, they can log in, find, and read books on their own (video/PDF)
  • Get books to students
    1. Check out the special Summer Reading Lists below
    2. Assign Reading Lists to students (PDF)

Book cover for Sweetbitter by Stephanie DanlerBook cover for Ship Breaker by Paolo BacigalupiBook cover for The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade by Max BrallierBook cover for Summerlost by Ally Condie

Summer Reading Students Will Love

Now that your students are set to use Bookshare this summer, it’s time to find some books. Our librarians have handpicked wonderful titles and organized them into Summer Reading Lists for enthusiastic readers of all ages and interests. Here are just a few titles to pique your students’ interest:

We encourage you to take these steps now to enable students to read independently during the summer and be ready for a successful start in the fall. Time to dive into a good book!


Bookshare Volunteers Expand Collection

2017 April 25

We are grateful for the dedicated volunteers who help us bring more books to more members

By Vanessa Wai, Communities Manager, Benetech Global Literacy Program

April 23-29 is National Volunteer Week. This year the theme is “Service Unites.” This theme aptly describes the amazing work of our incredible Bookshare members and Logo for National Volunteer Week that says Service Unites - Points of Lightvolunteers.

Bookshare started as a community program that connected blind and visually impaired individuals in order to share their scanned books with each other. Members scanned and uploaded their books so that other members could enjoy them without duplicating the effort of scanning the books themselves. Since then, the Bookshare community has grown to over 470,000 members, 820 publisher partners, 150 volunteers, 790 Mentor Teachers, 160 Parent Ambassadors, plus thousands of schools, districts, sponsors, educators, parents, students, and friends.

Today, volunteers continue this tradition of adding books to the collection. In 2016, volunteers added 602 books into the collection, which is a total of 280,882 pages! All books go through a three-step process and are reviewed by at least three different volunteers to ensure high quality, accessible ebooks.

Volunteer process flowchart that says: 1. Scanning Volunteers, 2. Proofreading Volunteers, 3. Approval Queue Volunteers

First, scanning volunteers scan and submit books. Second, proofreading volunteers proofread the scanned books to correct errors and format for accessibility. Third, approval queue volunteers review and approve books to go into the Bookshare collection.

Bookshare volunteer Evan Reese scans and proofs books

Bookshare volunteer Evan Reese scans and proofs books

Evan Reese, Bookshare member and volunteer in Ohio, says:

It’s truly marvelous that people all over the country can work together to make books  accessible for those of us who can’t read regular print that otherwise wouldn’t be available anywhere. Only Bookshare lets us do this kind of thing. Nowhere else can people have the desire to read something that’s inaccessible, make their wish known, and get their wish granted in a few weeks. And that doesn’t take into account the likelihood of many other Bookshare members, finding out about the book once it’s in the collection, who will be able to read and enjoy it who otherwise never would.

Because of our volunteers’ efforts, members are able to access thousands of books that we would not otherwise have in our library. In 2016, members downloaded the books added by volunteers a total of 85,723 times! Below is the list of the top ten most downloaded volunteer-added books with their corresponding volunteers.

Title, Number of Downloads, Volunteer Scanner, Volunteer ProofreaderCover image for Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 2523, Deborah M., Nicholas W.
  2. Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2), 645, Eric T., Scott B.
  3. The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3), 551 Eric T., Satauna H.
  4. Horton Hears a Who!, 130, Tonilyn T., Lena H.
  5. Frog and Toad Together, 119, Lissi D., Evan R.
  6. Fablehaven (Fablehaven Series, Book 1), 118, Christamae Z., Amber W.
  7. Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (Joey Pigza #1), 102, Anthony I., Satauna H.
  8. Tigers at Twilight (Magic Tree House #19), 99, Tami F., Pratik P.
  9. The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, 97, Ron P., Lea T.
  10. Wayside School is Falling Down, 95, Sarah K., Karen B.

I am truly amazed by the resilience and dedication of our Bookshare Volunteers. In 2007, we were five years old and Bookshare had over 26,000 books in the collection – all scanned by dedicated volunteers and staff. And now, ten years later, because of the amazing work of this community and our publisher partners, we now have over 545,000 books in our collection. It’s astonishing how much Bookshare has grown. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of our community. Thank you!

Are you interested in becoming a Bookshare Volunteer? Learn more about our volunteer opportunities and click on Sign Up to get started.


Bookshare Has 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winners for Stimulating Spring Reading

2017 April 20

By guest author Guillian Hetzler, Bookshare Digital Content Manager

Spring is here and with it the annual announcement of the Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists. Established by newspaper publishing magnate Joseph Pulitzer, the prizes have honored excellence in journalism and the arts since 1917.  The Bookshare team is very pleased to feature this impressive list of winners and finalists that are available now in the collection.

History Winner:Book cover for Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson

Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson

The first definitive history of the infamous 1971 Attica prison uprising, the state’s violent response, and the victims’ decades-long quest for justice.

“Writing with cinematic clarity from meticulously sourced material, [Thompson] brilliantly exposes the realities of the Attica prison uprising . . . Thompson’s superb and thorough study serves as a powerful tale of the search for justice in the face of the abuses of institutional power.” —Publishers Weekly

History Finalists:

Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men From France and Spain Who Saved It by Larrie D. Ferreiro

New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America by Wendy Warren

Book cover for The Return: Fathers and Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham MatarAutobiography/Biography Winner:

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar

An acclaimed memoir about fathers and sons, a legacy of loss, and, ultimately, healing.

“[The Return] roves back and forth in time with a freedom that conceals the intricate precision of its art. One of the greatest achievements of this outstanding book is a narrative design that keeps us hungry for new information even when we suspect exactly what has happened. . . . Mr. Matar is not a wonderful writer because his father disappeared or because his homeland is a mess: He is a brilliant narrative architect and prose stylist, his pared-down approach and measured pace a striking complement to the emotional tumult of his material.”—Wall Street Journal

Autobiography/Biography Finalists:

In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Nonfiction Winner:Book cover for Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

In Evicted, Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads.

“It regally combines policy reporting and ethnography…. After reading Evicted, you’ll realize you cannot have a serious conversation about poverty without talking about housing. You will also have the mad urge to press it into the hands of every elected official you meet. The book is that good, and it’s that unignorable. Nothing else this year came close.” —Jennifer Senior, New York Times Critics’ Top Books of 2016

Nonfiction finalists:

In a Different Key: The Story of Autism by John Donvan and Karen Zucker

The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery by Micki McElya

Book cover for The Underground Railroad by Colson WhiteheadFiction Winner:

The Underground Railroad: A Novel by Colson Whitehead

A magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.

“[A] potent, almost hallucinatory novel… It possesses the chilling matter-of-fact power of the slave narratives collected by the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s, with echoes of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and brush strokes borrowed from Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka and Jonathan Swift…He has told a story essential to our understanding of the American past and the American present.”
–Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

Fiction Finalists:

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan

For even more great reads, visit:

Not yet a member? Learn more about who qualifies and how to sign up.

Coming next week: exciting spring books for students!

From Brazil to Brooklyn

2017 April 6

Bookshare helps Antonio Guimaraes navigate continents, schools, cities, and careers

Antonio Guimaraes on the New York subway

Antonio Guimaraes on the New York subway

Antonio Guimaraes remembers those laborious days in college when he spent hours at the scanner using an OCR reader to convert his printed textbooks to digital text and audio. “I queued up some music and fired up my Kurzweil 1000. Two hours later I still wasn’t finished scanning my textbook, so I would take breaks and mark the next starting point with a paper clip,” says Antonio.

Fortunately, for Antonio and others like him who are blind or visually impaired, the technology supporting reading software and assistive devices has advanced tremendously. Antonio first read about Bookshare in the Braille Monitor, the leading publication of the National Federation of the Blind. He became a Bookshare member as a student in the early 2000s to gain free access to its library of accessible ebooks that now exceeds 540,000 titles. “The technology has advanced so much,” says Antonio, “that now I can open my favorite reading app, search for a title, download it, and start reading while I wait for my latte at Starbucks. I can go to a lecture by an author and download his or her book in seconds, often before a sighted person can get a copy.”

From Brazil to Brooklyn

Antonio has taken full advantage of all the benefits that technology offers persons who are blind or visually impaired. Born in Brazil, he moved to Florida at age Book cover for Grit by Angela Duckworthfourteen where he attended the Florida School for the Deaf & the Blind in St. Augustine. In addition to learning English, he also had to learn a new braille code including Nemeth, which is a code for mathematical and scientific notation using standard six-dot Braille cells for tactile reading.

In 2016, he graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, with a bachelor of arts in communication. In the past, he has lived in Fall River, Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island, but found those cities didn’t offer enough in terms of opportunity, transportation, and independence for a blind person who prefers to navigate himself rather than rely on paratransit services. He now lives in Brooklyn and enjoys the flexibility and availability of public transit services in New York City.

Bookshare is the Path to Knowledge and Self-Improvement

Antonio mostly reads how-to and nonfiction books using Voice Dream Reader on his iPhone. “Today I can benefit from anything books provide, from how to form a nonprofit to how to program in Swift for iOS,” he says. Books on those topics have come in handy for Book cover for Starting & Building a Nonprofit by Peri PakrooAntonio as president of Access to Places LLC, a company he founded in 2015 that is developing a public transit app to help blind commuters find their way in and out of metro stations. Antonio is the idea person behind the app, and the team includes a designer and an app developer. “The app will eventually include written descriptions of metro stations. The first version will allow the user to list the train stations on a specific line or trip. In this way, users can look ahead and keep track of their destination station and know when to get off the train,” explains Antonio. He anticipates that the app will be available in the app store later this spring.

“There is no shortage of books to read that help me become the person I want to be,” he says. Antonio is a braille reader, but he doesn’t use it a lot for reading Bookshare books. But, he says, “It’s certainly an option and a great way to check spelling on words I want to know.”

What advice does Antonio have for others who are blind? “I have a little secret. I went for months not knowing exactly how to read books in Voice Dream Reader. I finally asked someone to show me how to use the app, and it is one of the apps I use the most now. All I had to do was ask. So if you don’t know something, ask around and someone is bound to know it and patient enough to teach you.” That’s a secret worth sharing.

On Antonio’s Digital Bookshelf

I Never Knew That About New York by Christopher WinnBook cover for I Never Knew That About New York by Christopher Winn

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – by Angela Duckworth

Starting and Building a Nonprofit by Peri Pakroo

Nonprofit Meetings, Minutes, and Records by Anthony Mancuso

Project Management: Absolute Beginners Guide by Greg Horine

Writers Market 2017 – by Robert Lee Brewer

Crock-Pot Recipe Collection by Lou Weber

Bookshare (Still) Needs Your Support

2017 March 23

Ask your Members of Congress to approve funding so Bookshare can continue to offer free, accessible ebooks to U.S. students with disabilities.

By Jim Fruchterman, Founder and CEO, Benetech

Bookshare funding remains in jeopardy as Congress continues to consider the budget for both the 2017 Bookshare, A Benetech Initiative, logo and 2018 fiscal years. We urgently need your help to ensure that Bookshare’s federal funding is not eliminated. For those of you who contacted your Members of Congress last fall and urged them to support Bookshare funding, we thank you for your efforts and dedication to date, but we need your help by writing to Congress again.

We urge you all to send a letter to your senators and representative. We encourage you to personalize these letters by including information about the impact Bookshare has had on you, in your school, or for your child. This is a critical time for Bookshare, and your help is essential to ensure that the program will continue.

Bookshare Funding Recap

Paloma reads an accessible ebook from the Bookshare library on her iPad

Paloma, a student with dyslexia, reads an accessible ebook from the Bookshare library on her iPad

Last fall, the House of Representatives proposed an FY2017 funding bill that would, in effect, defund Bookshare. In recent months, we have worked with Bookshare supporters in specifically targeted states and districts to advocate for the program that provides funding for Bookshare, known as the Educational Technology, Media, and Materials Program. Last December, the House of Representatives approved a short-term spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution, which funded the government at current levels through April 28, 2017.

The Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee is currently considering the funding decisions for this program for both FY2018 and the remainder of FY2017, so now is a critical time to show your support for Bookshare. Letters by Representative John Yarmuth and Senator Chris Murphy are being circulated in their respective chambers in support of the Educational Technology, Media, and Materials Program that helps to fund Bookshare. I recently traveled to Washington, D.C., with several members of the Bookshare team and met with key members of Congress and urged them to vote to approve the funding.

Bookshare is Indispensable for Students like Veronica

Veronica, a college student in Virginia, has low vision and is unable to read standard printed books. She shared her experience as a Bookshare member in a letter to her local representative:Veronica, a college student with low vision, has been a Bookshare member since 2011.

I have been using Bookshare since 2011 and it has dramatically changed the way I read. Once I got Bookshare, I could carry my books around on an eReader or tablet and download a book almost instantly. I started reading more and was able to join more discussions in class. Education is invaluable, and with accessible materials, more students are able to learn and pursue higher-level education, enter the workforce, and contribute to society. By making these books accessible through Bookshare, students can thrive in the educational environment.

From all of us at Benetech and Bookshare, thank you for your continued and vital support.

Button that says Write to Congress Now

Bookshare is a Lifeline for the Blind Community in Latin America

2017 March 7

Bookshare es una línea de vida para la comunidad ciega en América Latina

Special thanks to Gerardo Corripio, a Bookshare international member and native of Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico, for this article. Because of Gerardo’s efforts many Latin Americans who are blind are now aware of the advantages of accessible ebooks and technologies through Bookshare.  

Bookshare member, Gerardo Corripio, says, “What a feeling to be able to make a difference in another Photo of Gerardo Corripio, Bookshare member in Mexico CityLatin American’s life.” Gerardo has used Bookshare for many years and says the online library is a lifeline for him and for people who are blind in his country of Mexico. “Bookshare is one of very few resources for the disability community,” he says, especially if they do not speak English.

Gerardo, who became blind at birth and also suffered severe hearing loss, has shown incredible gratitude for the people who believed in him and for the resources that have supported him. Throughout his life, he has taken that appreciation to heart with a mission to help the Latin American blind community prosper too.

Logo for Instituto de Estudios Superiores de TamaulipasFirst Blind Student to Attend a Private University in Tampico, Mexico

Thanks to supportive parents and two university administrators at the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Tamaulipas (IEST) who believed in him, Gerardo was the first blind student to be accepted to a private university. He said, “Even though I lacked two important senses (sight and sound), with proper support from my parents, professors, classmates, and other university staff, plus the skills I learned to accommodate my blindness, I was able to study in a mainstream classroom and perform at the same level as my sighted peers.”

He received a degree in psychology and wrote a thesis on “The Adaptation Process of Families with Visual Impairments.” “Attending a private institution was a rare opportunity that most people in my country will never have,” he says. Yet, when a local parent heard about his accomplishments, she sent her son to the college and many more students with disabilities followed.

Improve English Skills with Text-to-Speech

Not only does Gerardo like to read accessible ebooks on all kinds of technologies using Bookshare, he Cover for Mindful Coaching by Liz Hallcan also polish his English skills listening to text-to-speech. He reads ebooks using apps on various devices, such as an iPhone with Voice Dream Reader, a computer using Kurzweil 1000, and Victor Reader Stream. Although he typically reads in English, Gerardo tells others about the vast Bookshare collection of over 500,000 titles, including 12,000 books in Spanish and other languages available to international members who qualify.

Advocating for Bookshare in Latin America

“The internet has given me the ability to connect with a community to share my knowledge,” says Gerardo. When he is not working with clients, he broadcasts for Eibero America and Radio General, two online radio stations started by two of his blind friends in 2009 to educate the Latin American blind community.

Gerardo creates podcasts and articles on topics such as Braille, technology using Windows, and tips on using Android and iOS smartphones. During his eight-year tenure on Eibero America, Gerardo has also discussed the psychological well-being of people living with blindness, as well as how to use Bookshare and assistive technology devices. To date, there are over 2,700 listeners, and many individuals download his episodes.

And if that isn’t enough advocacy, Gerardo also enjoys discussions about notable books on Twitter and through book review groups, including a Bookshare FreeList discussion group, the new Bookshare-hosted discussion forum, and Bookshare Twitter.

In addition, Gerardo has formed two groups — Accessibility for All, a Spanish blindness group, and Universal Access English Matters — where he discusses books he is reading. One recent favorite is Mindful Coaching, a psychology book by Liz Hall.

Bridging Social and Cultural Barriers

Gerardo insists that book topics can bridge diversity, improve cultural integration, and break through barriers to learning. “To read, learn, and share knowledge is a human obligation,” he says. “Discussing a book or sharing an interesting fact will never go out of style. I want to thank the Bookshare staff. The library has made a difference in my life and is a lifeline for people with print disabilities around the world to achieve reading equality. I hope my advocacy will help more individuals in Latin America learn about the advantages of accessible ebooks, and together we can open the door to improved social integration, meaningful conversations, further academic pursuits, and lasting friendships.”

Rompiendo barreras sociales y culturales

Gerardo insista que los temas de los libros pueden tender puentes sobre la diversidad, mejorar integración cultural y romper barreras al aprendizaje. “Leer, aprender y compartir conocimiento es una obligación humana,” él dice. “Conversar sobre un libro o compartir un dato interesante nunca pasa de moda. Quiero agradecerle al personal de Bookshare. La biblioteca ha hecho una gran diferencia en mi vida y es un salvavidas para gente con discapacidad para la lectura en todo el mundo lograr equidad de lectura. Espero que mi promoción ayudará a otros individuales en Latinoamérica aprender de las ventajas de ebooks accesibles, y juntos podemos abrir la puerta a mejor integración social, conversaciones significativas, emprendimientos académicos y amistades duraderos.”

Thanks to Rachel Bernstein, Program Manager, Benetech Human Rights, for her Spanish translation services.

Benetech Showcases Leading Edge Literacy Initiatives at 32nd Annual CSUN Conference

2017 February 23

See what’s new with Bookshare, DIAGRAM and Born Accessible

Assistive technology — whether it’s a mobile app or a modified wheelchair — can transform the lives of people with disabilities. The latest in the field of assistive CSUN Assistive Technology Conference logotechnology will be the focus of the world’s largest gathering of people who develop or use assistive technology, taking place at the 32nd Annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference from February 27-March 3 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego.

The “CSUN Conference,” as it is known in the industry, is organized by California State University, Northridge’s Center on Disabilities. It provides a unique opportunity for people with disabilities to have direct input on the creation of or modifications to assistive technologies intended to make their lives easier. The conference explores all aspects of technology and disabilities, and it features a faculty of internationally-recognized speakers, more than 400 general session workshops, and more than 120 exhibitors displaying the latest technologies for people with disabilities.

Benetech, a nonprofit that empowers communities in need by creating software for social good, is committed to driving innovation in assistive technology to Amaya and McKenzie, Benetech staff, in the Benetech booth at a conferencepromote inclusiveness for people with disabilities. Access to literacy is a basic human right, yet there are millions of people who are denied this right because they cannot read text, see images, or manage traditional books due to disabilities. Benetech strives to make information accessible to all by leveraging technology to remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from reading and learning.

To that end, the Benetech team is excited to have a significant presence at the conference and showcase the latest developments in three key initiatives dedicated to making literacy accessible to all:

  • Bookshare – the world’s largest library of accessible ebooks that lets people with visual, physical, and learning disabilities like dyslexia read in ways that work for them
  • DIAGRAM – a research and development center whose goal is to dramatically change the way image, graphic, and math content is produced and accessed
  • Born Accessible – an initiative dedicated to driving systemic change by helping publishers create accessible books at the onset

We invite you to visit the Benetech booth (#722) and watch reading tool demos by our partners Voice Dream, HumanWare, Kurzweil, Capti, HIMS, and Dolphin. We will be in the exhibit hall on Wednesday from 12:00-7:00 pm and on Thursday and Friday from 9:30 am-5:30 pm. Read the full demo schedule.

In addition to the exhibit hall, you can find us presenting at the following sessions:

Thursday, March 2

Friday, March 3

Benetech is honored to join scientists, practitioners, educators, government officials, industry executives and entrepreneurs who are committed to driving innovation in assistive technology to promote inclusiveness for people with disabilities. We hope you will join us at the conference.

Consult the full conference schedule for exact session locations. The CSUN Conference Exhibit Hall is free and open to the public.

Bookshare Welcomes Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention Series to Collection

2017 February 16

Donation by Carol Lake provides 110 engaging leveled books in accessible format to help young readers

The Bookshare team receives several hundred requests each month from students and educators looking for specific books. If we can’t get a book directly from one of the 820 publishers we have agreements with, we buy the book, chop it up, and scan it. But what happens when the request is for a series consisting of 110 books?

According to Robin Reddell, a member of Bookshare’s Collection Development team, “Many teachers

Illustration from Dinner with Maisy showing a father, mother, son and daughter at the dinner table with Maisy the dog holding her bowl

Illustration from Dinner for Maisy, a Level H book, by Aimee Meacham

have requested the Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) Green System for grades K-1. Unfortunately, our budget wasn’t large enough to purchase the whole system, but thanks to a generous donation from Carol Lake, a long-time member and donor, we were able to purchase all 110 books.”

This highly regarded system, developed by Irene Fountas, professor at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Gay Su Pinnell, Professor Emeritus in the School of Teaching and Learning at The Ohio State University, is used by districts across the U.S. as a Tier 2 or Tier 3 Response to Intervention as described by the National Center for Learning Disabilities. “These leveled books are designed for students who have difficulty reading at grade level, such as students with dyslexia or other learning disabilities,” says Robin.

Teacher with young students using computers with headphoneAt the heart of LLI are high-quality leveled books in a variety of genres that are designed to engage even the most reluctant readers. The books are sequenced and calibrated according to the F&P Text Level Gradient™ in order to provide gradually increasing text complexity that fosters reading proficiency. Each level builds on the previous one so that students can be successful at their own pace. Great care was taken to ensure each book conforms to the characteristics of texts at a particular level as described in The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum.

Use of these books is flexible: leveled books can be used in the highly scripted LLI program or as teachers choose in designing programs for their students’ specific needs. The Bookshare team is thrilled to offer the LLI Green System (Levels A-J) in accessible formats to students with learning disabilities so they can take advantage of the accessibility features such as text-to-speech and word highlighting.

Robin, a former elementary school teacher, is dedicating the Fountas & Pinnell series as the first Book cover for Bad-Luck Day by Joanna Korbaentrants in the Kathleen Meagher Teacher’s Collection in honor of her late friend and mentor in the Palo Alto Unified School District in California. We hope to add additional Fountas & Pinnell levels as more funding becomes available.

Here are just a few of the wonderful books in the Green System:

Button that says Learn More and links to the Fountas & Pinnell collection in Bookshare

Bookshare is the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities. U.S. students with qualifying disabilities get free access due to a grant from the Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.