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Bookshare is an Eye-Opener for New Canadian Members

2015 June 10

Canadians with print disabilities are reading like never before through a partnership between the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) and Bookshare, the world’s largest accessible online library. Canadians with visual, physical and learning disabilities can sign up for free Bookshare memberships and access over 345,000 titles!

So how do Canadian members like Bookshare? Let’s check in with three new members.

Vashti Persaud became a Bookshare member in March and is already amazed.Vashti is a Bookshare member who lives in Canada and suffers from uvetic glaucoma

“I’ve just started to download, but it’s been amazing! Ocular fatigue is a big issue for me. Ordinarily, I spend ten minutes in front of a computer or a book before my minimal vision deteriorates, and I can’t work or read anymore. Because I am monocular and suffer from uvetic glaucoma, glare is also a challenge.”

Bookshare’s ebooks allow Vashti to adjust the print size, font colors, and background contrasts making reading easier on her eyes. When her eyes get tired, she listens to books with VoiceOver, a gesture-based screen reader that also helps prevent headaches.

She is also finding many different uses for the books she reads.

“I read a lot of fiction and autobiographies. I use mobile and Mac devices, as well as an iPad. I’m even considering starting a book club with my friends called “Book and a Bottle” and will be pursuing continuing education courses. Bookshare has literally been an eye-opener!”

Bookshare is Liberating

Fran Cutler is an Ottawan with Stargard macular dystrophy, a rare eye condition. Fran used to wait for weeks to get the books she wanted in audio format. With Bookshare, she gets books faster and enjoys reading them at the same time as her friends.

Fran Cutler is a Bookshare member who lives in Canada and suffers from Stargard macular dystrophyFran said, “I heard an interview with author Alan Gold about Bell of the Desert. This fictionalized work on the life of Gertrude Bell, the British adventurer, diplomat, and scholar, takes place in the Middle East during and after World War I. I searched Bookshare and found it had been added on January 25, 2015. Fast work!”

Fran’s friends can’t believe how it all works. She demonstrates how easy it is to download books from Bookshare onto her iPhone and then read them using Read2Go, an ebook reader for iOS devices.  “It takes just five seconds and I get the books! Seriously, it’s great to be able to read what friends are reading and recommend books to them. Bookshare liberates me from the frustration of waiting months or years to catch up on what my friends were talking about.”

Text-to-Speech Can Still Make You Cry

Noelia Da Rosa is a blind Canadian who was not a big reader. She preferred that another person read to her. She found out about Bookshare through her local library and was impressed by the number of books in Bookshare. “I thought I might as well give it a try with the free membership through CELA,” she said.

Noelia now reads more than 30 books a month on her own.

“I wanted someone to read to me. Now, I’m amazed at the number of books I can read, as opposed to the books I previously couldn’t get. Whether you listen to audio or text-to-speech (TTS), you can still cry from a good book.”

Noelia encourages all Canadians with print disabilities to join Bookshare. “I’ve never been this crazy about reading. Now, I discuss books with friends and tweet about them. I encourage others to give TTS a chance!”

Learn how Canadians with print disabilities can join Bookshare for free today!

Congratulations to Bookshare’s Graduating Members

2015 June 5

Zach in his graduation cap and gown seated in his wheelchair.You’ve graduated. You are now ready to take the next step in life, and Bookshare can continue to be just as useful after school.

Just ask Amber. Keeping her Bookshare membership after she graduates from the University of Texas at San Antonio will allow her to continue accessing a collection that has over 345,000 titles and counting. It grows literally every day with new titles, including conspiracy stories and books Amber Steet at the University of Texas, San Antonio campuson the paranormal that Amber loves. Bookshare will also help her pursue her career as a teacher.

Whether you want to grab a book that will help you in your job or read stories that will make you laugh, cry, and feel good about the world, let Bookshare help in your next phase of life.

startup of you book coverFor a limited time through June 30, 2015, graduating Bookshare members who will not be continuing their studies can save 50% on their first year as a paying member. That’s just $25 for an entire year.

Find out more and save 50% today!

Send Students into Summer with Bookshare Web Reader

2015 June 1

By Bookshare Training and Support team

Summer is right around the corner! Before the final bell rings, empower your students to read Boy reading on a tablet sitting on the grassindependently with Bookshare Web Reader and encourage them to participate in the Summer Reading Challenge that starts on June 22.

As we recently announced, Bookshare Web Reader is now available to students with organizational memberships. Giving access to students is easy – just follow these four steps:

  1. Add Members to your roster.
  2. Set a username and password for your member(s).
  3. Create a reading list and share it with the member(s).
  4. Add a book to the reading list.

Now students can access their books anywhere they have an Internet connection and a compatible web browser. They simply log in with their username and password and select “Read Now” for any book in a Reading List or History.

Please note:

  • Students can only read books that have been shared with them via a Reading List or from their History in Bookshare Web Reader.
  • This feature enables students to read books using Bookshare Web Reader. It does not allow them to read independently on mobile or other assistive technology devices.

Teachers also have the option of giving students individual memberships, which allows them to find and access books on their own and read on the reading tool of their choice.

With your help your students can enjoy a summer filled with reading! And don’t forget to request next year’s books now so they are available for your students in the fall.

Other useful links for more information:

Summer Reading Challenge: Turn It Up & Tell the World!   

Turn It Up and Tell the World theme graphic with girl holding megaphone


How-To Guide: Adding Sponsors and Members (pdf)

Learn it Now video tutorial: How to Use Bookshare’s Reading Lists

Learn it Now video tutorial: Help Students Read with Bookshare Web Reader

How-To Guide: Bookshare Web Reader (pdf)

Parent Learns About Bookshare through Twitter Chatter

2015 May 27

We first met Jessica Prest, a parent from rural Massachusetts, on Twitter after she posted these tweets Jessica and Lily Prest about her daughter:

“Lily just finished her first chapter book in five days using Bookshare!”

 “A year ago she hated to read. Today she finished a 25 pg. chapter book!”

“My #1in5 #dyslexia #proudmom Thank u @Bookshare!”

So began our quest to learn more about Lily, a young girl who once hated books, but now loves to read them from cover to cover. Jessica, Lily’s mom, describes her daughter as very bright, dynamic, and quite communicative.

“At a young age, Lily talked a lot and used good vocabulary,” said Jessica. “She was initially excited to start school, but her excitement did not last. Within six months, she did not want to go to school anymore.”

Year after year, reading and school got harder for Lily and her family. “While other children were reading at a fourth grade level, Lily fell behind,” adds Jessica. “She didn’t want to read by herself and did not like being placed in a low reading group. Lily didn’t want to be different. When she picked out picture books, her classmates teased her. They would ask, ‘Why are you picking baby books, Lily?’ This Lily and her horse Rosiemade her upset.”

Jessica began to notice a pattern. She took Lily to a neuropsychologist who diagnosed her with dyslexia. Like many Bookshare parents, Jessica began her own research too. She looked for resources and reading support for her daughter and tapped into a wealth of information on Twitter.

“I liked to read educational discussions using the hashtag #edchat,” shared Jessica. “I kept reading about technologies and ebooks and how they supported readers with disabilities, so I asked Lily’s school about Bookshare. I wish I had these tools growing up!”

Lily began using Bookshare at home and eventually got on an IEP (Individual Education Plan) that allowed her to receive reading accommodations at school. Prior to her winter vacation, she brought home a book from the school library called Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu. Her mom also encouraged Lily to get an accessible version of the book and downloaded it from Bookshare onto her iPad mini.

Lilly reading iPad in bed with headphonesLily uses an app called Voice Dream that lets her listen to words read aloud and follow along with highlighted text. Jessica said, “She loved the story and could not stop reading it on the iPad. She even asked if she could go to bed early to read. Within five snowy days, Lily had finished her first book!”

“What a difference,” says Jessica. “Daily reading is no longer such a struggle. Ebooks enabled Lily to read and reread the story. It reinforced Lily’s ability to understand what she reads. Now, she loves to read, especially books about horses.”

How easy is Bookshare for students to use?

“Lily can download a book on her own from Bookshare,” says her mom. “She navigates the ebook and sets her own preferences, such as font size, font color and rate of speech. I feel relief. For two years, we struggled for her to read a simple sentence, and now she reads comprehensively. She has made the transition to fourth grade much easier. She is happier! My quest to share this valuable educational resource continues!”

Now passionate about wanting other families to know about Bookshare and technologies that read ebooks, Jessica shares her daughter’s first reading experience with accessible books. She encourages other parents to be patient with a child that is having trouble with reading.

“Don’t give up!” she says. “Read to your child, no matter how old they are and encourage them to read over the summer.”

Turn It Up & Tell the World theme imageAre you a parent looking for a fun summer reading activity for your child? Bookshare’s Turn It Up & Tell the World summer reading challenge is going to be a blast and will keep your child reading all summer long. Learn more!

A special thank you to Jessica and Bookshare parents everywhere. We appreciate your stories. Please keep them coming on all the social media channels. 

Wiley Partners with Benetech to Make Content More Accessible to All Readers

2015 May 21

Note: This blog is reposted from Benetech’s Blog.

By Robin Seaman, Director, Content Acquisition

Today, May 21, in recognition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), we are happy to share Global Accessibility Awareness Day logothat the global publishing company John Wiley & Sons has announced that, starting this month, it will begin including alternative text (alt text) in nearly all of its frontlist books. By incorporating alt text into its workflow, Wiley makes its content accessible to users of all abilities. The company developed its alt text guidelines in consultation with Benetech’s DIAGRAM Center and other industry standards organizations. Wiley is one of the first major publishers to include alt text this broadly. Our team is honored to have contributed to this important win on the path towards accessibility in mainstream publishing.

Alt text is a description that provides contextual meaning to images and illustrations. A building block of accessibility, alt text offers an alternative way to perceive images and illustrations for readers with disabilities, such as those who are blind or have visual impairments. Non-visual browsers and screen readers express alt text, thus enhancing comprehension and providing a richer reading experience for these readers. As an element of universal design, alt text improves not only the accessibility of digital images but also the versatility of digital content for all readers’ benefit: for instance, it can enable read-aloud for a user who prefers to listen to a book.

DIAGRAM Center logo

Benetech established the DIAGRAM Center—a research and development center and an initiative of our Global Literacy Program—in order to make it easier, cheaper, and faster to create and use accessible digital images. The DIAGRAM team and partners are exploring and developing cutting-edge image accessibility technology solutions for text alternatives as well as different learning modalities, such as tactile graphics, sonification, haptic interfaces and 3D printed images.

In its announcement, Wiley quotes Benetech President, Betsy Beaumon, who says: “Readers accessing content through digital audio simply hear the word ‘image’ when alt text is not provided, depriving them of information critical to understanding the relevance of the image. By ensuring that alt text is provided for all images, Wiley is showing great leadership in the growing movement in the publishing industry to ensure that content that is born digital is also ‘born accessible.’ This is a milestone achievement.”

Thank you, Wiley, for your partnership and leadership in making accessibility a critical and integral component in the creation of all content!

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.