This positive message is one of the best known lines from the Dr. Seuss classic, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” This uplifting book is an all-time favorite of both children and adults and is the featured title for this year’s Read Across America Day.
We celebrate this national event by encouraging all Bookshare members and book lovers everywhere to read this wonderful story.
Read it yourself. Read it with a friend. Read it with your child. Read it to the end. The story reminds us of life’s challenges during times of transition and provides helpful affirmations to help us move forward. Bookshare members often make positive changes and successful transitions. Here are some of their stories!
Jose Looks Forward to Middle School
Nine-year-old, Jose, struggled to read basic books in kindergarten. He was frustrated and sad. In second grade, Jose was diagnosed with dyslexia. A therapist gave him an accessible ebook from Bookshare that he read on the family iPad. His mom, Lola, says, “Jose is ten times happier! He is a different child and learner. He is better equipped to perform well on reading tests. We believe that he will make a much easier transition to middle school where reading assignments become even more challenging.”
When we think of transition, we often think of high school, college or work, but what about transitioning from elementary to middle school and onto high school? How can we help students with print disabilities succeed through all their transitions?
Ms. Felts Recommends Starting Early
Early intervention can help students transition successfully. When asked at what age students should start with resources like Bookshare, Susanna Felts, an elementary school librarian in Corpus Christi, TX says, as early as possible.
“By third grade, if students are struggling, we must initiate a process to assess their needs and accommodate their reading ability,” says Ms. Felts. “Starting the process early helps more students keep pace before they fall behind. We don’t want to wait until students are in fifth grade or older to make that determination.”
Emily Demonstrates Transition Success
What does transition success look like? Meet Emily!
She has juvenile macular degeneration and has used technology and Bookshare to help her make successful transitions throughout her life. Emily became an A+ student early on, and when she transitioned to high school, she took many advanced placement classes. Emily is also tech savvy and reads accessible ebooks on all types of reading devices. With her great courage, wonderful teachers, and resources like Bookshare, she is well on her way to make successful transitions to college, career and beyond.
Tell Us About The Places You Will Go!
Thanks for making the Read Across America a successful national event. Let’s keep the discussion going. Tell us why you think accessible books will ease your transition and learning success.
Oh…and happy birthday to Dr. Seuss!
P.S. Next month we’ll talk about the benefits of digital accessible books and technologies to transition more easily to high school, college and careers. Visit www.bookshare.org to learn more and share your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter.
“Learn Anywhere” was the theme of this year’s Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) Conference, held February 3–6 in Austin. TCEA is one of the largest regional EdTech (educational technology) events in the U.S., and Benetech’s Accessible Books for Texas (ABT) team was on hand to demonstrate tools that help Bookshare members read accessible ebooks anytime, anywhere.
Hundreds of Texas educators, administrators, school librarians, and school IT professionals stopped by the Bookshare/ABT booth to learn how their students with print disabilities can succeed at reading with accessible ebooks from Bookshare. They also learned about the wide variety of reading tools to support people with learning differences. In addition, many attended two dynamic conference sessions presented by the ABT team about “Anytime, Anywhere Learning for Readers with Print Disabilities.”
TCEA was also the ideal venue to connect with Austin eighth grader Ben Cooper, an avid Bookshare user and passionate dyslexia advocate. Ben visited the conference to talk with Texas Education Agency staff about the challenges he faces as a student with a learning disability and how Bookshare helps him succeed in school.
In a recent Benetech video titled “As They See It: Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities,” Ben and other Texas students with learning disabilities share their excitement about ebooks, Bookshare, and assistive technologies that open doors to confidence, independence, and achievement. He also delivers a heartfelt and compelling message to students: “If you are struggling with reading, you might want to…get checked for a learning disability. Check it out now before you get pummeled with reading.”
At the upcoming SXSWedu Conference, Ben will bring his powerful message to more people.
- On March 9 at 3:00 p.m., hear Ben give a 10-minute talk on “Disability Rights” as part of the Student Voice Summit at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Austin.
- On March 10 at 6:00 p.m., during the SXSWedu Education Expo in the Austin Convention Center, hear Ben and several other presenters encourage attendees to “Think Big!” when it comes to dyslexia.
- On March 12 at 9:00 a.m. in the Hilton Downtown Austin, Ben will participate in discussions on “Dyslexia: Changing How We Think about Potential.”
The ABT team will attend Ben’s presentations and staff a Bookshare table during the Education Expo, March 10 from 2:00 to 8:00 p.m. Throughout the conference, the ABT team will also demonstrate Bookshare in the “Experience Dyslexia” section of the hands-on playground area.
The Bookshare and ABT teams are excited to be represented by such a vibrant young man as Ben Cooper. As a result of his advocacy, we look forward to seeing more students with qualifying print disabilities sign up for Bookshare membership and benefit from its many resources
Benetech Wins All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development Grant to Improve Literacy for Primary School Students with Disabilities in India
This article was originally posted on Benetech’s blog on February 5, 2015.
We are delighted to share that USAID, World Vision, and the Australian Government awarded Benetech a 2015 grant to improve literacy for primary school students who are blind in India. The new grant, under the three partners’ All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development literacy innovations competition, funds our proposed winning project to provide Indian students who are blind with mother tongue instruction and reading materials through Bookshare, our digital library of accessible books. This supports Benetech’s commitment to extend the benefits of Bookshare across borders to empower individuals with disabilities around the world, especially in developing countries, to live fuller lives.
USAID, World Vision, and the Australian Government established the All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development partnership in 2011 to improve reading for children in early grades through cost-effective innovations. Benetech is one of fourteen new grantees selected through a highly competitive process that elicited over two hundred proposals from fifty countries.
This project will allow us to tackle a pressing problem: in the developing world, students who are blind or have other print disabilities face formidable barriers as they pursue their education in the midst of a widespread book famine. In countries with several regional languages, such as India, even when a child with a print disability does receive an accessible text, it is the bare minimum to participate in class, with little or no reading materials to strengthen their learning outside the classroom, and few opportunities to complement their braille learning with other modes, such as audio. Preliminary data from teachers at our partner schools for the blind in India shows very low levels of early grade reading skills, ranging between 10-15%.
With support of the All Children Reading grant, we will address this challenge by developing and launching a pilot project to provide accessible educational content for primary school students who are blind in the Maharashtra region of India, where we will be able to capitalize on multiple existing Bookshare partnerships. Our two-year project will pair targeted literacy pedagogy focusing on braille reading with human-narrated audio content in Marathi, which is the language that is primarily spoken at home and in the community in Maharashtra. While Bookshare has revolutionized the availability and reach of accessible materials through digital text production and delivery, we are undertaking this human-audio effort to support languages where digital text-to-speech is of poor quality or not available.
We will pilot this new capability with at least one hundred students spread across three schools for the blind in Maharashtra, offering age-appropriate, high-interest books in their mother tongue in both human-narrated audio and hard-copy braille. This will allow the students to benefit from a multimodal approach to learning early reading skills, while ensuring that they receive a strong foundation in braille literacy and an early familiarity with assistive technology for educational purposes.
We will support this work by providing training on assistive technology and on Bookshare services to teachers, administrators, and parents in our target region. Our goal is to have 30-35% of our target students reading at grade level at the project’s end. In order to measure the benefits of our project and improvement in the students’ reading scores, we will implement a rigorous evaluation plan. This evaluation will inform our future development plans as we seek to replicate our pilot project on a larger scale.
Benetech has been working to provide accessible books in India since 2008. During that time, we have built a powerful coalition of partners located in India and the United States, and a solid ecosystem serving over 2,200 Indian Bookshare members with a collection of more than 180,000 English, Hindi, and Tamil accessible books. Bookshare’s work in India—the first country to have ratified the “Marrakesh Treaty” easing access to books for people with print disabilities—models how we can transform the lives of millions of individuals with disabilities through rapid growth of accessible content around the world.
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Kristina Pappas is the International Program Manager for Benetech’s Global Literacy initiative. She has an extensive background in book publishing and international business. Under her direction, Bookshare International has grown to encompass members in nearly 50 countries, books in more than 13 languages, and partnerships with organizations serving people with print disabilities around the world. Kristina received a B.A. from Stanford University and an MBA from the Presidio Graduate School.
We are very excited about the upcoming Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) 2015 Conference in Chicago. Why?
Because we get to meet you, our members and supporters! Make sure that you attend these must-see events:
- Hear Betsy Beaumon, President of Benetech, Bookshare’s parent nonprofit, deliver the opening keynote titled Will the Current Tech Revolution Usher in a Golden Age for All Learners? on Wednesday, Feb. 18, at 8:30 AM.
- Learn how to increase collaboration by attending the Bookshare session, Parents and Schools Working Together for Accessible Content, on Wednesday, February 18, 4:45–5:45 PM, Room W39.
- Learn how you can help your student or child become a lifelong reader! Join us for a special Bookshare meeting titled Helping People Read for Life. Wednesday, February 18, 7:00–8:30 PM, Hilton Chicago, Room PDR#1. Please RSVP.
We look forward to seeing you at LDA 2015!
This post was originally featured on the Accessible Books for Texas (ABT) website. It features Reagan Reeves, a bright student with dyslexia, who not only used Bookshare to stay on track with his reading goals, but far exceeded them to become a top Accelerated Reader.
This Texas eighth grader proudly says to his mom with a big smile, “I’ve downloaded and read over 200 digital books!” His mom, Michelle, smiles too! Inside she is beaming because, finally, her son has embraced an educational resource that supports his reading challenges. Reagan listens to accessible ebooks read aloud on portable technology devices. Last year, he received an award for having accumulated the most Accelerated Reader points in his class.
“This is a big deal!” says Michelle. She knows firsthand how difficult it is for her son to read standard print because both she and Reagan are dyslexic. “In his early years, Reagan did not like to read at all. Now, he downloads digital books on his iPhone by himself and uses an iPad Mini to read with an app called Read2Go. He even reads for pleasure outside of school. This is a common practice for children, but not for my son, until recently.”
A year and a half ago, Michelle signed up her son for Bookshare, an online library of accessible ebooks that is free to U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities such as blindness, low vision, physical disabilities, and reading disabilities. The resource and technology helped Reagan become more confident and tech savvy.
“He feels cool now that his teachers allow him to read school assignments on his phone,” said Michelle, who is a Bilingual/ESL and Dyslexia Specialist for the Region 8 Educational Service Center in Texas. She often trains teachers and parents in reading resources to support students with dyslexia. “Every opportunity I get, I share Reagan’s story and tell them about Bookshare and accessibility. I say, get your kids Individual Bookshare Memberships and give them a library in their pocket!”
Reagan downloads and reads many popular book series from Bookshare. His favorites are: Mortal Instruments, Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, Divergent, and Harry Potter. He likes to listen to the text read aloud, often called text-to-speech or TTS. Michelle says, “TTS helps him to read longer, because he quickly tires from looking at standard print.
“His teachers tell me that he’s always reading, even when he shouldn’t be,” she chuckles. “My son has fallen in love with reading! Last year, he read on a fourth-grade level. Today, he reads on an 11th grade level. This transformation speaks volumes for identifying the right resources to help children who are dyslexic be successful.”
Visit Accessible Books for Texas to learn more about local professional development and training for Texas educators and families. Sign up today for an Individual Membership to Bookshare and to learn more about opening a new world to reading.
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Christine Jones is a Senior Education Program Manager for Bookshare and Accessible Books for Texas. She has more than two decades of experience in technology marketing, education, and nonprofit program management. Christine received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Berkeley and her Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.