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Journey with Dyslexia – Guest Blog by Robbi Cooper, a Bookshare Parent Member

2013 October 31
by Bookshare Team Member
Robbi, Andrew and Ben Cooper

Robbi, Andrew and Ben Cooper. Ben is holding a printed book, an iPad and a smart phone.

Special thanks to Robbi, Andrew and Ben Cooper for their story and to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) for showcasing the Cooper Family.  Our October blog recognizes National Learning Disabilities Month.


My husband and my son are dyslexic. My husband, Andrew, did not understand that he was dyslexic until adulthood, long after reading difficulties in school left him frustrated – a fate that we did not want for our son.

My son, Ben came into the world a bright and vibrant child, but when he entered kindergarten we were told that he was not learning the way he should. We waited for the school to tell us how they were going to help him, but instead of holding Ben back, we asked for early testing.  He was diagnosed with dyslexia in first grade. That’s when we decided as a family that we needed to be a part of the solution so we began to research ways to help our child and to support our local school system with ideas.

My quest led me to NCLD – the National Center on Learning Disabilities, a quality source of information that I rely on still today. We also started private tutoring for Ben with the Orton Gillingham method-based reading intervention and signed Ben up for an individual Bookshare membership.  I began downloading accessible children’s books that I thought he would enjoy. We also made a pivotal decision to place Ben in Special Education where he could receive a different learning approach that would fit his needs. We never regretted this decision.

Special Education Presents Opportunities to Partner with Schools

For most families, interaction with a school is typically through parent-teacher conferences, teacher emails and IEP meetings. Many parents tend to rely on administrators and teachers to provide answers to their child’s education issues. In Special Education, a parent’s role changes this dynamic.  You become part of the team and are involved in the decision making process to craft your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

In Texas, my state, this team is called ARD (Admissions, Review and Dismissal). During the ARD meeting an IEP plan takes shape around these main tenets:

  1. What your child’s diagnosis is and needs are
  2. Academic goals and how to achieve them
  3. Testing and classroom accommodations for your child to be successful

Andrew and I always tried to collaborate with school officials and share information prior to meetings. My focus was on future skills that would allow Ben to stay academically challenged throughout school while receiving help with his reading difficulties and to keep him on track for college and career.

Reading interventions are a big source of contention between schools and parents, and it helps to find out what the school currently offers and then research the resources before dismissing them. Remember, the more informed you are — the less confrontational you’ll be. A good resource for investigating reading interventions is The Florida Center of Reading Research.

In your meetings, aim for an IEP that will enable your child to be focused on remediation while becoming as independent and self-reliant as possible. We did not want Ben to rely on human support and Bookshare is a key resource to address this goal and to save schools money.

Memberships and reading technologies are free for U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities. Find out if your child’s school has an Organizational Membership to Bookshare. If so, it is easy for your child to get an Individual Membership so he or she can read books at school or home or on the go. This ability to read anytime and anywhere fosters a love of wanting to read longer and to read more topics of interest – a key to build stronger vocabulary and comprehension skills in feeble readers. Accessible books enabled our son to participate in general education courses that he was capable of mastering.

Remember to request a list of textbooks and reading assignments for your child’s classes in advance of a semester so these materials can be found, potentially in the Bookshare library or made accessible. I also encourage you to ask for training for your child on assistive technology tools, such as how to keyboard (type) and use software that has text-to-speech such as Kurzweil 3000 or iPad apps. These tools encourage independence and can help to prepare your child for postsecondary work.

Austin TX AT Specialist Carye Edleman with Ben Cooper

TX AT Specialist Carye Edelman, from Austin ISD with Ben Cooper

In the early years, Ben struggled in school, but he never doubted himself. He had the support of our district’s technology specialist and the school librarian who embraced his new digital reading tools. These educators supported his reading growth by selecting stimulating material in accessible format for him to enjoy. Today he is a straight “A” student taking advanced courses, and his confidence is unwavering. Yes, he will always be dyslexic and struggles with reading, spelling and handwriting, but his mastery of the technologies he was introduced to in Special Education helped him tremendously. Last month, we stacked hardback versions of all of the digital books that Ben has read in one year. We were astounded at the volume of content.  Through Bookshare, he is self-reliant and we both know that he has a bright future.

Having two dyslexic loved ones has helped me to understand the challenges this disability presents, but I also celebrate a successful husband and a young son who already demonstrates remarkable academic achievements. I know that through hard work and collaboration with schools, we can accomplish amazing things. So I continue the journey to advocate for children, to discover their talents and potential and to celebrate the ways in which technology helps us all overcome our differences.

Watch the Cooper family tell  their story on video. 

Learn more about Accessible Books for Texas.

White Cane Awareness Walk 2013: National Disability Employment Awareness Month

2013 October 28
by Bookshare Team Member

The Bookshare staff would like to share highlights from the Palo Alto White Cane Awareness Walk, in which we participated on Wednesday, October 16th in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  This blog was originally published on the Benetech website.

Photo of participants at the 2013 Palo Alto White Cane Awareness Walk.

Participants at the 2013 Palo Alto White Cane Awareness Walk.

This annual event is held each October on or in proximity to White Cane Safety Day, a national observance celebrating the ability of people with impaired vision to lead independent lives. With the white cane as a symbol of their independence, the Awareness Walk is open to all: white cane users, support cane users, human guides, walker users, power mobility users, dog guide users and sighted folks.

Last week, for the fourth consecutive year, Benetech and Bookshare proudly supported the White Cane Awareness Walk tradition in Palo Alto and we were delighted to join this celebration in partnership with the Palo Alto Lions ClubVista Center and the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center (WBRC), the event’s host.

Photo of Chris Kliks and Brian Higgins of WBRC participating in the 2013 Palo Alto White Cane Awareness Walk.

WBRC’s staff members Brian Higgins (right) and Chris Kliks (left) with his guide dog Marge.

Four years ago, Brian Higgins—a computer access specialist at WBRC, which is part of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System—walked into Bookshare’s office and invited us to join what was to be a stroll about downtown Palo Alto. This year, the walking route was planned well in advance and close to home, along California Avenue. We registered a great turnout of over 60 participants and the wonderful team effort demonstrated by the Benetech team made my job of coordinating this event a breeze!

The walk began outside the offices of our neighbors over at the Vista Center, proceeded along California Avenue and was followed by a gathering outside Benetech’s offices, including a meet-and-greet session with refreshments. Nicole Sandlan, WBRC’s Director, and Jane Simchuk, our VP of Human Resources and Administration, welcomed the participants and thanked all the organizers and volunteers who made the event a success.

Photo of participants at the 2013 Palo Alto White Cane Awareness Walk outside Benetech's offices in Palo Alto. In the Center, Jane Simchuk, Benetech's VP of Human Resources and Administration, and Nicole Sandlan, WBRC’s Director, addressing the participants.

Jane Simchuk (second from left) and Nicole Sandlan addressing the participants.

Cherie Miller, Program Manager with our Global Literacy Program, then followed with a brief overview of Bookshare and described some of the ways in which our Global Literacy initiatives help people with print disabilities live fuller lives.

The eventwrapped up with WBRC’s presenting Bookshare, Vista Center and the Palo Alto Lions Club with certificates of appreciation for each group’s commitment to promoting independence among the blind and visually impaired population.

At Benetech, we’re honored to support this important cause and to help increase community awareness of White Cane Day. We also know that we’ve just scratched the surface of the need for access to books and information, and we’re continuously expanding our efforts to bring Bookshare to more people, both globally and nationally.

Photo of participants at the 2013 Palo Alto White Cane Awareness Walk outside Benetech's offices in Palo Alto.

Meet-and greet outside Benetech’s offices.

Here in the U.S., we’re especially focusing on reaching more veterans with disabilities. Qualified veterans who are students are eligible for free Bookshare memberships and those receiving Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment services can have the cost of a membership reimbursed through the VA. Our Bookshare library includes a special collection of books for returning veterans and nearly 2,880 books of military interest.

We also just launched our first crowdfunding effort, Bookshare for Veterans—part of the Skoll Foundation’s Social Entrepreneurs Challenge on CrowdRise—in order to give veterans the gift of reading with Bookshare. Funds raised through this Challenge will be used to enable the Bookshare team to expand our outreach so that we can help more veterans. If supporting disabled veterans resonates with you, please help us spread the word about our cause.

Finally, if you’re interested in further information about Bookshare and our services for veterans and other individuals with print disabilities, please visit Bookshare’s website.

Photo of Chris Kliks of WBRC talking to Benetech staff member Joe Berentsen at Bookshare's office.

Chris Kliks of WBRC talking to Benetech staff member Joe Berentsen at Bookshare’s office.

Photo of participants at the 2013 Palo Alto White Cane Awareness Walk outside Benetech's offices in Palo Alto. In the Center, Nicole Sandlan, WBRC's Director, addressing the group.

Nicole Sandlan presenting Bookshare, the Vista Center and Palo Alto Lions Club with certificates of appreciation.


Thanks again to everyone who helped make this year’s White Cane Awareness Walk a success, in particular to all the amazing Benetech staff members who joined the walk or helped with setting up, taking photos, contributing refreshments or chatting with our visitors. 

Special thanks to Cherie Miller and Jane Simchuk on the Benetech team, Pam Brandin of the Vista Center, Roger Stroud of the Palo Alto Lions Club, as well as Nicole Sandlan and Brian Higgins of WBRC.

Photos from the event are courtesy of Martin Quiazon and McKenzie Erickson.

Learn more about Benetech initiatives.

Fifth Grader Builds Independence with Bookshare’s Individual Membership and Reading Tools

2013 October 18
by Bookshare Team Member
Kevin Leong

Kevin Leong reading his smartphone on the go!

Kevin Leong is a bright fifth grader in Palo Alto, CA, the heart of Silicon Valley. He is an avid Apple computer fan, and on a typical day he may use several technology devices at home, school, or on the go.  As you watch Kevin adeptly use these devices, you would never guess that this voracious learner with impeccable social skills is visually impaired. Kevin has optic atrophy, which makes reading time very slow and frustrating for him.

“It takes me much longer to read than other students,” he says. “By the time I look up a page in the table of contents, everyone is ahead of me. It tires me out!”

Kevin’s parents, Drake and Jessie, knew that their son needed more support, so they tried digital accessible books. “We hoped it would be easier for him to grasp the technology and use accessibility features that enable him to enlarge fonts or see highlighted words in color on a screen,” said Drake. “Now he can more easily track the words with his eyes.”

Drake and Jessie signed Kevin up for an individual membership with Bookshare. Individual memberships help students build independence by finding their own books and using Bookshare’s free reading tools.

When Kevin and his classmates go to the school library now, Kevin goes online, logs on to Bookshare, and searches for his own reading assignments in English and other subjects. He uses the new Bookshare Web Reader to access his books. “I don’t have to download any software,” he says. “I just select “Read Now” to open a digital book directly in my web browser. I’ve always been good at math and science, but now I’m good at reading and using technologies. A couple of minutes on Bookshare and I’m ready to go!”

“The reading technologies allow Kevin to be more independent and self-reliant with his reading assignments,” says Jessie. “He can adjust the brightness and contrast of text according to how his eyes feel. The flexibility of manipulating digital content encourages him to read more. His grades and reading ability level shot up in one year. In addition to his academic progress, he became more social. He doesn’t feel different in school and talks with everyone about what he reads.”

According to the STAR test performed in his elementary school, Kevin was behind grade level by midyear in fourth grade. His writing and science grades were borderline; he ranked in the 50th percentile. One year later, he was in the 70th to 80th percentile, and his reading comprehension was above the norm.

Guest Blog: “Dyslexia Should Be About Strengths, Not Shame,” by Ben Foss

2013 October 16

Experts in dyslexia have for many years focused on teaching children to read in the conventional way. But there are hidden costs that impact many children who have a hard time in a mainstream classroom: shame and bullying.

I’m dyslexic. When I was a kid, my mom read aloud to me. When I went away to college, I used to fax my term papers home to her in New Hampshire and have her read them to me over the phone so I could find my own spelling mistakes.  I went on to become the Director of Access Technology at Intel Corporation, where I invented a device called the Intel Reader that could take a photograph of any printed material and read it aloud on the spot.

Inventing this device taught me that there are in fact three types of reading: eye reading, ear reading, and finger reading. Blind people read with their fingers, mainstream people read with their eyes. In my case, I use my ears. Here is a demonstration of how to read with your ears by using speech built into a standard iPad. This technology comes from Headstrong Nation,  the national organization for dyslexic people.

Many children who have difficulty learning to read with their eyes may be able to listen keenly.  In my case, I was able to go on and complete a law degree and a business degree at Stanford, and I recently wrote a book called The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning, published by Random House.  People need to understand that I did all this without reading with my eyes—instead I used books on tape or digital books like those available on Bookshare (which carries my book!).

It is very important for all children to get a fair chance at learning to read with their eyes. Think of reading with your eyes like walking up stairs into a building. If you can do it, it makes learning in a standard school convenient. However, if you can’t walk up stairs, a ramp makes all the difference in the world.

There is a hidden cost to focusing on eye reading in perpetuity—rather than spending two to three years working on it, ideally using an Orton-Gillingham-based methodology, and then shifting to other modes of learning such as ear reading. This hidden cost is shame. Shame is different than guilt. Guilt is feeling bad about something you did. Shame comes from not liking something you are.

We treat people who have difficulty learning to read as though they have a disease. Some experts say that they are “diagnosed” with dyslexia or that they “overcame” dyslexia. I’m from New Hampshire. We do not diagnose me as being from New Hampshire. I do not need to overcome the fact that I am from New Hampshire (unless you talk to my friends from our archrival Vermont).

I interviewed over 200 people who are dyslexic to create the Intel Reader.  There was a pronounced pattern of children self-harming: cutting themselves, starting to abuse drugs and alcohol, or developing an eating disorder because they felt unworthy.  Another cost to focusing on eye reading as the only form of reading is bullying. Bullies often taunt a child for not being able to do what a school system considers to be “normal.” But we have to remember, “normal” is only a setting on your dryer!  I encourage you to embrace a new way of thinking and to protect your child from shame and bullying. In the process, you might just ensure that your child will love learning and have a bright future.

Read Ben’s “Native Tongue”

I have found that people have a hard time believing my dyslexia when they see only the final product of my written work. These days, I generally speak to a computer and use Dragon Naturally Speaking to have it transcribed, greatly increasing my speed and accuracy when writing. For this blog, that material went through a few rounds of edits, including structural, content, and proofing. This further polished the material.

Below, you will see the first two paragraphs of this blog written again — as I would write it in raw format.  In this case, I listened to the text and transcribed it without the benefit of spell-check or word correction, which are now standard in most word processors.  I publish it so you can see “behind the curtain.”  Yes, I am dyslexic for life and proud. Consider this my—and all dyslexics’—native tongue.

dysleix ahousl be abl strenths not chame.

Experts in dyslexia have for many tears focus on reaching children to read in the coventional way. But there are hidden cos that impace many chillren in a mainstrem classroom. Shame an Bullying.

I know first habe about difficultly leanring to reach in a conventional way. I am dyslexic. When I wans a kid my mom read aloud to me. When I went to college I use fto fax them home to her in new hampshire and have her read them to me over the phone so I could find my won spelling mistakes. I want on to be come the director  acees technology at Intel, and invent a device called the intel reader. Thank could take phot graph of any printed material and read it aloud on the spot.


Ben Foss

Ben Foss

Ben Foss is dyslexic and the founder of Headstrong Nation, a national organization for dyslexic adults and parents of dyslexic kids. He earned a JD/MBA from Stanford and invented the Intel Reader, a mobile device that takes photos of text and recites it aloud on the spot.

Ben is the author of The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning. Bookshare members can download Ben’s book in the library.




Dyslexia Specialist Says, “Introduce Children with Print Disabilities to Technology Early to Help Them Be Independent!”

2013 October 7
by Bookshare Team Member
CathyCathy  Wilson, Dyslexia Specialist

Cathy Wilson

Cathy Wilson is a dyslexia specialist at Coppell ISD, TX, and a Bookshare mentor teacher.  She trains her colleagues and students who qualify how to use the online Bookshare library and reading technologies.

Last year, Cathy had nearly 40 youngsters on her Bookshare organizational account. This allowed her and other approved teachers, or sponsors, to find and download books for students who qualify. She has helped more than 90 percent of these students get individual memberships.

“Introducing children with print disabilities to technology early helps them to be more independent and eventually find and download books on their own,” she says. Cathy encourages children as early as first and second grade to be reading independently with technology. “Technology is a great equalizer for kids. Children’s minds are open and less constrained by labels or stigmas from their reading disabilities.”

This busy mentor teacher begins each school year talking with parents and sending pre-filled individual membership forms home so they can sign up their children. This makes signing up for Bookshare easier because proof of disability has already been verified through the school on the pre-filled forms.

In face-to-face meetings, Cathy likes to discuss the benefits of digital accessible books. “Parents are busy people, and we need to help them understand the value of educational resources, like Bookshare and reading technologies that may help their child succeed. I create my own guides, use video tutorials, and write email alerts to keep them abreast of updates. We also talk about dyslexia-related topics and new reading tools, like the Bookshare Web Reader. In addition to parent discussions, Cathy works directly with students.  “They need practice to use the library and reading technologies so their  knowledge of these tools and resources will stick,” she says.

Students in Ms. Wilson's reading center with books and portables.

Students in Ms. Wilson’s reading center with books and portables.

Every week, Cathy spends ten minutes reviewing how to go online, log in with usernames and passwords, search for a book, download it,  open it on a device or software and explore navigation features.  Many students practice reading digital books on laptops and then demonstrate the login and download process on a Smart Board for class members. “When you empower kids with technology and let them demo it, they get it!”

Each of the ten groups of children (first through fifth graders) she works with are grouped by the reading levels which coordinate with the district’s dyslexia curriculum. “Each group knows my reading process well,” she says. “They come to class, huddle in the jungle corner on comfy pillows, and pull out a printed book or a personal device and read an accessible book with headphones. They are tech-savvy and independent readers.”

About the Bookshare Mentor Teacher Program

This program began in 2010 to support the nation’s top teachers and assistive technology specialists with training tools to engage educators, parents, and students in the effective use of Bookshare’s online accessible library and reading technologies.  Over 500 educators and specialists have now joined the network and work in their local communities and schools to advocate for students with print disabilities. Bookshare Mentor Teachers also develop and share best practices with other teachers across the United States.  Learn more at


Get Students a Bookshare Individual Membership at Home!

2013 October 1

hdrimagerd4_parentThroughout October, parents and educators often meet to discuss how students are progressing through the school year. Parent-teacher conferences, IEP meetings, and other face-to-face opportunities are the perfect time to discuss how students can take reading and studying to the next level with Bookshare.  How?

Get qualified students access to Bookshare at home.

NY Educator Maria Arguren with Student, Dana working at a computer

Maria Aranguren, a NY educator working  with her student, Dana at a computer.

Most of our student members access Bookshare through their school account. This means that educators find and download books for students.

A fast growing number of students are also getting individual memberships. This allows them to discover books on their own, download independently, and develop a personal love for reading.

How can you help students be more independent?

Visit our October back-to-school guides, and sign your students up for Bookshare at home!

Still need to get started with Bookshare for back-to-school?

Visit our August guide to set up your Bookshare account and our September guide to get reading tools for class!

Objecting to Accessibility Weaseling

2013 September 22
Head shot of Jim Fruchterman

Head shot of Jim Fruchterman

Post by Benetech CEO, Jim Fruchterman

In early September, the National Federation of the Blind and 22 organizations serving people with disabilities filed detailed objections to a petition from a group of makers of e-reader devices led by Amazon to be exempted from accessibility requirements under the relatively new Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. Benetech was a proud endorser of these objections (under our legal organizational name of Beneficent Technology, Inc.).

You might ask: why would an organization that in many ways provides a competitive alternative to e-readers object to e-readers being exempted from accessibility requirements? Wouldn’t that create more demand for our Bookshare online library?

It sure would create more demand for Bookshare in the future, but our primary goal is not to sustain Bookshare, although we will as long as Bookshare is needed. Our primary goal is to ensure that people with disabilities get equal access to the books and content they need for education, employment, leisure and social inclusion. We think the best long-term way to solve this equal access problem is, well, equal access. We think that people with print disabilities should be able to get their books the same way people without disabilities get them. And, increasingly, that means through inexpensive e-readers like the Amazon Kindle.

People with print disabilities are the most natural customers in the world for digital versions of books. It is supremely ironic that they have been systematically locked out of that content over the last decade through:

  • collateral damage: technology designed to defeat piracy stopping accessibility technology,
  • rights confusion: publishers turning off text-to-speech access because of authors’ claims (which I think are pretty bogus) that these are covered by audio rights, not print rights, and
  • active neglect:  leading example is Amazon continually committing to accessibility and then leaving it out of most new Kindle products

Betsy Beaumon, the general manager of Bookshare, has coined the label Born Accessible.  She wants to see every piece of content that is born digital be born accessible. We all want the same ebook that people without disabilities buy (sorry, I mean license) to work perfectly well for people who are blind, physically disabled or dyslexic. If we and the publishing industry succeed in this, then libraries like Bookshare will gradually move to filling the same kind of secondary role that public libraries fulfill for the general public: access to books for those too poor to purchase them, or for those who need to do research and don’t care to purchase every book they consult.

That’s why we’re happy to stand in solidarity with NFB and our peers in the disability and accessibility worlds. If this attempt by Amazon and their peers to weasel out of accessibility requirements built into U.S. civil rights laws succeeds, people with disabilities will be yet again be denied equality.

Best Practice from a Bookshare Mentor Teacher — Train Teachers and Students Together!

2013 September 20
Photo of Lisa Gutheil, VI Teacher.

Lisa Gutheil, VI Teacher.

Lisa Gutheil, a teacher of the visually impaired and early intervention specialist, encourages teachers and students to participate in her Bookshare training sessions together.  Why does her dual-training model work so well? “Because kids get the technology!” says Lisa.

Co-training may not surprise you, but what will is that Lisa trains younger students, as early as third grade, to use Bookshare and its technology tools.

“If you want to ensure lifelong learning then give students resources and tools as early as possible so they don’t fall behind,” she says.  This busy Bookshare Mentor now calls New York her home after working in Massachusetts for many years.  Lisa says, “Children at an early age adapt to technology quickly. “I’ve seen remarkable strides in fluency skills when they can see and hear words read aloud.”

Photo of teachers learning together seated at a table.

Photo of teachers learning together seated at a table.

This past year, Lisa hosted two full faculty trainings in the elementary schools she serves and held several additional workshops in special education classrooms with teachers and students. The impact? “We opened the learning process a little wider for students who qualify for accommodations. Kids feel more empowered when you include them up front. They recalled more information than a busy teacher with lots of demands.”

Early Learner Success

One little girl, a third grader with dyslexia, was two years behind grade level.  Lisa assigned her a digital book with text-to-speech, and she was decoding words almost instantly. In a short time, Lisa saw one full year’s growth in this child’s reading skills. Lisa also encourages “integrated learning,” a technique that many Bookshare Mentor Teachers like to use.  Integrated learning is an education theory to describe a movement toward integrated lessons to help students make sensory and learning connections across curricula.

Lisa’s Back-to-School Best Practices

#1 Try a combined Bookshare training with teachers AND students at your school or district.

#2 Include younger students in your trainings, as early as grade 3.

#3 Get your students’ books ready and add them to a reading list.

#4 Get students individual memberships so they can enjoy the freedom to use the library at school and at home.

Special thanks to Lisa for these great tips!

About the Bookshare Mentor Teacher Program

This program began in 2010 to support the nation’s top teachers and assistive technology specialists with training tools to engage educators, parents, and students  in the effective use of Bookshare’s online accessible library and reading technologies.   Over 500 educators and specialists have now joined the network and work in their local communities and schools to advocate on behalf of students with print disabilities.  Bookshare Mentor Teachers also develop and share best practices with other teachers across the United States.

Learn more at

Bookshare Web Reader Lets You READ NOW — it’s Fast and Easy!

2013 September 16

Earlier in 2013, we launched the Bookshare Web Reader, a reading tool that lets individual Bookshare members read directly from their Internet browser without installing any reading software. Bookshare Web Reader makes it easy for our individual members to open and read books fast and easily—all you need is a computer with an Internet connection.

Students simply go to the Bookshare website on a compatible Internet browser, such as Google Chrome, find a title to read, select “Read Now,” and the book opens! Watch this video to see exactly how Bookshare Web Reader can open a book directly from an Internet browser and let you start reading right away!


Kevin Leong, a California sixth grader, started using the Bookshare Web Reader in his school library and classrooms. Kevin likes that he doesn’t have to download any software and can just open a Bookshare book directly in a web browser. “It’s simple to do,” says Kevin. “I’ve always been good at math and science, but now I’m good at reading and using technology. A couple of minutes on Bookshare and I’m ready to go!” This simplicity makes Bookshare Web Reader an ideal back-to-school tool for teachers and parents alike.

Here are three tips to get started with Bookshare Web Reader:

  1. Make sure your students have an individual membership. Bookshare Web Reader can only be used by members with their own individual accounts, not with organization memberships through their school.
  2. Read our Bookshare Web Reader First Time User Guide.
  3. If you want to use your computer’s built-in voices to read words aloud, make sure to use Google Chrome, or try another compatible browser.

Try Bookshare Web Reader today and help your students experience the “read now” wow factor! They’ll appreciate knowing about this quick and easy way to read Bookshare books directly on the web!

Best Practice — Teacher Makes Stories Come Alive Through Accessible Books and Sensory Learning!

2013 September 14
Photo of Jennifer Appleton

Jennifer Appleton

We’re sure you’ll agree that Jennifer Cassese Appleton, a reading specialist at Virginia’s Alternative Paths Training School, has mastered the art of blended learning. She is also the parent of four children, including a son with dyslexia.

Jennifer wants all students to have an engaging reading experience, no matter their learning or print disability. How does she engage her students to read with curiosity and anticipation? For many books that her students read, they also do a companion learning project involving art, music, or cooking.

“When you pair good literature with a sensory learning experience, you create positive memories in the reader,” says this busy teacher. “This improves their comprehension skills and fosters a love of reading!”

Many of Jennifer’s ideas are formed in collaboration with other teachers. She also works in small groups and uses digital accessible books that her students are required to read. “Bookshare has lots of academic titles, plus periodicals to keep my students interested in current events,” she said.

We caught up with Jennifer on our Facebook page, where we encourage teachers to share their best reading practices.  To spur your imagination as you plan out your fall teaching schedule, check out some of Jennifer’s students’ favorite reading projects with sensory and mult-modal experiences:

Black scupleted cat made by students.

Black sculpted cat made by students.


Students read the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg. The story is about two kids who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York. They are inspired by an Egyptian bronze cat. Jennifer’s students read the book, then sculpted cats out of clay. Jennifer baked the sculptures, and the students hand-painted them gold, watched them dry, spray-painted them brown, and wiped off the excess color. Then they added a watered-down green to make the sculptures look oxidized. Ninth and tenth graders loved the project!


Photo of a recycled bowl students made of shredded newspaper.

Photo of a recycled bowl students made of shredded newspaper.


Recycling Project—Making a Paper Bowl

Fourth and fifth graders read the graphic novel The Adventures of OOK and Gluk by Dave Pilkey. In this book, the characters destroy the environment. Jennifer had her students embrace a recycling project where they shredded magazines and made paper bowls. “Each student clearly understood the importance of being a good earth steward,” says Jennifer. “We proudly displayed the bowls in school classrooms.”



Cooking Burgoo Stew

Photo of a pot of stew with many colorful vegetables and meat.

Photo of a pot of stew with many colorful vegetables and meat.

Jennifer’s sixth graders read A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck. It is about a child and grandmother who lived during the depression era and made Burgoo stew, a meal comprised of any meat or vegetable that was available.

“My students used adaptive knives to cut their own vegetables. They made the broth and stirred the stew in a Crock-Pot in class. We made it just like Amy did with her grandma in the book. The stew was part of a culminating activity, and the students ate it with gusto.”


How does Jennifer know that her sensory reading projects help students recall more story details? 

“Two years ago, some students read The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden—a favorite book among early learners,” she tells us. “The cricket eats liverwurst, so we ate it on crackers—quite a sensory experience for my students. Just this week, they told me they remembered the book but didn’t like the liverwurst,” she ends with a smile.