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.
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 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!”
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.
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 http://communications.bookshare.org/mentor-teachers/
Throughout 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.
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?
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.”
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 http://communications.bookshare.org/mentor-teachers/
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:
- 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.
- Read our Bookshare Web Reader First Time User Guide.
- 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!
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:
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!
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
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.