“It is no longer difficult to find accessible books, and I will use Bookshare for a lifetime,” says Emeline Lakrout.
“Just a few years ago, it was difficult to find accessible books,” says Emeline Lakrout, who has degenerative low vision. “I appreciate that my parents sought reading solutions for me starting at a young age. I have always been able to enjoy reading because of their efforts.”
Now, at age seventeen, Emeline takes honors classes at Ronald Reagan High School in San Antonio, Texas. She is an avid reader and technology user. She is interested in all kinds of books and genres, from classics like The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, to historic accounts of the Cold War era like Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, by Eric Schlosser.
In high school, Emeline taps into the Bookshare online accessible library for textbooks, novels, academic research, and test preparation manuals for the SAT, PSAT, ACT, and AP exams. Bookshare is free for all U.S. students with a qualifying print disability. She reads quickly and credits many of her teachers for providing required reading assignments at the beginning of each school semester, especially for her English classes. “This advance notice helps me stay on track with my studies and classmates,” she says.
Emeline uses an iPad with Bookshare’s Read2Go app and a Lenovo tablet with Bookshare’s Go Read – a free, open source Android app that was recently updated with improved layout and font size control, better navigation, access to periodicals and books with images, and more. Both of these technologies include accessibility features that enable her to enlarge the font size or follow along as highlighted words are read aloud. She can change the speed of a voice or place a bookmark on the last page she has read. “These features provide extra support for me,” says Emeline. “I get all my accessible books from Bookshare and plan to use it for a lifetime.”
Now preparing college applications, Emeline intends to study social sciences and likes to explore the online library for titles about careers, business, leadership, politics, and pleasure reading. “Bookshare is really convenient. It has a category of popular books and recommended bestsellers. It is fun to scan through these titles and download a few books for safekeeping. I also read periodicals when I can, like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. It’s like having a reading “backpack” on the go! You don’t need another library resource – just an Individual Membership – and you’ll have all the titles you will want to read.”
Note to Texas educators:
Did you know that you can get free Bookshare training in your school? The Accessible Books for Texas initiative is an on-the-ground and local training program to provide Texas public K-12 educators, parents, and students training, information, and accessible educational resources through Bookshare. This project is funded by the Texas Education Agency.
ATIA – February 2-5, 2016 – Orlando, FL
Attendees of this year’s Assistive Technology Industry Association conference will learn about the latest trends, tools, and best practices in the field of assistive technology that can improve the lives of people with special needs.
To learn more about Bookshare and how you can help students with print disabilities get accessible books and educational materials, we invite you to attend our presentations and training events.
Bookshare Training at ATIA on Friday, February 5th
Register now to reserve your spot in one of the FREE 30-minute Bookshare training sessions throughout the day. There is a session for every user whether you are at a beginning, intermediate, or advanced level. All 30-minute sessions are held in the Boca V room.
Bookshare for Beginners – 8:00 am & 10:15 am
Learn how Bookshare helps students who face barriers to printed text because of visual impairments and physical and learning disabilities to embrace reading.
Make 2016 the Year of Fast, Easy, Independent Reading – 8:45 am & 11:00 am
Discover how quickly and easily your students with print disabilities can read thanks to Bookshare’s latest feature. Previously offered only to Individual Members, Bookshare Web Reader is now available to students on an organizational account and is the easiest way for members to read books independently at school and home. Using their own teacher-supplied logins, students simply find their book and select “Read Now” to read instantly in a browser.
Encourage Anywhere, Anytime Reading with Mobile Tools – 9:30 am & 11:45 am
For many students, using tablets, phones, and other devices is now second nature, and students with print disabilities are no exception. Capitalize on this trend by connecting your students with apps that make accessible reading quick and painless. Come and see how Read2Go, Go Read, and other tools help students read and learn at school, at home, and on the go.
Additional Presentations by Bookshare staff at ATIA:
Also on February, 5th, 2016
- Enhancing Educational Opportunities for Tactile Learners through 3D Printing — 1:00 – 2:00 pm in Caribbean VII.
- Learning Together: Making All Content Available to Learners with Disabilities — 4:30 – 5:30 pm in Caribbean V.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Even as a child, Junia Howell dreamed of new policies that would increase the economic vitality of her impoverished urban neighborhood. Yet, occupations that evaluate and create policies require ample amounts of reading and writing—a challenge for Howell who is severely dyslexic. However, with the support of accessible online libraries like Bookshare, which is free to all U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities, Howell is now pursuing her passion as a Sociology PhD candidate at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
“Audiobooks have been an essential part of my academic access,” says Howell. “In primary school, I would wait by the mail in anticipation of the Library of Congress’ green boxes containing my books on cassette tape. When I got older, I used Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic (now Learning Ally) because of their larger selection.” In 2006, Howell was awarded a Marion Huber Learning Through Listening® scholarship from RFBD. She continues to be grateful. “Without them, I never would have made it this far.”
As Howell advanced in her studies, classroom materials became more difficult for her to find. She began scanning books and would stand for hours listening to one book while scanning several more. At this time, she learned about Bookshare. “I began to tap into the online accessible library for my research and for materials I use in the classes I teach,” she explains. “I’m amazed at the increasing number of titles I can download and read on my computer using Kurzweil 3000. I continue to find books I’ve wanted to read for a long time but haven’t had time to scan. Now I know what ‘normal’ readers feel like—making decisions about what to read based solely on the book and not the level of accessibility. It is a relief to know that I can access almost any title.”
Howell notes, “I love hearing about new books, especially on NPR’s Fresh Air, and knowing I can access the books on Bookshare.” She recently did this with NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman, a book she says “was not only a good read, but also helped me to better understand my dyslexia and its connection with other neurological disorders.” Other recent titles she has downloaded for her academic work include:
- The Changing Terrain of Race and Ethnicity by Maria Krysan and Amanda E. Lewis
- Great American City by Robert J. Sampson
- Statistics: The Art and Science of Learning form Data by Alan Agresti and Christine Franklin
Outside of academia, Howell remains committed to her community. She advises and conducts evaluative research for local nonprofits, teaches short courses at a community center, and mentors young girls—two of whom are dyslexic. “I am humbled by moments when the girls see me as a successful person,” she says. “Like them, I still fight the voice inside my head that says if I can’t read, I must be stupid. So I do what I can to use my story to convey to them that they can be whatever they want to be.”
Refusing to see dyslexia as a disability, Howell acknowledges that her journey to read has strengthened her capacity to think more creatively and to construct innovative solutions to address sociological problems in her field. At the same time, however, she notes that without audiobooks she could never be where she is today. “Bookshare has opened the world of books for me and for other people with dyslexia. Now I have the tools to work as a professional sociologist. I can continue my quest for knowledge beyond what I ever thought possible and use it to make a difference in the world.”
Do you know someone with a learning disability looking for inspiration? Share Junia’s story!
Tanna Gallaher, a Dyslexia Specialist at Raymond E. Curtis Elementary School in Weatherford, Texas, encourages good reading habits to support lifelong learning. Ms. Gallaher’s motto is to read, read, read, and she advocates for independent reading at school and at home.
“It is important that students are able to choose what they are most interested in reading, whether that is fiction, nonfiction, magazines, websites, or other materials,” she says. “I encourage all parents to discuss with their child what he or she likes to read and ask questions often about what they are reading at the present time.”
Taking her motto a step forward, this teacher recently asked her third through fifth graders to write a sentence about using Bookshare on their mobile devices (at home, in class, in the park, or in the car).
Students talk about Bookshare and accessibility features that help them accomplish their teacher’s mission:
“I like being able to follow along as I listen to the words. Also, when I pause it I can read a word over and over again so I can memorize it.”
“The books are easy or hard, but I like being able to choose.”
“I like being able to read any book I want in my classroom.”
“I like that my book is right in my pocket! Plus, if I am reading a book and I have trouble with a word, I can just listen to the word I need.”
“Bookshare helps during my class because it helps me remember what I’m reading. When I have trouble reading or cannot figure out a word, it reads it to me. I can understand the words and the story better.”
“Some books don’t have pictures and without pictures I don’t really have as much information. When Bookshare reads the words, I understand the whole story. What would a book be if you didn’t know the words?”
“Bookshare makes reading much smoother and easier. I have been able to read books that I wasn’t able to read before.”
“Normally when I am reading I have a regular speed, but when I come to a word that I don’t know it slows me down. With Bookshare I can listen at one speed and it doesn’t mess up words.”
“Bookshare helped me read faster and I can read in the dark!”
Tanna Gallaher is a Bookshare Mentor Teacher and the 2015 grand prize winner for her efforts to promote Bookshare and lifelong learning in her school throughout the year. Today, eighty percent of her students successfully use technology for independent reading.
“I’ve shared my passion for Bookshare with the dyslexia therapists at six elementary schools and three secondary campuses in the district, and with a lot of teachers, parents, and administrators,” she says. “I will continue to promote the accessible library for reading anytime and anywhere.”
Stay tuned for more great stories of educators, individuals, and students who use Bookshare. Their experiences may inspire you to make new reading resolutions in 2016. Here’s to lifelong learning!
Braille, the ingenious system of six dots invented by Louis Braille almost 200 years ago in France, has meant literacy to millions of blind and visually-impaired individuals around the world. Since braille represents living languages, periodic modifications are necessary to reflect changes in languages and to keep braille vital and contemporary.
In the United States, English Braille, American Edition (EBAE) has been the predominant braille code. To keep U.S. braille consistent and up to date with the braille code used for international English, Unified English Braille (UEB) has been adopted as the official U.S. braille code. UEB is being implemented in the U.S. on January 4, 2016 in commemoration of Louis Braille’s birthday.
What does that mean for Bookshare members? You can immediately get on board with the transition to UEB. Bookshare’s English titles are now available in UEB, making it the largest collection of UEB titles in the world. Members can select from a huge variety of leisure, career, and educational books and read them in UEB on compatible reading tools.
Bookshare’s UEB titles are also an important resource for braille instructors. Teachers can help students learn how to read with the new braille code using a wide selection of fun and engaging titles for readers of every age and interest. Bookshare is committed to supporting the transition to UEB and hopes members will take full advantage of the breadth of its collection.
For members who wish to continue to read in the previous braille code, Bookshare will continue to provide books in EBAE. In addition, non-English books will continue to be available in their existing formats.
Are you ready to get started with UEB on Bookshare? Visit our Braille resource page for more details and instructions on reading Bookshare books in braille.
Bookshare strives to continually improve the quality of its braille. To produce our braille files, Bookshare uses an open source braille translator called Liblouis, which is also continuously updated. We encourage our members to report issues with our braille and our books in general. We collect this information and work to resolve bugs and issues where possible and partner with Liblouis when necessary.
Our goal is to provide braille readers with equal and timely access to the largest body of books and reading materials while continuously working to improve our braille quality. We are committed to serving our visually-impaired community by supporting the UEB standard.
To Louis Braille in honor of his birthday, we say “bon anniversaire” and “merci beaucoup” for giving the world braille.
Bookshare is your headquarters for winter reading
The Bookshare team is making a list and checking it twice – a list of books, that is. One of the best gifts you can give – or receive — this holiday season is a good book. And if it’s part of the Bookshare collection of over 375,000 titles, no wrapping is required.
Wherever your travels take you this winter, take some books along. You can enjoy the books your friends have been talking about, such as the Hunger Games trilogy, the Maze Runner series, Harry Potter-themed titles, Percy Jackson and other works by Rick Riordan, and the beloved Magic Treehouse books, just to name a few.
The holiday break is a great time to catch up on the reading you’ve been meaning to do. Explore the full stories behind the blockbuster movies playing on the big screen, like Star Wars! You can enjoy New York Times bestsellers and 2015 book award winners. Or maybe you want to get into the spirit with some holiday-themed favorites. Bookshare has something for every reader, so check out our list of suggested winter break reads.
Dive into these special collections and award winners:
- Mark Zuckerberg’s “A Year of Books”
- National Book Award winners
- Top 100 Picture Books
- New York Times bestsellers
- Caldecott Medal winners – like The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat
Enjoy these special holiday collections:
- Winter titles that will tickle your funny bone – like The Box of Delights by John Masefield
- Twelve winter holiday books
- Holiday reading for everyone
Load up your personal Reading List or help a student find favorite books for winter reading. We’re spreading the Bookshare cheer for the rest of the year and beyond. Oh what fun it is to read!