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Bookshare Funding Support – Moving Forward

2016 November 29

How you can help us extend Bookshare federal funding

By Jim Fruchterman, Founder and CEO, Benetech

As you may have heard or seen, the federal government funding from the Department of Education that includes Bookshare is in danger. Benetech and the entire Bookshare community have been hard at work resolving this issue in a variety of ways, from field visits to congressional offices in key districts and states to a letter-writing campaign to representatives and senators.

Thousands of students, parents, teachers, and supporters around the country have contacted their Bookshare, a Benetech Initiativerepresentatives letting them know how critical Bookshare is to students with print disabilities. Those efforts are making a difference and your voices are being heard.  We were in Washington recently, and we heard from many key Republican and Democratic staffers how they had heard from Bookshare fans and that it made a big difference in their funding decisions!

On behalf of Benetech and Bookshare, we cannot say thank you enough for the support so far. But we need to keep it going. We know many of you have helped out, and we hope many more will continue the effort. We thought it would be helpful to provide an update on where things are as well as the approach we are taking given some of the recent changes in Washington, D.C.


Omree Sabo, Bookshare member and student with dyslexia at Redwood High School in Marin County, California. “Bookshare gets a big thumbs up from me. I don’t know where my grades would be if I had not found Bookshare.”

Let’s start with some background. First, be assured that Bookshare has federal funding through September, 2017. The crisis at hand involves the budget year that begins on October 1, 2017. Last summer, the House of Representatives proposed a spending bill that would drastically cut funding for the program from which Bookshare receives its support. They were not targeting Bookshare specifically; instead, our funding was affected by a much larger strategy of redirecting the funding to different areas. The Senate, on the other hand, proposed a bill that would keep the funding at the same level that it was in the 2016 fiscal year.

So where are we now? Initial indications were that the House and Senate would come together prior to the end of this year to negotiate a final spending package for the 2017 fiscal year. Instead, it is now expected that there will be a short-term spending bill, also known as a Continuing Resolution, that funds the government at current budget levels through March 31, 2017, halfway through the current budget year.

As a result, we will continue our outreach and congressional efforts, and we are now tailoring the activities and timing to ramp up in February and March. We’ll need your help at the right moment for maximum impact on this critical funding decision. Please sign up online as a Bookshare supporter. We’ll ask what you are willing to do to pitch in, which could range from making a phone call, sending an email, or visiting your representatives in late winter or early spring.

As you probably know, this appeal for help is incredibly rare for us at Benetech, the nonprofit that operates Bookshare. We wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t critically important to Bookshare’s continued viability. Members of Congress prioritize programs that their constituents tell them are important, and your support could mean the difference between Bookshare continuing to help those with print disabilities or no longer being able to do so.

Thank you to everyone who has jumped in to support Bookshare to date; we’ve had a terrific response so far. Your help is very much appreciated by the Benetech and Bookshare team and our over 400,000 student members!

Our best wishes to all for the coming holiday season.


Share the Bookshare Love with your Aging Family and Friends

2016 November 22

By guest author Deanna McCusker, Head of User Experience, Benetech

Carol Auxer, Bookshare member, and her daughter Deanna McCusker, head of UX at Benetech, stand in front of one of Carol's quilts

Carol Auxer, Bookshare member, and her daughter, Deanna McCusker, head of UX at Benetech

My mom, Carol, and I have always shared a love of reading, often suggesting books to one another that we enjoyed. When I would visit, she would often leave paperbacks on the dresser for me to take home. I didn’t always read them immediately; I’m a busy professional and besides, how interesting could a story about a World War II nurse going back in time to 18th century Scotland be?

When I finally picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. I realized Outlander was actually a series, and Mom and I have read and discussed each new book as it came out. The ninth book has yet to be published, but when it’s announced, Mom will be the first to download it from Bookshare.

When we began this literary journey, Mom was in perfect health. A few years back, however, she began to suffer from macular degeneration. To her extreme frustration, she also started to lose her hearing. She is otherwise still a young seventy-four-year-old.

This change in health has impacted her life (and mine) in a number of ways. She still drives, but not at night and knows the day is coming when she will have to stop altogether. She used to listen to books on tape while driving or working on her favorite hobby, quilting. But recently she has found it increasingly difficult to understand the narrators, especially if they had accents or unusual speech patterns. When Outlander became a TV series, I was thrilled to share it with her, but she found she couldn’t hear it well enough to understand the Scottish accent, and trying to read the subtitles on the screen was too tiresome. She gave up.

Book cover of Outlander by Diana GabaldonAs her tech-savvy daughter, I have been trying to help her find ways to cope, such as purchasing special speakers for her television and helping her learn to use Uber. When I took a new job with Benetech, I quickly realized that Mom was a perfect candidate for Bookshare: a senior with a lifelong love of books experiencing age-related disabilities. And an iPad.

On Mother’s Day, I gave her a one-year membership to Bookshare, the world’s largest online library for people with blindness, low vision, dyslexia, and other print disabilities. Her doctor verified that her failing eyesight qualified as a print disability. I bought her a copy of Voice Dream Reader and demonstrated the features that would help her read: larger font sizes, customized colors for better contrast, and volume and speed control for the text-to-speech (TTS) voices. I pointed out that you can speed up the voices, as I’ve seen many blind Bookshare users do, but Mom wanted the TTS to go slower. I was surprised, but didn’t question it.

The following Sunday, during our weekly phone call, Mom told me she was really enjoying Bookshare, that she had downloaded twoBook cover for Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon books already, and how nice it was to be able to read again. Over the course of the next several months, Mom continually told me how thankful she was for Bookshare. She found all eight of the Outlander series books and is reading them again while we wait for the ninth one. She was so happy that she asked how to donate to Benetech.

I finally had to ask – why do you like it so much? What is it about Bookshare that works better for you than other e-readers like iBooks or Kindle?

Because I can’t see or hear well, I’m experiencing a lot more cognitive overload than I used to. With Bookshare’s TTS voices, I can set the speed a little slower to give my brain time to hear and comprehend. Once I got used to the pattern of the TTS voice –  it is very even-toned – I no longer had to cope with the cadence and variation in human voices. I can enjoy books as fully as I used to without effort!

Do you have a parent, grandparent, or friend whose eyesight is failing, who can no longer hold a print book comfortably, or has multiple age-related disabilities? Anyone with a qualifying print disability can become a Bookshare member and get access to over 490,000 accessible ebooks. Bookshare is available to all U.S. students for free and at a low cost to adults who qualify.

Button that says Learn More and links to the Bookshare website

About Bookshare

Bookshare is the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities. Through its extensive collection of educational and popular titles, specialized book formats, and reading tools, Bookshare offers individuals who cannot read standard print materials the same ease of access that people without disabilities enjoy. In 2007 and 2012, Bookshare received two five-year awards from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), to provide free access for all U.S. students with a qualifying print disability. The Bookshare library now has over 490,000 books and serves more than 400,000 members. Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that develops and uses technology to create positive social change.

About Benetech

Benetech is a different kind of technology company. We’re a nonprofit whose mission is to empower communities in need by creating scalable technology solutions. Our work has transformed how over 400,000 people with disabilities read, made it safer for human rights defenders in over fifty countries to document violations, and equipped environmental conservationists to protect ecosystems and species all over the world. And our Benetech Labs is working on the next big impact. Visit



Robert Lewis Shares Passion for Music, Humanity and Bookshare

2016 November 17

Special thanks to Robert Lewis, Executive Director of Maryland’s Radio Reading Network, for sharing his story.

Listening to Robert Lewis’ voice, you hear a smooth, deep passion for music, humanity, and reading, especially with Bookshare. Mr. Lewis is the Executive Director of Maryland’s Radio Reading Network, a nonprofit hosted by the Maryland School for the Blind, his alma mater.

Robert Lewis broadcasting the news at the radio station.

Robert Lewis broadcasting the news at the radio station.

His radio program, Vision Through Voices, provides a human touch of stories that are of interest to everyone, not just the blind community. Daily, more than two thousand listeners tune in to his broadcast to hear news from publications like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair and much more.

“I’ve always been fascinated by what I heard on the radio,” said Lewis. “Information is empowering. Growing up in the heart of Baltimore’s inner city was an interesting place for a young black child who was blind. I never wanted to be just average or a blind person, but that was my fate.”

Blindness Didn’t Hold Him Back

As a child, Lewis would often sneak the family radio into his bedroom to listen to music and talk shows. “If I didn’t have a person to read to me, I was out of luck to learn things that piqued my curiosity,” he said. “I read braille, but back in those days, it took a lot of time and effort.” Thankfully, he had a brother who looked out for him as well as an incredible school in Maryland that specializes in educating blind children.

Now, at the age of sixty-three, Lewis has broadcasted the news to a faithful audience for more than twenty-five years. “It may not sound like the truth, but I’m thankful I’m blind,” he says. “Blindness probably saved my life because my neighborhood was rough. At times, it was filled with gangs and discrimination against people of color and people with disabilities. Blindness forced me to rise above these barriers and understand that when something is taken away from you, you try to give back in other ways.”

Blindness never stopped him from pursuing his talents and dreams. “It helped me to tap into my soulfulness and my senses to develop a deep passion for music, particularly percussion instruments, and also a love of reading,” he said. Lewis honed his musical skills early in life and learned to play the drums. He played with local musicians and national bands – even with Stevie Wonder. “When you are blind, your sense of hearing and your sense of feeling work together. I could get into the groove with other musicians pretty quickly.”

Bookshare Offers Accessible Reading Advantages

Five years ago, Lewis became an adult member of Bookshare. He says, “The online library helps me read anything I want. Reading ebooks with my preferred technology devices — the iPad and Victor Reader Stream – opened many doors for me because reading is infectious. Once you know how many titles (over 495,000) are in the Bookshare collection, the world is vast and reading enjoyment just takes over. I search for one book and always know what I’m reading next. I have a long list.”

Lewis is grateful for the funding from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education that enables Bookshare to be free for U.S. students with print disabilities. “These grants enable students of any age in U.S. schools who are blind or have low vision to become a Bookshare member for free.” He goes on to say, “Just the fact that you can explore thousands of titles is amazing! Blind people could not do that before. Reading was very selective. Bookshare members have access to unlimited downloads, and there are no time limits or book returns. It’s easy to find old books and new titles for all ages and interests.”

ray-charles-by-sharon-bell-mathisStories About Musicians and Pushing the Limits

Some of Lewis’ favorite stories are about musicians from the 60s and 70s and their legacies such as Ray Charles and Carole King. “Music and reading are important to the soul,” says Lewis. “Life is a big challenge and you’ve got to keep pushing the limits! Bookshare has unleashed information that can help blind people read and learn like scarole-king-a-natural-womanighted people. Accessible ebooks increase opportunities for individuals with disabilities to learn how to become professors, authors, musicians, and even a radio host – any career you can imagine!”

When asked about people he admires in addition to his great love of musicians, Lewis mentions Oprah Winfrey, who lived and worked in Baltimore as a young reporter. “I hope I have had an impact on people, just as she has,” he says. “Oprah has an awesome voice and a heart of gold — maybe we can get her to talk to our audience on the radio one day.”

Learn More

Interested listeners can view weekly program schedules and apply for a special radio receiver on the Radio Reading Network’s website.

To become a member of Bookshare, visit



2016 Man Booker Prize Winner Available on Bookshare

2016 November 10

The SelloutCover of The Sellout by Paul Beatty, Man Booker prize winner, by Paul Beatty, is the 2016 winner of the Man Booker Prize, a leading literary award that has brought recognition, reward, and readership to outstanding fiction for over four decades. The book showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It is a biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court. The Sellout challenges the sacred tenets of the U.S. Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, a father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality.

Paul Beatty is a fifty-four year-old New York resident who was born in Los Angeles. He is the author of three novels – Slumberland, Tuff, and The White Boy Shuffle – and two books of poetry: Big Bank Take Little Bank and Joker, Joker, Deuce. He is also the editor of Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor. Paul is the first American author to win the prize since Americans became eligible in 2014.

About the Man Booker Prize

Photo of Paul Beatty, author of The SelloutThe Man Booker Prize, first awarded in 1969, is recognized as the leading award for exceptional literary fiction written in English. Each prize has the power to transform the winner’s career. The Man Booker Prize and Man Booker International Prize are sponsored by Man Group and underscore the firm’s charitable focus on literacy and education and commitment to excellence and entrepreneurship.

This year’s shortlist includes books by British, American, Canadian, and British-Canadian writers. Past winners of the last four decades include literary giants such as Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Iris Murdoch, and JM Coetzee. Bookshare salutes the accomplishments of these talented writers, and you can read many of their books in Bookshare’s Man Booker Special Collection.

About Bookshare10 Million Downloads - Bookshare, a Benetech initiative

Bookshare is the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities. Through its extensive collection of educational and popular titles, specialized book formats, and reading tools, Bookshare offers individuals who cannot read standard print materials the same ease of access that people without disabilities enjoy. In 2007 and 2012, Bookshare received two five-year awards from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), to provide free access for all U.S. students with a qualifying print disability. The Bookshare library now has over 490,000 books and serves more than 400,000 members. Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that develops and uses technology to create positive social change.

Benetech recently announced that over 10 million accessible ebooks have been downloaded through its Bookshare initiative. Learn more about this momentous milestone.


Bookshare’s Go Read App for Android Makes Accessible Reading Easier Than Ever

2016 November 2

BookshareGoRead app for Android logo. The words "GoRead" are on a tablet screen with a tiny green robot on the side., the online accessible library that is free for all U.S. students with a qualifying print disability such as blindness, low vision, a physical disability or a learning disability, just added some super new updates (version 5.3.9.) to its Go Read app that members and teachers will love.

Get Started with Go Read

Go Read is Bookshare’s free, open source ebook reader app for members who use Android smartphones and tablets.

The app has built-in text-to-speech voices and is optimized for visually-impaired readers. You can use Go Read to connect directly to online libraries, like Bookshare, to download and listen to ebooks in seconds.

What’s especially cool in this newest update (5.3.9) is that Go Read now has a play bar menu at the bottom with an option to access a Spanish user interface. Another feature is that users can easily enlarge font sizes with a quick pinch of their fingers on screen.

Using Go Read, Bookshare members can also access their assigned Reading Lists that automatically synchronize with the app. This feature is especially great for Organizational Members and makes anytime, anywhere reading and learning on-the-go super easy!

Teachers may want to read about the new Assign and Read feature in this Bookshare blog.

To learn more about Go Read visit the Bookshare Help Center and this video tutorial on You-Tube. You might want to also review the Bookshare member-preferred compatible reading tools.

Make any time reading and learning on the go super easy with accessible ebooks

Bookshare has over 489,000 titles including textbooks, Common Core materials, educational titles, bestsellers, children’s books, and more.  To become a Bookshare member, students must have a qualifying disability that prevents them from reading printed text.

Learn more about Bookshare and sign up today!

Omree Sabo, High School Student with Dyslexia, Advocates for Ebooks

2016 October 25
by Bookshare Communications

Bookshare member dives into the deep end of reading with accessible ebooks!

Omree Sabo sitting on his couch with his laptop and a thumbs up.Omree Sabo, a sophomore at Redwood High School in Marin County, California, is an avid user of Bookshare; so much so that he decided to help other students and teachers at his school and in his county learn about the free, online  library of accessible ebooks for U.S. students who cannot read standard print.

“Bookshare gets a big thumbs up from me,” says Omree. “I don’t know where my grades would be if my parents had not found Bookshare and signed me up for an Individual Membership.”

In second grade, Omree recalls being pulled out of class to be tested by a reading specialist. “I felt ashamed when my elementary teachers asked me to read aloud and I couldn’t,” he says. “In school, most teachers, including some in special education, did not know about a Bookshare Organizational Membership for schools. They did not realize that the resource is free and could give kids, like me, access to digital textbooks and reading assignments in digital formats like the one I just read for English: Romeo and Juliet.”

During his freshman year, Omree worked on a school project to learn about assistive technologies and how they support students with learning disabilities. He contacted Bookshare to ask for literature to share with his peers and school administrators in his district.

“I found that most students with reading and writing disabilities who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) did not know about or use Bookshare,” he said. “As a result, most were not considering college. I completely understood how they felt, but this was not acceptable. How are kids with dyslexia supposed to read textbooks without audio assistance? Some statistics say that less than ten percent of students with reading disabilities finish college because they cannot handle the high-level reading material. Bookshare helped me to recognize that I am a very good student. I was always good at math and science, and now I like to read.”

Book Cover of The Alchemyst by Michael ScottFor required reading at school, Omree has read The Secret Life of Bees, works by William Shakespeare, and The Alchemyst from Bookshare. He intends to look for test preparation materials in Bookshare so that he can study for the SAT and ACT prior to attending college where he plans to study computer programming or science.

He reads ebooks on his iPad with apps like Read2Go and Voice Dream Reader, and also on his laptop using Bookshare Web Reader directly from an internet browser. Students can read Bookshare books on a wide variety of software apps, tablets, smartphones, and assistive technology devices.

“Listening to ebooks read aloud through text-to-speech while seeing the words highlighted helped me recognize how much I can learn while reading,” he said. “I also like to set my own reading preferences so I can look up words in the dictionary and take notes to study for exams.”

Book Cover of Michael Phelps by Jeffrey Zuehlke with photo of Michael swimming butterflyWhen he’s not involved in a school project, Omree loves to play guitar and swim. He idolizes Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold medal swimmer. When out of the pool, he reads popular teen series like Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter and likes to stay up to date on news and politics.

“Reading digital text helps me to pay attention and read for longer periods of time,” says Omree. “I like information that makes me think. I like to help people and want other kids with dyslexia to receive the accommodations they need for their reading disabilities, like assistive technologies and Bookshare. Then, they will be able to read well too. With Bookshare’s collection, I can dive into books and be like Michael Phelps — having no limits to hold me back. If that happens, then people with dyslexia can do well in school and go to college.”

Sign Up for Bookshare Today!

Bookshare’s online accessible library has over 484,000 titles including textbooks, Common Core materials, educational titles, bestsellers, children’s books, and more. The library is free for U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities that prevent them from reading printed text. Bookshare is an initiative of a technology nonprofit called Benetech and is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education.

Button that says Learn More and links to the Back to School landing page

Texas Specialist Finds Successful Reading Strategies to Teach Students with Dyslexia

2016 October 18
by Bookshare Communications

Leslie Patterson listening to a Bookshare book through a smart phone with headphonesFinding the right reading solutions for an estimated 2.4 million* American students with a learning disability, like dyslexia, can be difficult. For these students, reading isn’t easy. Brain signals get mixed up, causing an inability to decode and interpret words. Thankfully, many students with learning disabilities are placed in the capable hands of specialists like Leslie Patterson, a Certified Academic Language Therapist and licensed Dyslexia Teacher for Griffis Elementary School in Caddo Mills, Texas. Leslie works with young children, and a critical part of her job is to identify strategies and resources that strengthen their reading comprehension through a multisensory approach.

Discovering Assistive Technology to Hear Content Read Aloud

Several years ago, Leslie experienced an “aha” moment that forever changed the way she taught reading using assistive technology and accessible curriculum materials. “I was working with a first grader who had a lot of exposure to reading but could not easily retain word patterns,” she said.

Leslie and many other teachers tried different strategies, but none were effective. In fourth grade, the student was still reading poorly, so the specialist took a new approach. She sat him at a computer running Read & Write Gold by TextHelp. The software reads text aloud and highlights words as the reader listens and follows along. With headphones on, the student was immersed in reading. “It was like a light went on,” says Leslie. “He showed immediate improvement. He began to complete all his assignments with the help of the Read & Write Gold text-to-speech features.”

Soon after his introduction to technology, Leslie signed him up for a Bookshare membership where he could read digital accessible books with both his eyes and his ears. Rather than reading print books that were several grade levels below his cognitive ability, this student was now passing Accelerated Reading (AR) scores on grade-level library books. The student went on to complete all of his school assignments using assistive technology and accessible curriculum. The multisensory reading approach (listening to and seeing highlighted text) enabled him to comprehend more of what he read. He met his academic goals. He enjoyed going to the school library and to find and read digital books. Leslie knew that she had made a breakthrough with her student.

Since that early technology reading experience, Leslie has turned to Bookshare’s online accessible library to find a broader selection of accessible ebooks. She says, “The digital library makes a real difference in helping students read grade-level text. Membership is free for all qualified U.S. students and includes some free reading tools. I can easily find accessible materials for schoolwork and pleasure reading.”

Teaching Students with Dyslexia to Become Mindful Readers

To keep her students engaged in reading, Leslie teaches them strategies of how to “listen well” with their eyes and ears. She says this is a key learning strategy called mindful reading. “Reading ebooks is like watching a movie,” she says. “If students learn to practice mindful reading strategies, they can become fully immersed in their ebooks. This experience can increase their comprehension and help them become independent readers. It opens them up to new learning opportunities and to expect academic achievement.”

Leslie suggests these mindful reading practices that she has adopted over time:

  1. Focus and discipline – teach students how to intentionally engage their senses, particularly eyes and ears, while reading (seeing and hearing) a digital ebook.
  2. Thought patterns – discuss brain functions to alert the thinking process.
  3. Story elements – break down the story into smaller parts to understand main points.
  4. Memory and recall – understand how the brain retains and recalls information.
  5. Imagination and creativity – determine how to imagine images, charts and symbols.
  6. Characters – imagine people and scenes in the mind, like in a movie.
  7. Brainstorm – prepare students to ask questions likely to be on comprehension quizzes.
  8. Technology devices – review how to use devices and set preferences and bookmarks.

Each school day, Leslie Patterson enters her classroom and sees tablets on her desk with lots of sticky notes from students requesting ebooks from Bookshare. She says, “Bookshare is a wise investment of time for our schools, teachers, and families. The library holds a rich and diverse collection (482,174 titles to date) with over 350,000 educational titles including literature and K-12 textbooks in accessible formats. With mindful reading best practices, assistive technology, and ebooks, we can help many more students with learning and print disabilities enjoy success in school and in life, and teaching children how to read and listen well will make you a hero.”

*Source: National Center for Learning Disabilities


Leslie Patterson was just featured in the Dallas Morning News in an article titled, “Elementary teacher uses technology to help dyslexic students develop love of reading.”



Bookshare Has the Books for Teen Read Week

2016 October 10

By guest author Kathy Swartz, Bookshare Operations Administrator and Librarian

Teen Read Week, October 9-15, is a reading event sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). The goal is to get tweens, teens, and young adults reading and talking about books. Bookshare, an accessible online library for individuals who cannot read traditional print books because of a visual impairment, physical disability or severe learning disability, has many books for this audience, and now we have even more. Thanks to a generous donation by Carole Lake, a long-standing supporter of Bookshare, we have been able to add an additional 88 books to the collection that were not already provided by our publisher partners.

The collection contains award-winning books, books recommended in teen magazines and blogs, series books, bestsellers, and more. With so many to choose from, I thought I’d offer some suggestions. The books marked with an asterisk appear on the list of the YALSA 2016 Teens’ Top Ten Nominees.

For tweens (middle school, grades 6 – 8):

  • Con Academy* by Joe Screiber: At an elite prep school, two con artists make a bet on who can con the richest,Luck by Cynthia Kadohata: Two children are sitting on the ground.most privileged student. In this twisty tale of scams, secrets, lies and deception, it’s hard to figure out who’s conning who!
  • The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata: There is bad luck, good luck, and making your own luck—which is exactly what Summer must do to save her family.
  • The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides by Ben Tripp: The title says it all!
  • Mechanica* by Betsy Cornwell: A steam-punk Cinderella.
  • Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi: In America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota–and hopefully live to see another day.
  • I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora: When Lucy, Elena, and Michael receive their summer reading list they are excited to see To Kill A Mockingbird. But not everyone in their class shares the same enthusiasm.

For teens (high school, grades 9 – 12):

  • Zeroes (Zeroes #1)* by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti: Don’t call them heroes, but Book cover for Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draperthese six California teens have powers that set them apart.
  • Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas: Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie has a life-threatening allergy to electricity, and Moritz’s weak heart requires a pacemaker. If they ever did meet, they could both die.
  • Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero: Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: college applications, Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity.
  • The Game of Love and Death* by Martha Brockenbrough: Flora and Henry were born a few blocks from each other, innocent of the forces that might keep a white boy and an African American girl apart; years later they meet again and their mutual love of music sparks an even more powerful connection.
  • Jackaby (Jackaby #1) by William Ritter: Newly arrived in 1892 New England, Abigail Rook becomes an assistant to R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained.
  • Tears of a Tiger (Hazelwood High #1) by Sharon M. Draper: In one horrifying night, Andy’s life changed forever: Andy Jackson was driving the car that crashed after a game, killing Robert Washington, his best friend and the captain of the Hazelwood High Tigers.

For young adults (grade 11 and beyond):

  • Everything, Everything* by Nicola Yoon: If you love Eleanor and Park, Hazel and Augustus, and Mia and Book cover for Vango: Between Sky and Earth by Timothee de FombelleAdam, you’ll love the story of Maddy, a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world, and Olly, the boy who moves in next door and becomes the greatest risk she’s ever taken.
  • Half a King (Shattered Sea #1) by Joe Abercrombie: Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
  • Sway by Kat Spears: A Cyrano de Bergerac story with a modern twist. High school senior Jesse Alderman, or “Sway,” as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop. But when Ken Foster, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all-around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things.
  • Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls* by Lynn Weingarten: Sexy, dark, and atmospheric, this book will keep you guessing until the very last page.
  • Bone Gap by Laura Ruby: Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps, so when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. But Finn knows what really happened to Roza. He knows she was kidnapped by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember.
  • Vango: Between Sky And Earth by Timothée de Fombelle: A breathless and highly cinematic story that follows Vango traveling by Zeppelin across Europe from Stromboli to Nazi Germany, from Scotland to the Soviet Union, climbing the rooftops of Paris, and crossing the paths of arms traffickers, crooked policemen, Russian spies and even Stalin.

An important note: while these books are theoretically for teens and young adults, they are all excellent books that can be enjoyed by adults of all ages! And this list is just a sample – check out more by these authors and others in the Bookshare teen collection.

We hope you enjoy these accessible ebooks in the Bookshare library all year long – and not just during Teen Read Week.

Not yet a Bookshare member? Button that says Learn More and links to the Back to School landing page

Son’s Dyslexia Diagnosis Prompts Mom’s Search for Answers

2016 October 6

Seth Gast has dyslexia and a language disorder. For three years, he has used Bookshare’s online accessible library for schoolwork and to find Boy Scout manuals to obtain his merit badges and become an Eagle Scout. His mom, Dina Gast, credits his academic progress to a renowned dyslexia center, excellent teachers and tutors, and Bookshare. In recognition of National Dyslexia Awareness Month, here is Seth’s story.

Seth Gast listening and reading a book on his smartphone with headphones on.

Early Reading Frustration

Entering first grade, Seth was a bright little boy, but his mom noticed his enthusiasm for school and learning diminish. He liked books, but seemed to be frustrated with reading. A shadow followed Seth and his family for years. His mom, Dina Gast, arose each day with uncertainty. She remembers her son bringing books home from school that he could recite from memory. Seth had begun to compensate for his reading challenges with memorization. Mrs. Gast talked with teachers about her son’s lack of reading progress and says, “You never want to hear that anything is wrong with your child, but the answers and solutions for my son did not come easily.”

Mrs. Gast began to help Seth with schoolwork; still, his reading interest and grades fell. By third grade, she enrolled him in the Ohio Virtual Academy, a tuition-free, fully-accredited, online public school. By sixth grade, Mrs. Gast scheduled tests at the Akron Children’s Hospital where a physician who specializes in neurology developmental and behavior science diagnosed Seth with dyslexia. He also recommended Bookshare and the Children’s Dyslexia Center, Inc. run by the Scottish Rite Charity and Masonic Order. Mrs. Gast quickly signed her son up for an individual membership to Bookshare.

From Barely Reading to Reading with Full Comprehension

For two years, Seth worked with his online teacher and a certified tutor at the Children’s Dyslexia Center using accessible ebooks from Bookshare. At that time, Seth in his boy scout uniform standing in the woods by a tree.Seth’s reading, writing and spelling skills were barely at a first grade level. “It’s been amazing to watch his progress,” says his mom. Seth went from barely reading to full comprehension. His handwriting, once gigantic and messy, turned into beautiful cursive. His vocabulary and spelling skills improved. Seth also has a much higher self-esteem and a greater understanding of his reading disability. “At first, I did not want people to know that I could not read,” he said. “I memorized a lot of books, but that got harder to do. Bookshare, my teachers, my technology and my mom helped me so much!”

Boy Scouts Honor

This year, Seth is completing his Boy Scouts of America merit badge series to become an Eagle Scout. He says, “I still like to hold a printed book or textbook, but I also want to hear the information read aloud.” He reads on an iPad with Read2Go.  “The best thing about a digital accessible book is that you can read with your eyes and listen with your ears. This type of multi-sensory learning sinks in for me. I know I am smart. My brain is just wired differently.”

Leisure Reading Sparks a Career Interest

Jack Hanna holding a baby tiger.Growing up, Seth loved to read about nature and animals. It is no surprise that in high school he does well in animal science and biology. He wants to attend Ohio State University to become a zoologist. He says, “I was inspired by Jack Hanna, a well-respected American zookeeper at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium who has dyslexia too.”

Since identifying Seth’s learning disability, Mrs. Gast is so proud of her son. “Our lives and Seth’s reading skills have improved significantly! He is still a slow reader, but listening to audio books has improved his ability to get schoolwork done with less frustration. He just completed his first semester in high school with all A’s. This achievement would not have been possible without  teachers who know the advantages of using accessible ebooks and technologies and these valuable resources to support children and adults with dyslexia and other print disabilities.”

Four Reasons to Sign Up for a Bookshare Membership:

  1. Reading skills improvement to enable progress toward grade level academic achievement.
  2. Access to core curriculum and required reading materials (K-12 textbooks, novels and literature) in accessible format.
  3. Reading and learning independence.
  4. Reading for fun and to tap into interests and hobbies.

Special thanks to Dina Gast and her son, Seth,  for sharing their story.

Learn more about Bookshare’s back-to-school initiative today!



BeeLine Reader Adds Color to Bookshare

2016 September 30
by Laura Deck, Bookshare Communications

Bookshare is now offering an award-winning accessibility feature that helps readers maintain focus and improves visual tracking ability. This integration is made possible through a partnership with social impact startup BeeLine Reader.

The idea behind BeeLine Reader’s technology is to make text easier to read by using eye-guiding color gradients. These gradients wrap from the end of one line to the beginning of the next, reducing the incidence of line transition errors. Readers of all ages and skill levels can use BeeLine to make reading easier and more enjoyable. Many readers—especially those with dyslexia, ADHD, and vision impairments—find that BeeLine allows them to read with unprecedented fluency and ease.

Bookshare members who read with Bookshare Web Reader, our free browser-based reading tool, can now add BeeLine’s color gradients to text by activating the BeeLine feature through the Settings menu. This feature is free.

First, go to My Bookshare and select a title and click “Read Now.” You will see this pop-up message:

Pop-up screen that asks members if they want to try BeeLine Reader


Click on the “Yes, I’ll try it!” button and then select BeeLine from the Settings menu:

screen shot of the Bookshare Web Reader settings window that allows you to select font face, font size, text and background color, and display format


You can choose between several color schemes. The BeeLine Reader text will look like this:

Screen shot of a passage from a book showing text in gradients of color in blue, black and red


Bookshare conducted a study with mentor teachers who evaluated BeeLine Reader. All of the study participants said they would like to use BeeLine Reader with Bookshare content. Said one teacher, “I am very excited about introducing this assistive technology to my special education and general education teachers. It provides struggling students the opportunity to succeed in reading. I am very, very excited!”

BeeLine’s technology is currently under study at the Byers Eye Institute at Stanford Medical School. The study is being run by the director of the Institute, Dr. Joyce Liao. She and her colleagues are investigating BeeLine’s benefits for readers with various visual impairments, both congenital and acquired. BeeLine has previously been featured by the American Optometric Association.

We encourage you to visit the Bookshare Help Center to learn how to use BeeLine Reader with Bookshare Web Reader and give it a try today.

To learn more about BeeLine Reader and how you can use it to read websites, email, and PDFs, visit: