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Visits to Largest U.S. School Districts Yield Valuable Insights for Bookshare Team

2017 January 9

By Christine Jones, Senior Education Program Manager, Global Literacy Program, Benetech

Early in 2016, Benetech began a concerted effort to learn even more about how schools are providing services to students who experience barriers to reading printed text and how Bookshare can work more seamlessly in these diverse environments. We decided to go “under the hood” by partnering with some of the nation’s largest and most under-resourced school districts. To date, we have met with key team members at more than thirty districts and have learned a great deal about their needs and challenges, as Student at computer reading text with word highlightingwell as how Bookshare can help.

Our key takeaway from these meetings has been the need to make Bookshare even easier to implement and to provide simpler and more detailed guidance on how to use Bookshare. As a result, we have made some significant product improvements in the past year.

Teachers can now:

  • Give students their own logins* so they can easily access assigned books and read independently.
  • Assign books to students as they sign them up for Bookshare.*
  • Build Reading Lists and share them with other teachers in their organization.
  • See when students have downloaded assigned books, which is informative in parent meetings, and the Primary Contact on an account can print a student download report for administrative purposes.

Students can now:

  • Easily access and read assigned books on tablets, computers, MP3 players, Braille devices, and other assistive technology devices.

*Get detailed instructions in this Getting Started Guide and in this helpful video.

Bookshare Champions Facilitate Adoption

We also learned more about the unique challenges that large districts face and how differently these are addressed from district to district. For example, facilitating pervasive use of a valuable resource such as Bookshare is a daunting task given the sheer numbers of campuses, teachers, and students. We observed that district-level Bookshare champions are key to widespread adoption of the online library. Some districts already have effective systems in place to ensure that many teachers have easy access to Bookshare, while others are working at integrating Bookshare into their student curriculum. Recognizing how Bookshare can help both their teachers and students, other districts arranged for us to meet with and/or train their staff. As a result, we expect to see more qualified students in those districts enjoying more accessible ebooks from Bookshare in the coming months.

Albuquerque Public Schools Set the Bar High

One district that stands out is Albuquerque Public Schools (APS). Nearly 90% of the 161 schools have Logo for Albuquerque Public SchoolsBookshare accounts, which is the highest percentage of all the districts we studied this year. In addition, approximately 75% of the APS students who qualify for Bookshare are currently signed up for the service. However, as APS staff can attest, getting schools and students signed up for Bookshare is just the beginning. The district-level assistive technology (AT) team provides Bookshare training to the various campuses on an ongoing basis to ensure that students get the accessible materials they need.

We plan to visit more districts this year, and we look forward to learning even more about how we can better support teachers across the country who are working so diligently to help students with print disabilities to succeed.

Do you know of a school or school district whose students would benefit from Bookshare?

Button that says Learn More and links to the Bookshare home page

Bookshare Touches Lives All Year Long

2016 December 19
Suraj, a student in Pune, India, reads a braille book while listening to the audio narration with help from Dr. Homiyar

Suraj, a student in Pune, India, reads a braille book while listening to the audio narration with help from Dr. Homiyar.

The goal of Benetech’s Bookshare initiative is to make reading accessible to everyone. Bookshare is the world’s largest accessible online library that serves over 400,000 members with print disabilities. In September, Bookshare reached a significant milestone when it delivered the ten millionth book downloaded. That’s an awful lot of accessible ebooks making reading possible for individuals with blindness, low vision, a physical disability, or a learning disability like dyslexia.

Another way we are bringing the benefits of Bookshare to a wider audience is through partnerships with public libraries. Libraries in New York, Georgia, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia now offer free Bookshare memberships to patrons who qualify, and we are actively pursuing additional libraries.

Bookshare’s membership extends well beyond the U.S. border. Thanks to a Google Impact Challenge award in April, the team is implementing Bookshare and conducting teacher training in India and other underserved countries. The project includes adding local language books in accessible formats to help individuals with disabilities overcome barriers to reading. Bookshare now has books in twenty-five languages and members in over seventy countries.

Throughout 2016, the Bookshare blog shared stories about students and adults whose lives have been changed by Bookshare as well as teachers and administrators who brought Bookshare to their schools. The blog also highlighted books from the incredibly vast collection of fiction, nonfiction, textbooks, children’s literature, vocational manuals, bestsellers, newspapers, and much more. Take a look at some of the highlights below:

Bookshare members and advocates share the joy of reading

Robert Lewis broadcasting the news at the radio station.

Robert Lewis broadcasting the news at the radio station.

  • Robert Lewis, a Bookshare member and Executive Director of the Maryland School for the Blind’s Radio Reading Network
  • Seth Gast, an accomplished boy scout with dyslexia who loves animals and nature
  • Debbie Campbell, a parent advocate who dispels myths surrounding ebooks
  • Philippe Ernewein and Anthony Slaughter, school administrators who implemented Bookshare throughout the entire Denver Academy
  • Bill Powell, a Bookshare member who helps adults with visual impairments receive vocational training

Bookshare salutes teacher heroes

Bookshare adds new features to improve usability

Bookshare’s collection has titles for all interests and ages

Thank you, Bookshare champions

To all of the Bookshare members, educators, parents, volunteers, and advocates, we appreciate all the work you do to make accessible reading a commonplace experience to enrich the lives of people with print disabilities.

We invite you to connect and engage with the Bookshare community now and in 2017 by:

  • Subscribing to the Bookshare blog using the field in the upper right corner
  • Following Bookshare on social media using the icons below
  • Becoming a parent ambassador or mentor teacher

Warmest wishes for a happy holiday season from all of us at Benetech.

Make the Holidays Special with Bookshare

2016 December 8

Bookshare has a wealth of titles for pleasure reading, cooking, crafting, and celebrating holiday traditions.

The holiday season is full of joy and wonderment, especially when you explore new ways to make the season bright. Think back to baking or smelling a warm pie fresh from the oven, making a homemade gift, or hearing a child’s laughter reading a favorite bedtime story. Books about these holiday-themed activities and many more can be found in the Bookshare library. The collections team has chosen a variety of books that appeal to all ages and interests. Here are a few favorites for you to discover and enjoy.

Fun and Traditional Reads for All Ages

The Book of (Holiday) Awesome (family nonfiction, self-help, humor)Book cover for Winter World by Bernd Heinrich

From Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, to other holidays such as Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving, this book will show you why holidays are…awesome.

Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival (family nonfiction, nature)

From flying squirrels to grizzly bears and from torpid turtles to insects with antifreeze, the animal kingdom relies on some staggering evolutionary innovations to survive winter.

The Story of the Nutcracker (family literature, fantasy, fiction)

Delightful tale of a little girl’s love for an enchanted nutcracker.

The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily (teen fiction)

Life-affirming romance and New York Times bestseller.

We Are What We Celebrate (family nonfiction, social studies)Book cover of The Story of the Nutcracker by ETA Hoffmann

Why do we exchange presents? What do bunnies have to do with Easter? How did Earth Day become global?

Oliver the Cat Who Saved Christmas: The Tale of a Little Cat with a Big Heart (children’s fiction)

A Christmas book perfect for fans of A Street Cat Named Bob.

Romance, History and Cultural Traditions

Dreidels on the Brain (children’s fiction)

This very funny, very touching novel of growing up Jewish has the makings of a holiday classic.

Favorite Christmas Poems (nonfiction, all ages)

Heartwarming poems, including “The Night Before Christmas,” highlight this festive compilation of yuletide verse to enchant readers of all ages.

Christmas in Paris: A Novel (adult fiction)

Heartwarming story about love, trust, and self-discovery during a magical time of the year with glorious foods and fashions.

The Man Who Invented Christmas (adult nonfiction)

Just before Christmas in 1843, a debt-ridden Charles Dickens wrote a small book he hoped would keep his creditors at bay.Book cover of Dreidels on the Brain by Joel Ben Izzy

Secrets in the Snow: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance (teen/young adult fiction)

Jane Austen’s family is eager to secure her future, but Jane is much more interested in writing novels and finds every suitor lacking–until a mysterious gentleman arrives.

Do It Yourself (DIY) Crafts

How to Make Christmas Wreaths and Garlands (all ages)

A collection of wreath and garland projects to make the festive period even more special.

Washi Tape Christmas (all ages)

Thirty simple craft projects with a range of festive patterns.

Seasonal Cooking

Jewish Cooking for All Seasons: Fresh, Flavorful Recipes for Holidays and Every Day (family)

A collection of more than 150 creative, convenient, and seasonal kosher dishes.

The Ski House Cookbook: Warm Winter Dishes for Cold Weather Fun (family)

As many as 125 easy and delicious meals designed with minimum prep time.

An Old-Fashioned Christmas: Sweet Traditions for Hearth and Home (family)

Celebrate the beauty and charm of the holidays with recipes for traditional food and drink, decorating ideas, and heartwarming stories of snow, pine forests, and sleigh rides.

Share the Love

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

Carol and her daughter Deanna

Reading can open new worlds and wake up inner passions.

If you didn’t find a book to pique your curiosity or strum at your heartstrings, Bookshare has hundreds of thousands of titles to choose from. Try the Advanced Search option to explore new categories and sweeten the season for you or a loved one.

You may also like this blog, “Share the Bookshare Love with your Aging Family and Friends,” written by Deanna McCusker, Head of UX at Benetech, about her mother, Carol Auxer, who enjoys reading with Bookshare in spite of her macular degeneration.

Many thanks to Kathy Swartz, Bookshare Operations Administrator and Librarian, for her invaluable help selecting these wonderful holiday titles.

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.”