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Student Logins Save Time, Build Independence

2015 September 11

Empower students with their own logins to read independently

Fall is in the air and classrooms buzz with excitement as teachers pass out textbooks and school supplies. Back to school theme graphic of orange schoolhouseFor students with print disabilities, however, the excitement can turn into anxiety when faced with the sheer volume of books. Fortunately for these students, Bookshare allows them to read the same books in accessible formats so they can keep pace with their classmates.

Teachers know how important it is to get students with print disabilities reading right away. We also know how busy you are. That’s why we created student logins. What are they? Students on school accounts can now log in to Bookshare independently and read assigned books at school, at home, or wherever they want.

With student logins, teachers don’t have to log in themselves every time a student wants to read. Just give each student a username and password, assign books, and let them log in themselves. Student logins save teachers a lot of time and help students gain independence. What could be better and easier for everyone?

Four Steps to Set Up Student Logins

If you are a teacher or sponsor who already has a list of students on your Bookshare organizational account, follow these steps to give them their own individual logins:

  1. Set a user name and password.Teacher with young students using computers with headphone
  2. Create and share a Reading List.
  3. Add a book to the Reading List.
  4. Help your student log in and read.

Or, if you are a teacher or sponsor who is just setting up your student roster, we recommend that you assign student logins at the same time you add new students.

If you need more help, visit our Help Center or check out these short video tutorials:

Learn It Now video tutorial on Bookshare Web Reader

Help Students Read Independently with Bookshare Web Reader – Learn how to get your students access to Bookshare Web Reader by setting up student logins.

Learn It Nov video tutorial on setting up reading lists

How to Use Bookshare’s Reading Lists – Learn how to use the Reading List feature to save and organize titles and share those titles with students.

Extend Bookshare’s Benefits Even Further

Do you want your students to not only read assigned books, but also find and read their own books? Get them Individual Memberships just like Lisa Gutheil, a teacher of the visually impaired and early intervention specialist in New York. She is an advocate of giving students resources and tools as early as possible so they don’t fall behind. “Children at an early age adapt to technology quickly,” she says. “I’ve seen remarkable strides in fluency skills when they can see and hear words read aloud.” Her back-to-school best practices include:

  • Get your students’ books ready and add them to a reading list.
  • Get students individual memberships so they can enjoy the freedom to use the Bookshare library at school and at home.

We hope these tools and tips will fast track your students to independent reading and give them a confident start to the school year.

Some of the Most Anticipated Digital Books for Back to School

2015 September 8

Note: This blog first appeared on The Inside Track – a blog for the Understood community. Benetech, Bookshare’s parent nonprofit, is one of fifteen founding nonprofit organizations in partnership with Understood, a resource for parents of children with learning and attention issues.

More than 275,000 free text-to-speech digital books.

That’s how many are downloaded the first two months of school every fall from our online Bookshare library. This year, we expect an even higher number of downloads.

What are some of the hottest digital books for back to school going to be?

Our librarians at Bookshare decided to investigate. We looked at data from past years. We also looked at 3 boys look at a tablet togetherschool trends. For instance, lots of people are downloading novels and books cited in the Common Core State Standards. And of course, there are also many new and exciting titles for kids that are just being released.

With all that in mind, we came up with this list for students of various ages. These titles are shaping up to be some of the most anticipated text-to-speech digital books for fall:

  • Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa by Betsy Lewin: Hold on to your hats! Two new pals have arrived on the scene: Cowgirl Kate and her stubborn but devoted cowhorse, Cocoa.
  • What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss: This never-before-seen picture book by Dr. Seuss is great for kids who struggle with making good decisions. In the story, a brother and sister fret over which pet to take home from the pet store.
  • Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead: This novel by Newberry Medal winner Rebecca Stead explores the bonds and limits of friendship. Can three girls who are best friends make it through seventh grade?
  • Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-a-Lot by Dav Pilkey (who has dyslexia and ADHD): This is book #12 in the mega-bestselling Captain Underpants comic book series. Elementary school students George and Harold have to stop the smelly villain Sir Stinks-a-Lot. (Available soon on Bookshare.)
  • Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer: A quirky story from children’s book creators Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers. Did you know that sometimes, with a little electricity, or luck, or even magic, an imaginary friend might appear when you need one? An imaginary friend like Fred. (Available soon on Bookshare.)
  • The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard) by Rick Riordan: Magnus Chase, a troubled teen, learns from his uncle an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse God. Now he must embark on an adventure to save the world. (Available soon on Bookshare.)
  • The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka: This is a collection of stories Kafka published during his lifetime, including “The Metamorphosis,” in which Gregor Samsa wakes to find himself transformed into a giant insect.

The books are only a taste of the 360,000-plus titles available on Bookshare. But chances are they’ll be among the books kids are reading in the first few months of school. (Many accessible digital textbooks can also be downloaded from the library.)

Want your child to get in on the action? Bookshare is free for students who qualify. It’s one of the places where students with significant reading issues can find free or low-cost digital books.

Thanks to Lisa Wadors Verne, Benetech Program Manager: Education, Research and Partnerships, who contributed to this blog.

Bookshare Parents and Teachers Team Up for Back to School

2015 August 31

Teamwork is the name of the game when it comes to supporting students with print disabilities

Back to school is a challenging transition for all students, but it is especially difficult for students with visual, Lilly reading her iPad in bed with headphonesphysical, or learning disabilities. Getting the books they need in a format that is accessible requires a collaborative effort between parents and educators. Sometimes parents are the first to discover valuable resources for their son or daughter, and sometimes teachers are the catalysts who enlist the parents’ help. It doesn’t matter who leads the charge as long as students get the tools they need to start the school year off on the right foot.

Jessica Prest, mother of ten-year-old Lily, noticed how much Lily was struggling with reading. She took her to a neuropsychologist who diagnosed her with dyslexia. Like many Bookshare parents, Jessica began her own research and took to the Twittersphere to find answers. “I read educational discussions using the hashtag #edchat,” shared Jessica. “I kept reading about technologies and ebooks and how they supported readers with disabilities, so I asked Lily’s school about Bookshare.”

Lily began using Bookshare at home and eventually got on an IEP (Individualized Education Program) that allowed her to also receive reading accommodations at school. She uses Bookshare to download  accessible versions of books like Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu, onto her iPad mini and reads them with apps like Voice Dream that let her listen to words read aloud and follow along with highlighted text. Jessica said, “She loved the story and could not stop reading it. What a difference! Daily reading is no longer such a struggle. Ebooks enable Lily to read and reread a story. It reinforced Lily’s ability to understand what she reads. Now, she loves to read.”

Parent Meetings Start the Bookshare Process

HawkinsMelissaheadshotAt the beginning of each school year, Melissa Hawkins, a Baltimore middle school special education teacher, meets with parents whose children qualify for Bookshare. She demonstrates how easy it is to read an accessible book on technology, like an iPad or Kurzweil 3000, a computer software program that includes a link to Bookshare on its dashboard. Hawkins also suggests Bookshare Web Reader, a free and popular tool that enables student members to read Bookshare ebooks directly within an Internet browser.

“I try to get students hooked on their first Bookshare book early in the school year. This makes them more accountable and independent. Technology gives them freedom and autonomy. They don’t stand out in class and aren’t embarrassed because a teacher or paraprofessional has to read to them.”

In addition, Hawkins holds a bring-your-own-device night to help parents and students learn to use Bookshare, find books of interest, and choose reading tools. Her efforts help students and parents lay the groundwork for a successful school year.

Bookshare Back-to-School Resources Are a Click Away

Are you a parent or teacher who is familiar with Bookshare but needs some help getting up to speed? Start by visiting Back to School graphic of pencilholder with pencils, pen and paintbrushthe Back-to-School Resource page for tips, improved reading tools, and new self-service features.

Check out our Back-to-School playlist on YouTube containing helpful videos to get students up and running with Bookshare.

And finally, don’t forget to sign up for one of our free webinars:

Beginner Tips for Back to School with Bookshare, September 15 at 10:00 am PST

Advanced Tips for Back to School with Bookshare, September 16 at 10:00 am PST

Students with Print Disabilities Accelerate Reading with Bookshare

2015 August 25

Assistive technology helps students with disabilities love books

Bookshare has been a game changer for Brennan Draves, a fourth grader with a visual impairment, and Reagan Reeves, a ninth grader with dyslexia. Both students need schoolbooks in alternative formats to help them read and study.

Brennan, a fourth grader at Mackensen Elementary School in Michigan, has retinitis pigmentosa, a Brennan Draves with his teacher Carissa Reeddegenerative eye disease that makes it impossible to read traditional books. He used to read and study with printed braille books which were heavy and took time to produce.

Since using Bookshare, reading books and doing homework is easier and more cost effective. His teacher, Carissa Reed, signed up the school for a free Bookshare account and has been getting Brennan’s books in Braille Ready Format (BRF), one of the accessible formats available from Bookshare, which Brennan uses to read on his BrailleNote. Carissa learned how to use Bookshare by using the helpful training resources on the Bookshare website.

“Bookshare is a blessing for students and a cost saver for our district,” she says. Today, Brennan reads constantly and learns as quickly as sighted children. His reading skills are above average, and he has passed all of his Accelerated Reader tests. He is on track to be an honor roll student. Brennan’s mom, Lindsay Draves, says, “Bookshare and the BrailleNote have made it possible for my son to be excited about learning. His love of reading and ability to absorb information enables him to do very well in school.”

Reagan Reeves and his mother, Michelle

Reagan, a ninth grader in Texas, has dyslexia and also needs books in alternative formats. Specifically, he uses Bookshare to listen to accessible ebooks on portable technology devices. Last year, he received an award for having accumulated the most Accelerated Reader points in his class. In his early years, Reagan did not like to read at all. Now, he downloads digital books on his iPhone by himself and uses an iPad Mini to read with an app called Read2Go. He even reads for pleasure outside of school.

His mom, Michelle, is a Bilingual/ESL and Dyslexia Specialist. “My son has fallen in love with reading! Last year, he read at a fourth grade level. Today, he reads at an eleventh grade level. This transformation speaks volumes for identifying the right resources to help children who are dyslexic be successful.” She says, “Get your kids Individual Bookshare Memberships and give them a library in their pocket!”

Back to School Begins with Bookshare

Do you know students with print disabilities like Brennan and Reagan? How can you help them get the books they need in accessible formats like braille, audio, and large print to accelerate their reading? Not sure how to get started? Or just need a refresher? Relax. You’ve come to the right place.

Visit the Back to School Resource page to get help with:Back to school graphic with a backpack and Bookshare logo

  • Logging in – can’t remember that password?
  • Updating account information – for your school or individual memberships
  • Finding books – use the expanded search features or request a book you need
  • Reading books – use Bookshare Web Reader or one of the many reading tools

You can also register for a free back-to-school webinar to learn more:

Beginner Tips for Back to School with Bookshare, September 15 at 10:00 am PST

Advanced Tips for Back to School with Bookshare, September 16 at 10:00 am PST

Reading success is an essential foundation for academic success. Take a test drive of Bookshare today!

Get in the Back-to-School Groove with Bookshare

2015 August 18

Back to School header graphic featuring three students, two school buses, and a school house

Summer is winding down, and a new school year is around the corner. How can we make sure students with visual, physical, and learning disabilities are set up to have their best academic year yet? Get their books in accessible formats and the best tools around from Bookshare for free!

Since last back-to-school, the Bookshare team has been busy adding more and more books to our library. Our collection is bigger than ever with over 350,000 titles in formats like audio, braille, and large print that are accessible to people who cannot read traditional print. These titles include textbooks, Common Core, and other educational books students need for class. And if we don’t have a particular book, members can request it.

Our tools are better as well. Students and schools can sign up easily and use improved self-service features to add new students and update accounts. Finding books is easier with improved search and browse features. And students on school accounts can now access Bookshare with their own logins and read assigned books at school and home.

Melissa Hawkins, a Baltimore middle school special education teacher, recommends reading with Bookshare Web Reader, a free and easy-to-use reading tool that lets students read directly from an Internet browser. Or try one of the many compatible reading tools for computers, tablets, smartphones, assistive technology devices and more.

Ready to Set Students Up for Success?

Theresa Brousseau, a teacher of the visually-impaired and a Bookshare Mentor Teacher says, “Thanks to Bookshare, I feel good that I’m able to help more students with print disabilities achieve their goals, make progress and be successful. Bookshare provides access to both the digital formats and the reading technologies they need to keep pace. Students are more engaged in learning, and there are no more excuses about not having appropriate materials to do class assignments or homework.”

Set up your students for success by visiting Bookshare’s back-to-school resource page. You’ll find tips, tutorials, and training that will help you get ready with the books and tools you need. We’ll be updating this page throughout the school year, so be sure to check back regularly and share with other teachers, parents, and students.

In the coming weeks, look for a series of back-to-school blogs tailored to your needs, whether you are just starting out with Bookshare and need the basics, or you are ready for advanced features to take your Bookshare use to the next level.

Meet the Fab Four: Benetech Summer Interns

2015 August 14
by Bookshare Communications
2015 Benetech summer interns from left: Alyssa Aliotti, Paige Borwn, Michelle McLaren, and Mitchell Mankin

2015 Benetech summer interns from left: Alyssa Aliotti, Paige Brown, Michelle McLaren, and Mitchell Mankin

Benetech’s Summer Internship Program has been going strong for three years. Each summer, several college students work on Bookshare-related projects and learn about Benetech’s programs in the areas of global literacy, human rights, and Benetech Labs. Read on to learn about our four fabulous interns — Alyssa Aliotti, Paige Brown, Michelle McLaren, and Mitchell Mankin — as they describe the valuable work they accomplished.

My name is Alyssa Aliotti and I am entering my second year at UCLA. I plan on double majoring in Economics and International Development Studies. When I was looking for summer internships I was very excited about Benetech’s mission of harnessing the power of technology for social good, so I decided to apply. As an intern I gained valuable knowledge about the inner workings of nonprofits and tech companies in Silicon Valley. I attended company-wide meetings and met key members of Benetech’s team. My favorite meeting was with Collin Sullivan who talked about Martus, the technology at the core of Benetech’s Human Rights initiative that documents human rights violations around the world.

Alyssa AliottiAs the Customer Service Support intern I spent a lot of time organizing member data and getting it online. I also revamped the Help Center portion of the website so that members can have their questions answered effectively. Additionally, I expanded the Bookshare collection by proofreading scanned books and writing image descriptions for children’s books in Benetech’s image description tool, POET.  I have been so inspired by all of Benetech’s work — from global literacy to accessibility for the disabled to human rights — and am so grateful for this opportunity.

My name is Paige Brown and I am entering my sophomore year at Tulane University in New Orleans. I Paige Brownplan to major in finance. My role was to improve the documentation and instructions for volunteers with the goal of making volunteering at Bookshare a smooth and easy process. I also created a newsletter and a call to action for volunteers to increase volunteer engagement. One of Bookshare’s goals was to get the top 100 children’s books published and online with image descriptions. I also spent time working on Salesforce, POET, and the Bookshare website to make sure that books were properly uploaded and documented.

I learned what it is like to work at a tech company and a nonprofit. Attending meetings on a variety of topics allowed me to see all the different aspects of the company. It was fascinating to hear about the Human Rights and Benetech Labs programs. I really enjoyed working with Benetech and found the employees to be very inspiring.

Michelle McLarenMy name is Michelle McLaren and I’m a rising sophomore majoring in financial accounting at the University of Portland. I learned about Benetech when I was looking for summer internship opportunities and became fascinated with its mission, core values, and different branches of work including global literacy and human rights.

I interned for the collection development team, the core of the Bookshare initiative. I learned how to properly describe images in children’s books, worked with the POET image description tool, and learned how to dismantle and scan a variety of books. My main contribution to Bookshare included documenting how a book gets published, from the moment it reaches the Benetech office to the time it’s removed from the shelf and recycled. I also worked on the organization and labeling of the collection development bookshelves.

I’ve had the opportunity to develop professional skills such as interpersonal and business communication and creative thinking. One of my favorite parts of this internship was the variety of meetings that I attended. Most notably, I learned how Martus works and how 3D printing is revolutionizing Bookshare. I’m incredibly grateful to Benetech for the amazing opportunity to work with such a dedicated group of people who are focused on making the world a better place.

My name is Mitchell Mankin.  I’m a rising senior studying International & Global Studies and Mitchell MankinEconomics at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. I’ve been a book fanatic since I was five years old, and I’m very interested in nonprofit management, so working with Bookshare seemed like a good move. During the first half of the internship, I worked with Benetech’s POET image description tool.  I also collaborated with the other interns on improving the instructions for scanning and proofreading books and describing images. During the second half I designed and implemented a survey for Bookshare volunteers to identify ways to improve the volunteer program.

I’ve had the good fortune of working with Madeleine Linares as my supervisor, and she’s been nothing but helpful and supportive throughout my time here.  I’ve learned a lot about the operations of a large, multi-project, and multi-departmental nonprofit organization. Attending departmental meetings, product demos, and info sessions has been an especially interesting bird’s-eye view of how Benetech works. Thank you to everyone for making this internship possible!

It’s a Wrap! Thank You for Turning It Up & Telling the World

2015 August 6
by Bookshare Communications

Summer is winding down and so is the Bookshare Summer Reading Challenge. For the past six weeks Bookshare members have found adventure in Travel & the Great Outdoors; tasted new cuisines in Food & Cooking; worked up a sweat in Sports & Fitness; played and tinkered in Games & Gizmos; saved the earth in Sustainability & the Environment; and explored their creative side in Crafts & the Arts. Many of you finally read that book you’ve been meaning to read for a long time.

Book cover of How Can We Keep from Singing: Music and the Passionate Life by Joan Oliver Goldsmith (available in US only)Book cover of Mozos: A Decade of Running with the Bulls of Spain by Bill HillmannBook cover of Texas Heat by Debra White SmithBook cover of 7 Stories by Morris PanychBook cover of On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony

Thanks to all of the members who joined us on this journey and recommended their favorite books. Here are some of the highlights:

From @silly_singer: How Can We Keep from Singing: Music and the Passionate Life” Has been on my 2 read list 4 2 long. Fixing that now.

From @DerryLawlor: Good news! Mozos: A Decade Running with the Bulls of Spain is available worldwide on Bookshare.

From @Littletia13: Finished #TexasHeat Book1 #LoneStarIntrigueSeries by #DebraWhiteSmith from @Bookshare giving it a 5 out of 5 rating.

From Jessica Bliss: ‪#‎TurnItUp4Books This week I read the play 7 Stories by Morris Panych. I really liked this play; it was funny and had a lot of satire. I recommend this play to anyone who likes reading plays and who likes theatre and drama. Reading this play inspired me to read more plays from now on.

From @kevinpleong: Finished #OnAPaleHorse by #Piers Anthony from @Bookshare giving it a 5 out of 5 rating.

Check out all the book recommendations from members and the Bookshare team. We are so glad these books, and many more like them, brightened your summer. We invite you to carry those summer reading habits into fall and continue recommending your Bookshare favorites on FacebookTwitter, or wherever you connect with other book lovers!

Coming Attractions

Stay tuned for our Back to School announcements where we will reveal some new Bookshare features that make it bigger, better, and easier than ever to help you kick start the school year.

On the Americans with Disabilities Act at 25: Betsy Beaumon’s Op-Ed

2015 July 31

Twenty-five years ago, on July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal opportunity to participate in the mainstream of American life. As we celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ADA, writes Benetech President, Betsy Beaumon, it is imperative to consider not only how far we have come in eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities, but also how to extend the ADA promise to a new generation of Americans, particularly in the education field.

In her op-ed, Beaumon argues that the digital revolution could usher in a golden age of equality and improved Americans with Disabilities Act 25 anniversary logoeducational opportunities for all students, including those with disabilities, but that in order to make inclusive education a reality, students with disabilities must be considered in the design requirements of any new education technology.

Thanks to rapid technological progress and to legislation like the ADA, notes Beaumon, who is an authority on digital accessible materials in education, it is now possible to have books and curricula that are “born digital” also “born accessible” for all learners, as an integral part of the development or publishing process. “The 25th anniversary of the ADA,” she claims, “is a reminder that, at their best, policy and legislation support technological advances as well as benefits to society. We now need such balanced laws more than ever in order to stay committed to core principles of inclusion in the midst of massive technological change.”

Read Betsy Beaumon’s complete op-ed on the Benetech website.

Check Out Our Latest Video Tutorials and Book-Finding Tips

2015 July 30

Get the Edge: Monthly Training and Support Solutions

Need help using Bookshare? Check out our latest Learn it Now tutorials and How-To Guides in the Bookshare AcademyTitle screen of TeacherTube Learn it Now video tutorialLearn it Now tutorials are two-to-three-minute videos that will help members get the most out of Bookshare. We are pleased to present our newest titles:

Another useful resource in the Bookshare Academy is our How-To Guides. These guides provide step-by-step instructions along with screenshots to help guide members through a variety of key Bookshare processes. If you are an educator, we encourage you to share these guides with your colleagues, students, and parents.

New Categories Enable Enhanced Browsing Capability

Browsing by category can help you find recently-added books in subjects you love. We added sixteen new categories including Music, Psychology, and Politics and Government. For example, mystery lovers can go to the Advanced Search page and click on the category Mystery and Thrillers. When the results come back, click twice on “Date Added” to get the most recent books at the top.

50 subject categoriesThanks to improvements in indexing, it is now easier than ever to search for and find books in 50 categories – from Animals to Westerns. Every day, new content is being added in most categories. We are excited to report that the Bookshare library now boasts over 350,000 titles, and 99% of them are indexed by category.

The Bookshare Team is constantly striving to improve the user experience. Please let us know more about how you search for books, and how you’d like to search for books, by submitting your suggestions to the Bookshare Product Ideas Forum.

This post was authored by Lara Rondberg, a Bookshare Training Coordinator who supports Benetech’s Global Literacy program. To inquire about training resources, please contact

75 Reasons to Love Bookshare

2015 July 20
by Bookshare Communications

Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the National Federation of the Blind

National Federation of the Blind logoEarlier this month, members of the Bookshare team traveled to Orlando, Florida, to attend the 2015 Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Founded in 1940, the Federation is the largest organization of blind and low-vision people in the United States with over fifty-thousand members. Thousands of members and supporters celebrated the NFB’s 75th anniversary and are a living testament to the NFB’s motto: You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.

The Bookshare team was excited to have the opportunity to talk to attendees in the exhibit hall, meet with industry leaders, and participate in seminars. In the spirit of the 75th anniversary, the Bookshare team conducted an informal survey and asked Bookshare members to contribute “75 Reasons to Love Bookshare.”

Bookshare members have spoken! Here is a sample of some of the seventy-five reasons:

“I love Bookshare because…

…having access to new releases right away is amazing.”Bookshare logo inside a heart

…it helps me feed my book addiction (inexpensively).”

…I can pick any book I want and read it quickly.”

…it makes my PhD possible.”

…I eat books for breakfast, lunch and dinner!!!”

…It helps me to write PHP after downloading all kinds of computer science books.”

…it’s an easy way to get what I need in a format I need it.”

…one of my top goals in life is to read at the same time as my sighted friends, and Bookshare will help me accomplish that.”

…it feeds me with everything I need.”

…it’s a jackpot of information for blind people. I felt like I won the jackpot when I joined!”

…it allowed me to help plan our trip to France.”

…it has such an extensive library, they get the books out quickly, and they work on the iPhone.”

…it is helping me succeed in the computer science program at my university.”

…for a long time I said, ‘I don’t want to pay the $50.’ But it is so worth it. I’m in book heaven! Where else can you get 347,000 titles?”

…Read2Go from Bookshare helps me follow along with my classmates both visually and auditorily and I like that.”

As you can see, Bookshare means many things to many people. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who shared their feedback. We are thrilled that Bookshare is helping blind and low vision members “live the life they want.”

Can Bookshare help you? A special promotion for NFB conference attendees is still available. Get 50% off a Bookshare membership for anyone renewing or joining Bookshare. Send an e-mail to