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Bingo! Students Who Read Beat Summer Slide

2016 May 27

Set students up for summer reading success with books from Bookshare.

The dreaded summer slide. Research suggests that a summer break can cause an average student to loseKids who read beat summer slide - graphic showing how access to books during summer prevents a drastic loss in reading skill, especially for kids in need. up to one month of instruction, with disadvantaged students disproportionately affected (Cooper, 1996).  Fortunately, access to books during summer helps students beat the summer slide, and Bookshare’s accessible online library is the perfect resource for kids who cannot read traditional print books due to disabilities like blindness, low vision, physical disabilities, and learning disabilities like dyslexia.

Checklist for Teachers

How can you make sure your students are set up with accessible ebooks from Bookshare? Here are some tips to help make a smooth transition to summer:

  • Make sure students can access Bookshare on their own over the summer by giving them a Student Login.
  • Get students books for the summer by creating and sharing Reading Lists.
  • Set up graduates and students moving on to new schools with Individual Memberships so they can continue to use Bookshare on their own.
  • Get ahead by requesting books now that students will need in the fall.

Bingo card with book categories in each squareFind Summer Reads with Bookshare Bingo

Looking for summer reading books? You can find great titles and have a ton of fun by joining the Bookshare Bingo reading event!

Through Bookshare Bingo, members can discover a variety of fun and interesting titles. You can get a Bingo by reading books from different categories listed on the Bookshare Bingo card. To help get you started, we have created a list of book recommendations for all ages to explore. And, while supplies last, participants will get a free gift. The summer reading program begins June 15th, and you can get ready now by adding books to member Reading Lists. Get ready for Bookshare Bingo!



Bookshare Supports Librarian’s Goal for Inclusive Library Service

2016 May 10
by Bookshare Communications

Many thanks to Kate Owen at Thetford Academy for sharing her advocacy of Bookshare and for training more teachers to be proponents of accessible ebooks.

Kate’s Vision

Kate Owen looking over a pile of books in her school library.

Kate Owen looking over a pile of books in her school library.

As an educator and librarian, I have always worked to build an inclusive library service to meet the needs of all learners. This year, over one-third of our students are eligible for extra services according to their IEP or 504 plans. Many of these students qualify for Bookshare. The online accessible library has become an integral part of building an inclusive library to accomplish my goal.

Not So Long Ago…

When I first became a school librarian, serving students with print-based disabilities meant surmounting some very real hurdles. The process to obtain accessible formats was tedious and often a barrier to the adoption of accessible materials. Lots of paperwork was given to parents and their child’s physician. Once enrollment was complete, we had to hope that the book assigned to a class was available in audio format. Wonderful volunteers read many books aloud, but even so, it was not uncommon to find that the book we needed simply was not available.

If there was an audio recording it could only be played on a special playback machine. If you were serving more than one or two students in a class, logistics became even more challenging. Once, we had to buy special headphone splitters, which meant a trip over an hour away to the nearest Radio Shack. Bookshare has transformed this process for schools, educators and librarians.

Real-Time Access to Digital Books

Today, with Bookshare, I can instantly provide real-time reading for qualifying students. I can develop Reading Lists ahead of a semester and easily manage last minute curriculum changes.

Stack of textbooks.Bookshare’s library collection is vast, including more than 400,000 titles and the latest versions of textbooks through a partnership with NIMAC. Almost every book we need is available in Bookshare too. Only once, have I requested a book. The process was easy and the title was soon made available.

Help a Student With a Print Disability Read for Life

I want every student to be empowered with tools such as Bookshare that help them become independent and self-directed learners. One way to accomplish this goal is to support classroom teachers by helping them to learn how to use Bookshare’s library effectively. If I am doing my job well, more teachers will become proponents of digital accessible materials and books, just as I am.

In the long run, when qualifying students leave our school with both a high school diploma and an Individual Membership, they can use the online library for a lifetime of learning.

I hope that all students, no matter where they live or the challenges they may face, can accomplish great things, including the freedom to read and explore every book available to mankind.

Discover Bookshare

Are you a librarian or teacher who works with students with visual, learning or physical disabilities? Bookshare can open the world of reading for these students through accessible ebooks and reading tools. Remember, Bookshare is free for qualified U.S. students and schools.

  • More books to read. Access over 400,000 titles for school, work, and fun.
  • Easy reading. Read directly on an Internet browser with Bookshare Web Reader.
  • More ways to read. Read on laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, smartphones and more.
  • Better organization. Save books on Reading Lists.
  • Easier sharing. Assign books with a Student Login and let them read on their own.






Note: Thetford Academy is the oldest continuously-operating secondary school in Vermont. It is a private school with a public mission — to serve as the high school for students in several surrounding towns. In 2019, the Academy will celebrate its 200th anniversary. Congratulations!


Bookshare’s Collection Development Manager Started a Love Affair with Books at a Tender Age

2016 May 4

Guest post by Carol James, Bookshare Collection Development Manager

When I was a little girl, I would toddle into my parents’ bedroom many mornings. I’d pull books out of

Carol James as a young child "reading" books.

Carol James as a young child “reading” books.

their case and pretend to read them. When I was done (so I’m told), I would carefully consider where they should go as I put them back on the shelf. I can’t remember what I was thinking – but even then, I knew each book had a “right place”!

Looking back on a lifetime working in libraries, I guess I’m still doing the same thing – but on a different scale, with different tools. Like every librarian building a collection, I have two goals: that we have the book you want, and that it’s “shelved” where you’re going to look for it. If I’m doing my job right, you don’t know I exist, because you’ve found what you want with ease.

Before coming to Bookshare, I spent almost twenty years acquiring and cataloging materials for a large biotechnology library – mostly books and journals on subjects I knew nothing about! I had to learn how the scientists were going to look for and use the resources, so I could tag them with the words they would use when searching our catalog and make them available in formats they would find most useful.

Book cover of "To Say Nothing of the Dog," by Connie WillisI’ve come to think of Bookshare’s collection of digital books for people with qualifying print disabilities as many libraries pressed into one. We’re a school library for our student members; we’re an academic library for those who have gone on to college and graduate schools. For people who just love to read and stay informed, we’re a terrific public library with the latest bestsellers and popular books on all kinds of subjects. And, increasingly, we’re able to serve our members in their professional lives with great vocational, professional, and technical titles.

Over 850 generous publisher partners share their digital content with us, helping our library swell from fewer than 150,000 titles in 2011 to over 400,000 today. Thanks to our funding from the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, we’re also able to create accessible versions of books needed for classroom use by our student members if we’re not able to receive an electronic version from a publisher partner. In addition, we are grateful for the many volunteers who submit titles to the collection. Our Collection Development team of eight dedicated professionals is working hard every day to make sure we have the books you need – and that they are easy to find and use.

It’s an exhilarating challenge to have – to serve the needs of such a diverse population of users, across Book cover for "Island of Ghosts," by Gillian Bradshawsuch a broad range of content. I don’t think I ever could have imagined having such a wealth of books to offer as we do at Bookshare when I started my first college library job, filing drawer after drawer of 3 x 5 catalog cards. My team and I are working diligently to find ways to make our collection easier for you to discover and use, and to share the wonderful new content that’s arriving every day. Of course, every title has a “right place on the shelf,” and we’re going to put it there for you to enjoy.

Take a fresh look at everything Bookshare has to offer!

In recognition of Children’s Book Week, National Teacher Appreciation Week, and book lovers everywhere, Carol shares two recommendations from a long list of favorite books that are suitable for YA readers and above:

To Say Nothing of the Dog; or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last by Connie Willis, winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, this story is a comedic romp through an unpredictable world of mystery, love, and time travel… Ned Henry is badly in need of a rest.

Island of Ghosts by Gillian Bradshaw – a historical novel about Ariantes, a Sarmatian, a barbarian warrior-prince, uprooted from his home and customs and thrust into the honorless lands of the Romans.

Carol James in front of books that have been scanned and added to the Bookshare collection.

Carol James in front of books that have been scanned and added to the Bookshare collection.

For even more books, browse the Bookshare collection!

Carol James is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. She has worked in libraries at Pacific Bell, Genentech, and Elan Pharmaceuticals before joining the Bookshare team as Collection Development Manager in 2010. 

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 400,000 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.

#SVGives: 10 for 10 Brings Bookshare to More Readers

2016 April 27

Silicon Valley Gives logo

UPDATE: Thank you to the generous donors who helped us reach our goal of $10K to bring Bookshare to more readers!


Small gifts, big impact.

Last year, in just one day, over $8 million dollars was raised for Bay Area nonprofits through Silicon Valley Gives, a community-wide day of giving hosted by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Benetech is one of hundreds of nonprofits in Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Benito, and San Francisco counties who are joining together to lift up and empower communities in need.

Every contribution has an impact.

No gift is too small. That’s why we are launching our 10 for 10 campaign. $10 goes a long way, especially when it’s matched by a $10K donation.

Every title in Bookshare is an opportunity.

Photo of Judy Gutierrez and her daughter Laura, a Bookshare member with ten dollars for ten thousand in lower right corner

Judy Gutierrez and her daughter Laura, a Bookshare member who has dyslexia

Bookshare, a Benetech initiative, is an online library that is making reading possible for over 400,000 people in over 50 countries, including Silicon Valley. With Bookshare, members can access over 400,000 titles that let them listen to books, follow along with highlighted text, read in braille, and customize their experience in ways that make reading and education possible. Around the world, there are over 500 million people with disabilities, like blindness, dyslexia, and physical disabilities, who don’t have access to basic literacy. Since they cannot read traditional books, they often fall behind in school at an early age which has repercussions later in life.

Here is what students, teachers, and parents say about Bookshare:

“Laura’s comprehension and fluency skills have increased. Her teachers say that she is well on her way to reading at grade level.” —Parent of student with dyslexia

“It is no longer difficult to find accessible books, and I will use Bookshare for a lifetime.” —Student with low vision

“Bookshare levels the playing field in school and keeps students reading.” —Educator of students with special needs

Elina Hughes, Bookshare member, with her dog Zoe and Bookshare Sr. Product Manager Ginny Grant

Bookshare is the thriving community it is today thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of all the members, parents, teachers, mentors, volunteers, partners, and friends. We’re so grateful for your continuous support that allows us to bring the gift of reading and educational opportunities to others who need our services.  

For just $10, you can create even more opportunities for readers like Laura and Elina. Through May 3, your gift will be matched by a $10,000 gift from the Krishnan-Shah Family Foundation through Silicon Valley Gives. Let’s go 10 for 10!

Button that says give today

Bookshare’s 400,000th Title Brings Unprecedented Access to Readers with Print Disabilities

2016 April 22

Bookshare has added its 400,000th title to the ever-growing online accessible library collection and we are celebrating this record-breaking milestone with you and our 400,000 members around the world!Glory-Over-Everything-Kathleen-Grissom

Today, through Bookshare’s extensive collection, any person who cannot read traditional books due to blindness, low vision, dyslexia, and physical disabilities can read and enjoy a huge variety of academic, career, and recreational titles just like everyone else.

Glory Over Everything, the sequel to the New York Times bestseller The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, is the title that helped Bookshare cross the 400,000 threshold. This accomplishment represents an unprecedented level of access for people with print disabilities.

Do you know someone with a print disability?

Reading is an integral part of life in pursuing not only an education, but also in building a career, joining book clubs, and passing recreational time embraced in a good book like mysteries, science fiction, romance, and much more. These members represent a diverse community of readers who use Bookshare throughout their lives.

Carson reads while listening with headphones to text-to-speech (TTS) narration.

Carson reads while listening with headphones to text-to-speech (TTS) narration with Bookshare Web Reader.

Curtis uses a braille device.

Curtis uses a braille device to access textbooks from Bookshare.










Fran, a Canadian with a visual impairment, listens to a NY Times bestseller on her smartphone, for her book club.

Fran, a Canadian with a visual impairment, listens to a NY Times bestseller on her smartphone, for her book club.


Amber, a college student, who is blind, walks on her college campus to class.

Amber, a college student who is blind, has been a Bookshare member since middle school.









 Rob listens to books about technical applications in Daisy Audio and MP3 formats.

Rob listens to books for his career in customer and technical service in Daisy Audio and MP3.

Photo of Tim Hornik

Tim, a retired veteran, uses Bookshare for college and to read with his child.








Brennan with his mom, happy that he can read children's books just like all of his sighted classmates.

Brennan with his mom, happy that he can read children’s books just like all of his sighted classmates.

Supporting dreams and goals throughout life

Bookshare’s collection is an invaluable and robust resource that supports many diverse reading needs.

beezus and ramonaDoes your child want to read popular books being read by friends, such as Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary or There Is a Bird on Your Head by Mo Williams?

Are you a teacher looking for common core K-12 textbooks on topics like science, language arts or history for your students with learning disabilities?

Perhaps you are a teen or young adult enamored with a popular series like The Hunger Games or interested in why The Scorch Trials (sequel to The Maze Runner) is flying off the shelves?

Applying to college in the fall? Bookshare has over fifty online resources to help you prepare for the SAT and ACT including SAT Elite 2400 by Princeton Review.

health caresStarting a job or planning to switch careers? Take the healthcare field, for example; Bookshare has many titles on work topics to support your career development needs.

girl on trainAre you an adult with a visual impairment itching to read New York Times bestsellers like The Girl on the Train or stay current on politics?

These are all great examples of the advantages Bookshare can bring to readers throughout all stages of life.

Take a fresh look at Bookshare!

Yes, our 400,000th title gives us pride in saying that Bookshare has come a long way! We have also made many improvements to make signing up, finding books, and reading easier and more convenient across a wide variety of reading tools and platforms.

We hope you will discover everything that’s new with Bookshare and help spread the word to all people with print disabilities around the world.

Bookshare is FREE for all U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities and schools.


Texas Librarian Appreciates Bookshare’s Accessible Ebook Collection

2016 April 18
by Bookshare Communications

Head shot of Adair Apple

Special thanks to Adair Apple, a Librarian in Evans Elementary School, Corpus Christi, TX  for sharing the reasons why she chooses Bookshare to support students with print disabilities.

“In our district, librarians are responsible for both print and digital accessible resources as well as adaptive technologies. Bookshare is one of the resources we use to support students with qualifying print disabilities, such as visual impairments and physical and learning disabilities that hinder reading.

For effective learning, and since many children are more tech-savvy today, we want to get reading resources and technologies into their hands as early as possible. Now, when teachers and students walk into our library and ask if a book is available for a student with a print disability, I’ll check the online accessible library.

As an elementary librarian, I appreciate that I can tap into Bookshare for children’s literature and required chapter books. And, by assigning logins to the students on my Bookshare account, I can give them immediate access to books. This saves students and teachers time and effort. Some of our school librarians have also begun to mark books with stickers to indicate that they are available in accessible formats on Bookshare.

On the Bookshare website, we have access to information to teach parents about accessible ebook formats and reading tools that help students. I like having the ability to go online and view the archived Bookshare webinars and training tutorials.

We are now exploring how Bookshare can be a beneficial resource not only for students who are blind or visually impaired or who have a physical disability, but also for students with a learning disability, such as dyslexia.

Accessible Books for Texas logoAccessible Books For Texas Outreach Program

Additionally, in Texas, our schools can request on-site Bookshare training through the Accessible Books for Texas (ABT) program, which is funded by the Texas Education Agency. Through this state initiative, teachers, specialists, and librarians learn about the benefits of accessible education materials and how to establish Bookshare organizational and individual student memberships. We are taught how to manage books for students and how to create Reading Lists that make it easy for students to access books independently.”

Take the Next Step with Bookshare!

If you are a U.S. teacher, librarian, or parent supporting students with qualifying print disabilities, please spread the word about Bookshare, especially to your school’s administrators. You can share the key points in this blog about reading independence and emphasize that Bookshare is free for qualified U.S. students and schools.  If you are a Texas K-12 public or charter school educator, contact the Accessible Books for Texas Outreach Coordinator in your region for free on-site training.

Appreciation for Bookshare’s Blue Ribbon Volunteers

2016 April 15
by Amaya Webster, Communities Associate Benetech

Celebrate Service National Volunteer Week April 10-16, 2016One of the things that makes Bookshare so special is the community of volunteers that we have the privilege of working with. In recognition of National Volunteer Week (April 10-16), we wanted to acknowledge their contributions and share just how much we appreciate each and every one of them!

The Bookshare volunteers are an amazing group of 182 individuals. Over the past year they have scanned, submitted, and proofed over 2,000 books for Bookshare, the world’s largest online accessible library for people with print disabilities.

Bookshare receives the majority of its titles in the form of digital files directly from the 850 publishers who partner with us, but our volunteers continue to build the library by scanning and proofreading titles unavailable to us, as well as books of personal interest.

Bookshare volunteers are a tremendously passionate, dedicated, and inspiring group. Carol James, Bookshare Digital Collection Development Manager, can’t sing their praises enough. “I’m so often delighted and amazed by what our volunteers are adding – they fill so many wonderful corners of our collection, and put so much love and care into the books they make possible for others to read.”

And she’s right. The Bookshare volunteers have played a key role in making Bookshare what it is today. We are eternally grateful for their willingness to donate their time and skills to helping us not only provide accessible reading material, but also become pioneers for accessibility and social change.

A photo of Bookshare volunteers gathered around a table.A group of volunteers working together.

Judy Stouffer, a Bookshare volunteer says, “Bookshare gave me back the ability to read what I wanted, when I wanted, including access to specialized technical books I never thought I’d have after becoming disabled. I volunteer because I want to help to open the world of books to other disabled readers the way it has for me.”

Bookshare Volunteers Rock!

Are you interested in becoming a Bookshare volunteer? We are always looking for additional volunteers to scan books, proofread scanned files, and describe images. Learn more or contact us.


Photo of Amaya WebsterAbout Amaya Webster

Raised in Berkeley, California, Amaya has a background in neurobiology, anthropology and art. Today, she works in a project and community management role for Benetech’s DIAGRAM Center and also supports external partners and technical volunteers to develop resources for making digital graphic content accessible for people with print disabilities.





Benetech Receives Google Impact Challenge Award to Expand Bookshare’s Global Reach

2016 April 12

Benetech is pleased to announce that it has been selected by as one of twenty-nine nonprofits to receive funding to increase access to opportunity and independence for hundreds of millions living with disabilities around the world. Launched in May of 2015, the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities put $20 million in grants behind nonprofits using emerging technologies to increase independence for people living with disabilities. This program aims to scale impact through technology and extends funding to “entrepreneurial nonprofits to bring innovative tech ideas to life and test their potential for scale.”

“The Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities set out to accelerate the use of technology to create Logo for, the philanthropic arm of Googlemeaningful change in the lives of the one billion people in the world with a disability,” says Brigitte Gosselink, Head of the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities. “We’re eager to watch as today’s winners, selected from over 1,000 submissions from around the world, build new solutions that will transform lives and make the world more accessible for all.”

Benetech is on a mission to make literacy accessible to all. The World Blind Union estimates that less than 10% of all published materials can be read by individuals who are blind or have low vision. This lack of access to traditional printed materials also affects people with physical disabilities and learning disabilities like dyslexia. This situation worsens for people in the developing world and for non-English speakers with disabilities.  To date, a patchwork approach has been taken to increase the amount of books that are accessible to people with disabilities; however, a huge gap in access to timely and high quality books persists.

Visually-impaired students in a classroom in India

Visually-impaired students in a classroom in India

With the funding, Benetech will expand Bookshare’s collection of 400,000 digital, accessible books internationally to include local language books in target countries, making them available through schools, public libraries, local governments, and disability service providers. Benetech is working with the DAISY Consortium, a global partnership of organizations committed to creating and promoting reading systems that ensure the best possible reading experience for everyone, on the “born accessible” initiative that helps publishers and content creators build accessibility into books when they are first created.

“We are thrilled to have Google’s support in this project that will help make books accessible to all, regardless of disability,” says Brad Turner, Vice President of Global Literacy at Benetech. “This grant allows us to expand Bookshare’s reach to underserved communities around the world and remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from reading and learning.”

The thirty-month project aims to implement Bookshare and conduct teacher training in target expansion regions: sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Middle East, North America, Europe, and Oceania. In addition, the project team will expand the availability of quality content to 27,000 schools and libraries globally. Another goal is to add 80,000 books to the existing 400,000 book collection, including local language books, such as Hindi or Marathi, in accessible formats.

Additional project phases include the enhancement of Bookshare’s functionality to improve content distribution – “white label” Bookshare – to meet the language and cultural needs of local communities. The project team plans to establish a network of public and private partnerships to expand educational opportunities for individuals living with disabilities in local communities.

AT Specialist’s Goal: Universal Right to Reading Independence

2016 April 7
by Bookshare Communications

Michelle ThomasReading Independence

Fifteen years ago, Michelle Thomas, a seasoned special educator, crossed into the realm of assistive technology (AT) to help more students with disabilities become independent readers. Thomas says, “It is a universal right to read. Instead of viewing AT as a crutch, I wanted to help more teachers view it as an effective learning tool.”

Today, this avid digital reader and Bookshare Mentor Teacher shares her thoughts about equity, accessibility, and best practices for using the online accessible library in her district.

Academic Achievement through Bookshare and Chromebooks

Thomas’ role in one of the largest school districts in Colorado — Adams 12 Five Star School District — is an important one. She works with students who have physical, cognitive, and behavioral issues to improve their academic achievement. Most days, you will find her supporting teachers across 50+ schools to use and understand the benefits of Bookshare and AT. She says, “The right accommodations can change a child’s life!”

Photo of Adams 12 Five Star School BuildingIn her district, an increase in the number of Chromebooks has expanded teachers’ use of Bookshare to find accessible books. “Children are accustomed to digital technologies,” she says. “Text-to-speech is a natural occurrence to them. This multimodal approach can significantly reinforce reading comprehension which leads to improved learning.”

Reasons to Try Bookshare

Thomas notes another important benefit of Bookshare is the development of independent readers. “Students rely less on their parents, friends, and teachers and more on themselves. We see their anxiety diminish and in its place a renewed sense of self-worth.” She encourages teachers and parents to give the online library a careful look for these reasons:

  • Bookshare’s processes to set up and manage student memberships are now streamlined.
  • Membership is free for U.S. schools and students who qualify.
  • The collection has grown and will soon top 400,000 titles, including a variety of academic books, literature, newspapers and magazines, vocational resources, nonfiction, and bestsellers, that appeal to many reading interests.
  • Using Bookshare Web Reader on a Chromebook makes it fast and easy for students to read classroom textbooks with the benefit of text-to-speech and word highlighting.
  • Student Login makes it much easier for teachers to assign reading and for students to access their assigned books from home or anywhere.
Screen capture of Michelle's AT webpage covering information about Bookshare.

Screen capture of Michelle’s AT web page featuring Bookshare information.

To support the district’s teachers in finding age-appropriate books and prepare for parent discussions in IEP meetings, Thomas created these resources:

  • Pinterest account contains book lists so teachers can easily find titles that engage students and address curricular needs.
  • A password protected web page on the Adams 12 Assistive Technology Google Site to highlight helpful training tips and Bookshare information for parents. On this site, additional documentation demonstrates how teachers can use AT in a universal design for learning (UDL) fashion.

Teachers Use Bookshare in Various Settings

Photo of Michelle Thomas and Teacher, Deb Bolger at a laptop computer.

Michelle and Teacher, Deb Bolger at a laptop.

Today, teachers in Adams 12 use Bookshare in various learning settings. Deb Bolger, a Learning Specialist at The Studio School, takes her students to the library to search for preferred books. She believes the process of selecting a physical book is an interesting and fun ritual. “Once they find a book they like, they know they can read it in an accessible format,” she says. “That’s where Bookshare plays a critical role.”

Bolger also assigns reading a digital book as a calming technique for students who become overly stimulated in class. “Students find the act of listening to an audio book soothing,” she says. “One young man routinely arrives in my class for a needed break and automatically opens his latest Bookshare book on a Chromebook and is quite content.”

Technology Accommodations and Bookshare’s Digital Accessible Books

Thanks to Ms. Thomas, Ms. Bolger, and thousands of educators in schools across the U.S., there is a constant nudge to use technology accommodations in the classroom, library, and at home to acquire and demonstrate knowledge.

Thomas reiterates, “Reading a book independently is a universal right that all students deserve.  Technologies, like Chromebooks and Bookshare, support this goal as teachers strive to deliver a quality reading experience. We want to tear down the barriers and move toward a reading revolution. In the process, we will develop more confident and independent achievers.”

Michelle Thomas is a Bookshare Mentor Teacher who inspires equity and accessibility for lifelong learning on behalf of students with print disabilities. This training and support network was formed in 2010 to help the nation’s top teachers and specialists share best practices on using accessible learning materials. Today, more than five hundred educators participate.

If you are a teacher or parent, talk with your school’s administrators, teachers, or assistive technology specialists about Bookshare.  Button that says take the next step


Benetech and the American Library Association Team Up at SXSW to Share Expertise on 3D Printing for Diverse Learners

2016 April 4

At the recent 2016 South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, Benetech teamed up with the American Library Association (ALA) to present a session titled: “No More Yoda Heads: 3D printing 4 Diverse Learners.” Lisa Wadors Verne, Benetech Program Manager of Education Research and Partnerships, and Charlie Wapner, an information policy analyst for the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy, discussed ways in which the education community – including libraries, museums, and schools – can leverage 3D printing to create learning opportunities for students with print and other disabilities.

Research suggests that 3D objects are important for learning and reinforcing complex spatial concepts South by Southwest edu conference logothat are difficult to convey or explore in any other way (e.g., cells and DNA). Although many schools have access to 3D printing technology, many machines are underutilized and used to print novelty items. In Lisa and Charlie’s session, attendees learned about new collaborations with libraries and museums to help support teachers in providing multimodal access to complex STEM topics as well as utilizing student talent to create innovative learning tools.

An often overlooked piece of the potential of 3D printers in education is their power to create a level playing field for learners of all abilities. “3D printers have the capacity to yield tremendous progress in the field of education,” says Lisa. “When educators and technologists speak of this capacity, they often point to the power of 3D printing to facilitate connected learning, demystify complex STEM topics, and build critical skills for the modern workforce.  Our session is devoted to exploring the world of 3D printing and how it can help open the world of learning to all students.”

Photo of Lisa Wadors Verne and Charlie Wapner at SXSWeduIn their session, Lisa outlined how 3D-printed learning tools can animate the learning process for students who have print, learning, and physical impairments. (If you’re not quite sure what that means, think about how a 3D-printed double helix or H2O molecule might bring science to life for a visually-impaired student.) Charlie described why libraries, as creative, non-judgmental spaces, are the ideal institutions to support the development of assistive technologies through the use of 3D printing technology.

After the presentation was over, several individuals wanted to learn more about Benetech’s 3D printing initiative to create educational equity. Lisa summarized the learning from a convening last summer that brought together practitioners from key institutions and industry to develop ideas for using 3D printers to put all learners on an even footing. In addition, the presenters urged attendees to visit the DIAGRAM Center, a Benetech initiative that is exploring new technologies for creating tactiles and tactile experiences that offer revolutionary ways of conveying spatial information. Says Charlie, “No one else is doing what Benetech is doing in the 3D printing space.”

In response to the inquiries about the role today’s libraries play in their communities, Charlie reiteratedPlastic model of a 3D-printed hand that libraries are one-stop community hubs, replete with informational and digital resources that people of all ages and backgrounds can use to engage in creative learning, seek government services, pursue entrepreneurial opportunities, and a great deal more.

Benetech would like to thank Charlie and the ALA for their worthwhile collaboration at SXSWedu and support of our Global Literacy program initiatives.

To learn more about the SXSW experience from Charlie’s perspective, read his blog post on the District Dispatch, the official ALA website in Washington, DC.