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Beyond the Dys in Dyslexia

2015 October 22
by Bookshare Communications

In recognition of Dyslexia Awareness month in October, we are reposting a blog by McKenzie Erickson, Marketing Coordinator at Benetech, which originally appeared in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Blog (U.S. Department of Special Education) on October 5.

Dyslexia. It’s a word I’ve heard since the third grade. It was the explanation for why I couldn’t read, why I had to Headshot of McKenzie Erickson, Marketing Coordinator at Benetechcheat on my weekly spelling tests, and why I felt different. I’ve since come to realize there is more to dyslexia than its disadvantages.

When I was in school, I put a significant amount of energy into keeping my dyslexia a secret. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was in special education, or that I had a tutor for nine years, or that my parents read my advanced placement (AP) textbooks to me. I worked hard to make sure I had the perfect grades and the perfect resumé to get into the perfect college. I overcompensated by working three times as hard as my peers. I was student body president in my senior year while being involved in multiple extracurricular activities. I needed to make sure people saw me as smart and competent.

After graduating high school and taking some time to reflect on what I really needed, I made the decision to attend Landmark College. It was there, among hundreds of other students with learning disabilities and attention issues that I began to define who I am. I found helpful resources like the National Center for Learning Disabilities and learned more about disability laws and my right to accommodations. I developed skills to advocate for what I needed to be successful. Learning differently is what all students at Landmark College have in common. It was time to discover who I am beyond my dyslexia.
Poster defining dyslexia, listing ways to make a classroom dyslexia-friendly, and describing symptoms of dyslexia at different ages

My associate degree from Landmark College prepared me to attend the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. I began to focus on knowing and understanding exactly what I have to offer and what energizes me. I opened myself to the possibility that my strengths were not in spite of my dyslexia, but because of it. I honed my skills by studying branding, creative and critical thinking, and human-centered design. As a capstone I interned at Benetech.

I just celebrated my three-year anniversary at Benetech. I’m proud to put my design and marketing degree to use contributing to Bookshare, a global literacy initiative at Benetech. Bookshare is an online library of over 350,000 accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities like dyslexia. By continuing to develop my strengths and identifying ways to compensate for my challenges I’m crafting my ideal career.

This October, Dyslexia Awareness Month, I encourage all teachers to consider which of their students might have dyslexia. Notice how bright they are and how hard they are working. Help them to identify and celebrate their interests and strengths. Understand that these students are constantly confronting their major weaknesses—reading and writing. And thank you in advance for seeking out the necessary professional development to provide effective evidence-based interventions.

For parents of children who are struggling with dyslexia or other learning and attention issues, I want you to know that there are resources and communities of support available to you. Whether in your local community or on websites like Understood and Dyslexic Advantage, there are experts who can provide information to help you make decisions and navigate this journey, and there are parents who understand the challenges you face and will share their stories.

I urge all students with learning disabilities to pursue activities that you enjoy. Believe in your ability to learn. Use your voice to increase awareness and understanding of the whole of dyslexia. Help to shift the paradigm from disadvantages to advantages. Find your strength and focus on making it into your superpower.

McKenzie Erickson is responsible for the design and execution of Bookshare marketing campaigns including branding, collateral, events, and member outreach.

Special Guest Post – VA Educator Shares Sensory Teaching Ideas for Students with Dyslexia

2015 October 15
by Bookshare Communications

Jennifer Cassese Appleton

October is a time to rally with our partners and advocates to raise awareness of dyslexia and learning disabilities. That’s why we’re sharing a valuable post on blended learning written by Virginia Educator and dyslexia teacher, Jennifer Cassese Appleton. This post was originally featured on the AIM-VA blog. Kudos to Ms. Appleton and to our partner, AIM-VA, for shining the spotlight on learning disabilities like dyslexia and sharing important information and resources. Special thanks also to the AIM-VA staff and editor, June Behrman.


The Art of Blended Learning in Reading Classes

Jennifer Cassese Appleton is a master at the art of blending multi-sensory learning in her reading classes. As a former reading specialist for Virginia’s Alternative Paths Training School and Marshall High School (Fairfax County) and a parent of four children, including a son with dyslexia, she’s had much opportunity to develop her craft. Appleton, now a private academic therapist for adolescents with dyslexia, sets high expectations for the students she teaches. Here are a few of her sensory learning best practices using Bookshare.

Appleton says, “I want all learners to enjoy an engaging reading experience, no matter their learning or print disability. I’ve used Bookshare throughout my teaching career and it is an excellent resource. The online library and accessible books definitely have a place in the curriculum for supplemental reading and core academics.”

The students Appleton teaches today are extremely bright, but their reading comprehension and reading level have them at a disadvantage. Dyslexia involves difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and symbols, but does not affect general intelligence. According to the latest statistics one in five students in the U.S. has a brain-based learning and attention issue related to reading, writing, math, and organization. That number translates into 2.9 million children who have a specific learning disability.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities reports one of every 10 students in the U.S. is dyslexic, and eighty percent are placed in special education. Appleton says, “Individuals with dyslexia and learning disabilities require a multi-sensory reading experience to make contextual connections and learning engagement more ‘sticky.’”

Multi-sensory reading, the act of seeing and hearing words read aloud, reinforces understanding and comprehension in individuals with learning disabilities. Bookshare today serves over 360,000 members with print disabilities, such as dyslexia, with more than 367,000 accessible titles. Bookshare also partners with AIM-VA to strengthen the reach of students in Virginia and their teachers who can benefit from the resource.

Make Reading Come Alive!  

Appleton, a former Bookshare Mentor Teacher, shares these creative ideas to make reading come alive through accessible books.

  • Pair literature. “When you pair good literature with a sensory experience, you create positive memories in the reader,” she says. “You inspire curiosity and hold their attention.” This creative teacher even uses scented markers to help her students recall and write about what they read.
  • Encourage students to have an Individual Membership.External Link to Individual Membership (New Window) so they can use the online accessible library day or night on the device of their choosing. “Bookshare has lots of academic titles, plus periodicals to keep students with print disabilities interested in current events.”
  • Integrate companion learning projects. “Combine cultural interests and activities into reading assignments involving art, music, cooking, or any hands-on creative topic. This will further foster your students’ love of reading!”

In one classroom, Appleton had students download the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg from Bookshare. The story is about two kids who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York and are inspired by an Egyptian bronze cat. Students read the book, then sculpted cats out of clay. “My ninth and tenth graders loved the project!”

For younger children with learning disabilities, Appleton taps into Bookshare for pleasure reading. For older students, she assigns accessible textbooks, research materials and periodicals.

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

Check out this article about Bookshare parents and teachers teaming up for back-to-school success for more students with dyslexia and learning disabilities.


Missouri Educator Underscores Value of Student Logins and Individual Memberships

2015 October 8
by Bookshare Communications

Catherine Fortney headshotCatherine Fortney, an Occupational Therapist and Assistive Technology Facilitator at the Francis Howell School District in St. Charles, Missouri, says her Bookshare student members love Individual Memberships and Student Logins—a new feature that lets students log in on their own and read assigned books wherever they want.

Students’ Reading Transformations

Fortney also likes to share stories of transformation with colleagues, administrators, and parents. “Transformative stories fortify the value of Bookshare,” she says. “The online accessible library is a game changer in special education, especially for students with learning, vision, and physical disabilities, such as muscular dystrophy.”

Gabby, a high school student with a learning disability, transformed into an independent reader after learning how to read with Bookshare using her Individual Membership login. “She was so excited that she could actually go home and read books on her own,” says Fortney. “Reading independence happens more frequently when students use Bookshare to its fullest advantage.”

Jonathan, now a junior in high school, began using Bookshare in middle school. At that time, he was reading at a second grade level, but could comprehend materials on grade level if they were read aloud. Today, he is on track academically and reading independently. He aspires to attend college and pursue a medical career—a field Fortney says is “well within his reach.”

Technology, Training, and Communication

Fortney, an 18-year veteran of the educational system, learned about Bookshare when searching for reading solutions at a Closing the Gap conference a number of years ago. Initially, her district set up several training sessions to ensure that all students who qualify for Bookshare receive the opportunity. Fortney’s district then took it to the next level by also emphasizing continual Bookshare training. Last year, it received a state grant to purchase iPads and apps, and Bookshare became a valuable resource for core academic and supplemental reading.

“We encouraged high school teachers to participate first so that older students who qualified were signed up for Bookshare Individual Memberships,” says Fortney. “Students are smart and technologically savvy; we only had to show them once how to download books and they got it! Our district is thankful for Bookshare and all the new features that make the online library effective. Today, many more accessible books are available and our district has developed an effective system to manage the resource. Through the accessible library, so many more students with print disabilities can become independent and effective readers. I just love it!”

About the Bookshare Mentor Teacher Program

Catherine Fortney is a Bookshare Mentor Teacher. This program supports the world’s top teachers and assistive technology specialists. It provides training tools to engage educators, parents, and students in the effective use of Bookshare’s online accessible library and reading technologies. Over 700 educators and specialists work in their local communities and schools to advocate on behalf of students with print disabilities. Bookshare Mentor Teachers also develop and share best practices with other teachers around the globe.

Let’s Raise Awareness of Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities in October

2015 October 2
by Bookshare Communications

Scientific photo of the different regions of the brain.

Did you know that 2.9 million children in the U.S. have a specific learning disability and one in five students has a brain-based learning and attention issue related to reading, writing, math, or organizational skills? According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, 1 of out every 10 students in the U.S. is dyslexic, and 80 percent of children placed in special education with a learning disability are dyslexic.

In October, Bookshare is supporting Dyslexia Awareness Month and Learning Disabilities Awareness Month. It’s the perfect time to put a spotlight on learning disabilities like dyslexia, as well as resources like Bookshare that can support the community. Throughout the month, look out for inspiring stories of people with dyslexia, and help us raise awareness and educate others. In this post, we share why early identification is important and dispel some common myths about people with learning disabilities.

Early Identification of Symptoms and Intervention

Studies show that early intervention is a key contributor to success for children with learning disabilities. Now that school has started, many parents and teachers may see learning difference symptoms appear. Does your child constantly get frustrated or anxious with homework and reading assignments? Individuals with dyslexia have difficulty reading and interpreting words, letters, and symbols, but this does not affect their general intelligence. This is an important concept to remember.

Collage of Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison

Many bright and gifted people throughout history have had learning disabilities, including Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and Winston Churchill. We’re sure you can name more.

Let’s now consider some of the common myths and stigmas surrounding individuals who are learning disabled.

MYTH: Dyslexia is something children will outgrow.

FACT: While some children who struggle with reading may be “late bloomers,” students with dyslexia continue to face challenges with reading.

MYTH: A person with dyslexia cannot be a good reader.

FACT: With intense systematic instruction, effective tools and support, and hard work, individuals with dyslexia can become strong readers, especially if they receive early intervention and the right support.

MYTH: There are no resources that can help people with dyslexia.

FACT: There are many organizations and resources like Bookshare that can truly change the life of a child, adolescent, or adult with a learning disability.

How Can You Help Raise Awareness?

First, share this post with other parents, educators, advocates, and people with learning disabilities.

Second, join in the conversation all month long on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Make sure to use the #LDAwarenessMonth hashtag.

Third, find and explore useful information and resources about dyslexia and learning disabilities from these great partners, Understood, International Dyslexia Association, Learning Disabilities Online Organization.

Finally, look out for inspiring stories and posts all month long.

Together, we can raise awareness and better support people with learning disabilities!


Bookshare’s Criteria for Adding Post-Secondary Education Ebooks to Its Collection

2015 September 28

Bookshare expands its accessible ebook collection for higher education through partnerships with publishers and university presses

During a recent discussion on AERNet (Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired), questions arose about Bookshare’s policies on converting books for higher education. Here is the explanation from Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech, that we felt was important to share with the larger Bookshare community.

Bookshare is a library focused on books that can be shared. Our dream is that once a book has been digitized, nobody else will have to do scanning work again. We need to do that within the bounds of the law to protect our users and the many great people and organizations that voluntarily help us achieve this common dream.

We deal almost exclusively in books. Other than a long-standing partnership with NFB Newsline where we automatically get daily newspapers and a few magazines, we don’t add journals or articles to our collection. We don’t do partial books or course-packs. A good rule of thumb is if it’s a modern book, it should have an ISBN in order to be added to our collection. Our website has a list of what we don’t take, but it basically follows our strong interest in complete books.Female student in library reading a digital book on a computer

Bookshare does not have any specific funding for supporting higher education students. As part of our award from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, which is funded by IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) K-12 money, we agreed to serve all higher education students for free. Our focus on higher education collection development is twofold. First, we work with publishers to provide us their ebooks for free (over 500 publishers have partnered with us, including dozens of university presses and key higher education publishers such as Wiley and Springer). Second, we have a Bookshare University Partners Program for post-secondary institutions to share complete books that have been proofread and scanned so that they become available. In general, it’s the obligation of the higher education institution to acquire accessible versions for students (by finding them in Bookshare, Learning Ally, or Accesstext Network, getting them from the publisher, or by scanning them).

We only accept ebook versions in usable digital formats, as opposed to scanned versions, directly from the publisher or the author, because they clearly have the authority to agree to our publisher or author agreements and can supply formats that we can easily convert into DAISY (typically EPUB, but also Word). The main reason for this is to protect the people submitting content to us, because someone who uploads a publisher-supplied ebook to Bookshare would probably be violating some other license or agreement that came with that title.

We welcome the opportunity to form a partnership with your university press for ebooks, your faculty members for their published books (in digital form), or with your school to acquire complete books that have been scanned and proofread to add to our collection and make available at no cost through our OSEP-funded services.

Benetech is a Silicon Valley technology nonprofit that provides software tools and services to address pressing social needs. Each of its program areas—Global Literacy, Human Rights, the Environment, and Benetech Labs—offers the greatest social impact on funds invested. Social entrepreneur and MacArthur Fellow Jim Fruchterman created Benetech in 2000 and leads the organization as its CEO.

Unleash the Power of Bookshare’s Search Features

2015 September 25
by Bookshare Communications

New search features put you on the fast track to finding your favorite books

Bookshare’s collection is growing by leaps and bounds. As of today, Bookshare has 365,017 titles, and by tomorrow, the number will be even higher. As the number of books increases, it becomes even more critical to have a robust search capability so you can find the books you want quickly and easily. Let’s take a look at Bookshare’s new and improved search features that benefit students and adult members alike. How many of these search methods do you use?

Search by Category

The Bookshare library is now indexed by category – 48 to be exact. For students, subjects such as language arts, mathematics, earth sciences, and social studies are useful in the classroom. For adult readers, popular new categories include politics, philosophy, music, and humor. Browse through all 48 categories to discover new books and authors.

Search for Latest Additions

Are you the type of reader who checks to see the list of books most recently added to the collection? Previously, browsing for new books could yield a list of several thousand titles which even the most patient person would have difficulty reviewing. Now, thanks to the enhanced list of categories, you can find the latest additions to your favorite subject area by using Advanced Search, selecting the desired category, and sorting the results by date added. Then select table view to see the date each book was added. Voila!

For eThe Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg book coverxample, if you are a fan of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, and you checked the recent additions to the Mystery and Thrillers category, you would discover that the companion book, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, was added on September 22.

Search for Books with Images and Image descriptions

Advanced search now allows you to locate books containing images and/or image descriptions. For younger readers who want books with illustrations, use Advanced Search and check the ‘contains images’ or ‘contains image descriptions’ boxes.

Press Here by Herve Tullet - book coverFor example, a search for children’s books with images and images descriptions at the first grade level yielded twenty-five results including gems such as New York Times bestseller Press Here by Hervé Tullet. For young readers with visual impairments, the image descriptions are especially helpful.

Bonus Feature – Related ISBNs

And finally, when you search by ISBN, results now include related ISBNs. For example, if you search for a paperback version of a book and the hardcover version is in the collection, that title will appear in the results. And for schools searching for textbooks, related titles – such as national or state editions – now appear in the search results. This feature allows searches to be much more complete and useful.

We hope these powerful new search features inspire you to discover new books for yourself or your students. Visit the Help Center for more search tips.

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!