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Reading Skill Improvements, More Reading Choices and Engaged Students!

Photo of Jeanette Donelson at the board in her room.
Jeanette Donelson

Special thanks to Jeanette Donelson, special education teacher for sending us this great story.



I love Bookshare! The students I serve are in 9th through 12th grade with special needs across the spectrum.  I have students with dyslexia, Cerebral Palsy, and severe reading disabilities.  Most of them have difficulty reading books and comprehending what they read. With Bookshare, they can now download a textbook, print it out in larger print (which allows them to write notes and highlight), and use the text-to-speech software which is free with Bookshare, to hear the content read aloud.

Accessible Curriculum

Last year for the first time, I felt my students were able to actually “learn” from our World History curriculum.  In the past, the text was not accessible for these students unless someone was able to read it to them.  Even then, if they lost focus or didn’t understand the content, they were embarrassed to ask for the text to be repeated.  Now, with the help of Bookshare, they listen to the text as many times as they need or want in order to comprehend the material.

More Reading Choices

Through Bookshare, students download the free software at home and have read more books in the last year than they have probably have read their entire lives!  If they are reading a book, and decide they don’t like it, it’s so easy for them to simply select another book and download it – they aren’t “stuck with it,” and forced to read something they did not enjoy.

Reading Comprehension Skill Improvements

This year, every one of my students has increased their reading comprehension levels on standardized tests. This is a first!   Three students, when given the Diagnostic Assessments of Reading test had gains of one grade in their Word Recognition scores and one student had a three-year gain in Word Meaning scores. Considering the students came into the year with scores equivalent to 3rd grade, after 9 to 12 years of education, a grade increase in one year is significant!

Choices to Read Digital Books on Portable Devices and Software

I teach English and the majority of my students will not read unless they are forced. I had the idea to start a reading club and instead of providing assigned reading, my students select books from Bookshare.  Now, they are able to view the text and listen to the computer or device-generated audio of the books and they like that they have a choice.  Many students use iPods or Humanware devices, like Victor Readers and Bookshare works marvelously with these applications.  We have a laptop cart which makes it easy for students to access our assistive technology software at school.  Students with their own individual Bookshare accounts download books at school and at home.  They save the books to their thumb drives and load them onto the iPod or device.  This process works well.

Teacher Tip! Using Social Media

My students write weekly blog posts using We also utilize student online magazines, like TimeforKids, for those who are not able to read the print magazines due to their reading levels.  Students use Facebook and email to communicate outside of the classroom; and online website applications to compose and turn in their written responses. They have shared that it’s fun for them to discuss their assignments, and to brainstorm with classmates.  As a result of Bookshare, my students have deeper and more meaningful conversations.  I receive longer and more detailed written responses and more creative reports, compared to previous written or typed papers.

Accessible Instruction Materials and NIMAC Textbooks

I was able to get NIMAC textbooks downloaded from Bookshare for my students as a result of a simple email request.  Overall, I have found Bookshare to be easy to use and very accommodating. I always get prompt responses to my emails and courteous inquiries and replies from your staff.  Thanks for all you do to help our students get access to educational reading materials and become better learners.

Bookshare is awesome!


Jeanette Donelson, Special Education Teacher, Gahanna, OH


  1. Anna Zara

    Thank you for sharing your account of your student’s success accessing NIMAC files with Bookshare.

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