Mary Carney, a 7th grade English teacher at Lowville Academy Central Middle School, NY, wanted to change the way some of her students thought about reading, and the way they read. She knew that if she could find a way to help her students feel more confident and independent as readers, they would be more successful in her English class.
Carney signed her qualified students up for Bookshare organizational memberships. “I believed the federally funded library (free to U.S. students who qualify) could support my efforts to turn around students who were falling behind their grade level reading.”
One of the first students to get digital books and reading technologies was Shane McKnight. He has a reading disability and wasn’t keeping up with assignments. Now in 10th grade, his high school resource teacher, Donna Yancey, said, “Shane’s reading skills have greatly improved, along with his desire to read books for pleasure. Through Bookshare and the reading technology accommodations, he proved to himself that he was capable of handling high school assignments.”
Today, students in Mrs. Carney’s middle school English class, who once hated to read, are motivated to download digital books. She has signed up more students for individual memberships so they can search for and download digital books on their own (at school and home). “I felt that if I could teach my students to download books on their own, they would use the library more effectively. What better way to empower students to take charge of their own progress!”
Now students search the library for cookbooks, hobbies, and the latest news and periodicals. They are reading more books and becoming better readers. Other teachers tell Mrs. Carney that her students have improved their academic skills overall; they are more confident in high school and better equipped to handle the reading projects assigned to them. Jerry, a student who was not enthusiastic to read, but loved to work on cars, found engine repair manuals in Bookshare. “We noticed a change in his attitude,” said Mrs. Carney. “His mom couldn’t believe the transformation. Jerry’s digital reading experience demonstrates what it’s like to turn the light on for students with disabilities. He may never have read another book or recognized his aptitude, but now he’s got a purpose. This experience led him to a vocational interest in high school and he is doing well.”
Mrs. Carney’s work with digital reading led other educators at Lowville to get involved. Steve Bingle, Instructional Technology Specialist and Ted Bach, Teacher for Academic Intervention Services also work with students to teach them to use reading technologies such as Kurzweil, Read:OutLoud and portable MP3 players and iPods.