When Donna Schneider, an early technology adopter and AT specialist in Brewster, NY, public schools, was asked to beta test Bookshare’s new Bookshelf feature, she jumped at the opportunity!
“I love to try out new resources and technologies,” she said. “I knew that this tool could potentially save me a lot of time and eliminate redundant searches. Bookshelf makes it easy to organize and categorize books by students, grade, subject, textbook, summer literature, and even student-preferred formats.”
Donna is a three-year Bookshare Mentor Teacher and was just elected to the 2013 Bookshare Advisory Board. She works with children in grades K to 12 who have print disabilities and special needs and is the parent of two children who have learning challenges.
Over the last three years, Donna has trained more than 100 educators in about 10 school districts and has touched the lives of twice as many students who qualify for the free accessible digital books and reading technologies.
Any day of the week, you can find her answering technical questions for a teacher, participating in the district’s AT consortium meetings, or training teachers how to use Bookshare at a nearby school. Next week, she will sit down with educators at the NY School for the Deaf and in just a few weeks hold the first Parent Academy in a nearby community.
“When you broaden the ability for others to collaborate and learn new skills,” she said, “they will be more apt to take their knowledge to a level that could change the fate of a child with a disability forever.”
“At the Parent Academy, we want families to learn about the benefits of accessible books and reading technologies before summer begins. This way, they can sign up for individual memberships and start to download eBooks that their children want to read for pleasure. Individual memberships are free and include all of the digital books in the library, except K–12 textbooks.”
Turnkey Book Request Process in School
In her district, special education teachers give Donna preplanned lists of required reading for current classes and to cover the next school year for students who qualify. Donna bets that she already has many of the required literature and K–12 textbooks on her Bookshelf.
“I can easily distribute eBooks directly to students with individual memberships by sharing a Bookshelf. With Bookshelf, the process has become more turnkey. I even get a better sense of personal interests, which helps me relate to the kids.”
When Bookshare offered Harry Potter, Twilight, and the Hunger Games in digital accessible formats, Donna says her students were reading voraciously and wanted to download more books. “Teachers stopped me in the hall to tell me how pleased they were to see students who had never been engaged in reading now using their higher level thinking skills and initiating conversations.”
Prior to summer break, the Brewster school district requires students in all grades to read at least one book and be prepared to participate in common activities during the first week of school.
“Last year, all high school students read a book about bullying, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. It’s rare to have 100% of students participate in a school wide reading assignment, but with Bookshare, we could offer it. What an accomplishment!”