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Special Education Teacher, Andrew Chalfin, and 34 Educators Champion a Mission—Access for All!

Photo of Andrew Chalfin in class holding a device filled with titles from Bookshare.
Andrew Chalfin in his class holding a device filled with titles from Bookshare.

This Teacher Appreciation Month, we salute Andrew Chalfin, a special education teacher in East Rampo Central School District, NY.

Mr. Chalfin wrote to us about the amazing educators in his district who now embrace Bookshare. They heard about the benefits the library can provide for students with print disabilities and wanted to be a part of the mission. With Mr. Chalfin’s support and hands-on professional development and training, 34 special education teachers in his district now effectively use the library to find the curricula and tools for students who qualify.

“Not only is the Bookshare resource a time-saver (no more scanning multiple books), it’s also a cost-saver for schools,” he says.  Membership to the library is free, thanks to awards made by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.

“A few years back, I stumbled on Bookshare and was the sole teacher using it in my district. My students in third to eighth grade loved reading eBooks and quickly learned to operate the Bookshare Edition of Read:Outloud (a reading software application that is free to qualified Bookshare members). I immediately saw an improvement in comprehension skills. My students’ attitude toward reading took a 180 degree turn. This experience led me to explore reading eBooks on portable devices and to share my knowledge with colleagues.”

Today, Mr. Chalfin holds routine staff development workshops. He creates training videos on YouTube and is always eager to answer questions from teachers, students, and parents. His district encourages parents with children who qualify for Bookshare to sign up for individual memberships, which enable them to read eBooks for pleasure.

Photo of teacher's hands and student hand on a portable device
Photo of the hands of a teacher and student as they read highlighted sentences in an accessible book on a portable device.

“Accessible books and reading technologies have changed the way I teach too,” says Mr. Chalfin. This semester, all fifth graders were given a reading assignment on “The Life Cycle of an Emperor Penguin” (Kalman-Johnston). They were asked to identify unfamiliar words in context—like the word hibernate. Every fifth grader was able to access and read the book—in print and/or digitally. They used words in sentences, took notes, and bookmarked facts.  “This multimodal lesson was a success! Every student participated, enjoyed the assignment, and reached their objective.”

What’s next for Mr. Chalfin? He’s busy working with his colleagues now to prepare students for summer reading and to gather and organize books for back-to-school learning.

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