Cathy Wilson is a dyslexia specialist at Coppell ISD, TX, and a Bookshare mentor teacher. She trains her colleagues and students who qualify how to use the online Bookshare library and reading technologies.
Last year, Cathy had nearly 40 youngsters on her Bookshare organizational account. This allowed her and other approved teachers, or sponsors, to find and download books for students who qualify. She has helped more than 90 percent of these students get individual memberships.
“Introducing children with print disabilities to technology early helps them to be more independent and eventually find and download books on their own,” she says. Cathy encourages children as early as first and second grade to be reading independently with technology. “Technology is a great equalizer for kids. Children’s minds are open and less constrained by labels or stigmas from their reading disabilities.”
This busy mentor teacher begins each school year talking with parents and sending pre-filled individual membership forms home so they can sign up their children. This makes signing up for Bookshare easier because proof of disability has already been verified through the school on the pre-filled forms.
In face-to-face meetings, Cathy likes to discuss the benefits of digital accessible books. “Parents are busy people, and we need to help them understand the value of educational resources, like Bookshare and reading technologies that may help their child succeed. I create my own guides, use video tutorials, and write email alerts to keep them abreast of updates. We also talk about dyslexia-related topics and new reading tools, like the Bookshare Web Reader. In addition to parent discussions, Cathy works directly with students. “They need practice to use the library and reading technologies so their knowledge of these tools and resources will stick,” she says.
Every week, Cathy spends ten minutes reviewing how to go online, log in with usernames and passwords, search for a book, download it, open it on a device or software and explore navigation features. Many students practice reading digital books on laptops and then demonstrate the login and download process on a Smart Board for class members. “When you empower kids with technology and let them demo it, they get it!”
Each of the ten groups of children (first through fifth graders) she works with are grouped by the reading levels which coordinate with the district’s dyslexia curriculum. “Each group knows my reading process well,” she says. “They come to class, huddle in the jungle corner on comfy pillows, and pull out a printed book or a personal device and read an accessible book with headphones. They are tech-savvy and independent readers.”
About the Bookshare Mentor Teacher Program
This program began in 2010 to support the nation’s top teachers and assistive technology specialists with training tools to engage educators, parents, and students in the effective use of Bookshare’s online accessible library and reading technologies. Over 500 educators and specialists have now joined the network and work in their local communities and schools to advocate for students with print disabilities. Bookshare Mentor Teachers also develop and share best practices with other teachers across the United States. Learn more at http://communications.bookshare.org/mentor-teachers/