Brennan Draves, a third grader at Mackensen Elementary School, who also receives educational services at Bay-Arenac ISD in Michigan, reads his assignments fast with his fingers. He uses a BrailleNote device and books from Bookshare. Carissa Reed, his teaching assistant, says, “Brennan is a whiz when it comes to learning! He’s just an awesome and intelligent little guy and a sponge for information. He inspires me and everyone he meets!”
Brennan has Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment and blindness. Brennan says, “Bookshare has made my homework easier. With my BrailleNote, I skip the notes in the beginning and go right to my reading assignment. I’m reading faster and my book bag is lighter too, now that I don’t have to carry heavy Braille books around.”
As a paraprofessional teaching assistant, Ms. Reed works with general and special education teachers across seven schools to support students with vision impairments like Brennan. “He is a big reason why I learned Braille,” she says. “And why I signed our district up to get books from Bookshare.
Ms. Reed learned how to use Bookshare by watching the “Learn It Now” video tutorials on YouTube. She also made cheat sheets of how the online library works to help other teachers. Many teachers who use Bookshare assist other teachers and take part in Bookshare’s Mentor Teacher Program.
Today, Brennan reads constantly and learns as quickly as sighted children. His reading skills are above average, and he has passed all of his Accelerated Reader tests. He is on track to be an honor roll student. “He makes me want to do my very best job of teaching and to go above and beyond my own expectations,” said Ms. Reed.
“This year, Brennan needed a textbook and 80 guided chapter books on historians, like Harriet Tubman and Alexander Graham Bell,” said Ms. Reed. “I requested the books and within a month, the staff notified me that they were available. I downloaded and organized them using the Reading List. This saved me time. Bookshare is a blessing for students and a cost saver for our district.”
Ms. Reed also works with students with print disabilities who use iPads to read. “The technologies have made learning a little faster and easier for them to download their assignments using Bookshare’s Read2go app. They fly through their homework, which gives them a bit more learning independence.”
Brennan’s mom, Mrs. Lindsay Draves, says, “Bookshare and the BrailleNote has made it possible for my son to be excited about learning. His love of reading and ability to absorb information enables him to do very well in school and he loves math and science. This year, he wrote his first digital book about his family, teachers, and friends. Ms. Reed is right, he’s just an awesome little guy and we are very proud of him!”