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Special Education Teacher Champions Year-Round Reading Programs

Melissa Hawkins, a middle school special education teacher in Baltimore, believes that reading year-round is a critical component of student’s academic success.Melissa Hawkins headshot

As the chairperson of the Reading Committee at her school, she is the driving force behind several innovative reading initiatives that use a multi-pronged approach to engage and motivate students all year long. For example, STRIVE for 25! rewards students when they read 7, 14, 21, and 25 books by the end of the school year with a variety of prizes including snack coupons, certificates of completion, and a chance to win a Kindle.

However, this is just one part of the equation. Ms. Hawkins also teaches Baltimore educators about Bookshare in conjunction with the Baltimore County S.T.A.T. (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow)—an initiative that ensures that every school has a digital learning environment to prepare globally-competitive students—and the Maryland Assistive Technology Network (MATN) at Johns Hopkins University Center for Technology in Education.

“In my presentations, I see general and special education teachers realize the value of accessible books because as students understand what they read, they read longer, they build fluency, and they receive reinforcement. Their confidence grows and they begin to tackle books on or above grade level.”

Public Library Program Helps Students “SAIL” through Summer

Ms. Hawkins’s advocacy efforts do not stop after the final school bell rings. She knows that summer reading is just as critical as reading during the school year to maintain learning levels. According to a study by the American Library Association, “Independent Reading and School Achievement,” students who use their public libraries and read independently achieve greater success in school. This summer, through a partnership with the county library system, teens receive a special library card that allows access to print books, ebooks, audio books, databases, digital resources and more. The program is called SAIL – Students Achieve in Libraries. Ms. Hawkins promotes the county library system’s summer reading program in collaboration with the Library Media Specialist. The program incentivizes students to read over the summer with prizes such as gift cards and a Kindle if students read three or more books.

Turn It Up & Tell the World banner“Teachers are always concerned about the drop in skills over the summer,” says Ms. Hawkins.  “With Bookshare and accessible books and programs like SAIL, we can help to prevent summer slide. Reading accessible books enables students with print disabilities to experience reading in multi-modal ways,” she says. “As students hear books aloud, learning comes alive and they play an active role in reading.”

Are you looking for a fun and engaging summer reading program for students? We have just what you’re looking for. Learn more about Bookshare’s super fun Turn It Up & Tell the World Summer Reading Challenge!

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