Parents of children with disabilities often ask Linda Sherouse, a Library Media Specialist at North Hampton School in New Hampshire, how can I encourage more quiet time for my child who has a disability?” Linda’s reply is to find a good book and consider resources, like Bookshare, the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities. “Over the years, I’ve helped many kids love to read voraciously and on their own,” says Linda.
Bookshare – A Viable Reading Resource
As an avid proponent of accessible books, Linda provides reading support for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. She interacts with just about everyone in her school — from general and special education teachers, case managers, curriculum specialists, and administrators — to students and their parents. “When teachers come to me with a child who has a 504 Plan or Individualized Education Program (IEP) who qualify, I immediately recommend Bookshare as a viable resource,” she says. “We explore books in our library that students are interested in and then download them from Bookshare onto their iPads. After signing them up and giving them technology accommodations, we’ve seen students with vision and learning disabilities enjoy reading for the first time – an awesome experience for everyone!”
Changing the Minds of Skeptical Parents
One parent, who was reluctant to have his child introduced to accessible ebooks, was amazed at the difference in his son’s reading experience after his first audio book. “He became enthralled with a popular teen series over summer vacation,” describes Linda. “His father recognized that his son could spend quiet time reading and that Bookshare was the resource that made it happen. For the rest of vacation and now in school, the student is well equipped with a Bookshare membership and reading tools that meet his needs and learning preferences.”
Improving Reading and Vocabulary Skills
Another student, who tired easily staring at printed books, used Bookshare to improve his reading skills and vocabulary. Linda says, “We put his reading assignments onto the iPad and selected a digital audio book for pleasure reading. He kept listening to his favorite stories through text-to-speech and became a different child. Now, his schoolwork is on par, and his appetite for reading popular literature at home is rising.”
From Resource to Inclusive Environments
Linda mentions that it often took years to find the right tools and strategies for students with print and learning disabilities. Her approach now begins by reading a chapter from a digital book and asking the student to read a chapter back. She says, “It doesn’t take long for their comprehension to improve and for them to experience an aha moment. After a short time, they are listening and some are following along with the highlighted words. Through Bookshare, we have immediate access to many types of digital accessible formats to accommodate learners with different challenges. Some of our students also moved from a resource setting to an inclusive classroom.”
Don’t be a Skeptical Parent or Teacher
To parents who are skeptical about technology and accessible ebooks, Linda says, “Reading can be so much fun! Many parents are now eager to help their child read. They encourage them to participate in discussions and to make reading and learning connections. They make statements like these:
- “I just cannot believe everything my child has learned.”
- “My child is telling me about a story in context.”
- “My child has finally found books that he/she cannot put down.”
Linda’s response is always familiar with a dash of excitement about children now understanding literature and language in context. She says, “These incidents prove that any student with a disability can be an independent reader with the right tools, information, and resources.”
Try Bookshare Today!
If you have students that cannot read traditional print books due to disabilities like blindness, low vision, or a physical or learning disability like dyslexia, he/she may qualify for free membership to Bookshare. Sign up now so students can enjoy all the benefits of accessible ebooks for schoolwork and over the summer. For even more fun, check out our summer fun Bingo challenge.