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Parent Partners with School Administrators to Advocate for Accessible Ebooks and Dispel Myths

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Deborah Campbell with Denver Academy’s Director of Education, Philippe Ernewein, and Director of IT, Anthony Slaughter

When Deborah Campbell volunteered at Denver Academy, she had one mission: to educate teachers and families of children with reading disabilities about the benefits of accessible ebooks and assistive technologies for learning.

Mrs. Campbell holds a master of arts degree in curriculum and instruction and has a deep understanding of the education process. Alyssa, her eldest daughter, attends Denver Academy and was diagnosed with a learning disability in second grade. At that time she read at a noticeably slower pace than her peers, and it was difficult for Deborah to watch Alyssa struggle and see her daughter’s self-esteem diminish.

“I heard about Bookshare at a workshop on technology tools for students with learning disabilities and became a tiger mother,” shared Mrs. Campbell. “I learned about the benefits of using accessible ebooks and how they can support children who cannot read standard print well.”

Alyssa Campbell reading a book from Bookshare on her computer with headphones. As a U.S. student with a learning disability, Alyssa qualified for a free membership to Bookshare. Soon, her reading level advanced and her mom saw a positive transformation in Alyssa’s comprehension skills and behavior.

Mrs. Campbell signed up to be a Bookshare Parent Ambassador, joining a network of parents across the U.S. who advocate in their local schools on behalf of Bookshare as an academic reading solution. She also talked with Denver Academy’s Director of Education and Director of Information Technology who were eager to examine how Bookshare could benefit more students who qualified throughout their campus. They identified a core group of interested administrators, teachers, and families and held discussions about the benefits and misperceptions surrounding the use of accessible ebooks for learning.

Benefits of Accessible Ebooks and Technologies

  1. Increased enjoyment of literature
  2. Support of a child’s intellectual level and personal reading interests
  3. Access to content at all reading levels
  4. Exposure to new vocabulary
  5. Increased comprehension and fluency skills
  6. Reduced time spent on homework
  7. Opportunities to enable real-time note-taking
  8. Enhanced reading engagement through use of personalized technology settings to support reader preferences
  9. Reduced stress and frustration in the reading process
  10. The ability to experience multi-modal reading to see highlighted text and hear it read aloud through text-to-speech capability

Myths Regarding Accessible Ebooks and Technologies

  1. Only print materials should be used in school.
  2. Textbooks and required reading assignments in digital format are hard to find.
  3. Listening to a book is not reading.
  4. Students with reading disabilities will grow out of the disability.
  5. Students don’t like computer voices.
  6. Using technology support for testing is cheating.
  7. Students who use technology have unfair advantages.
  8. It’s too late for older students and adults to try ebooks.
  9. Copyright law prohibits schools from using digital materials.
  10. Setting up a Bookshare membership is complicated.

On the last point, Mrs. Campbell says, “Signing up for Bookshare is straightforward. Just sign up online, print the qualification form, get a school professional or Cover of the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseiniphysician to sign it, and email or fax the form to Bookshare. Then, log in, search for a title, and either download the ebook to your computer or mobile device or read it directly through the Internet using Bookshare Web Reader. There are no constraints, and the library and some reading tools are free.”

Now in eighth grade, Alyssa reads significantly above grade level, manages her assignments independently, and has developed a true love of literature. She is reading The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini and studies curriculum materials for several classes from the accessible K-12 textbooks assigned to her through Bookshare by her school.

“Accessible ebooks was the right solution for my daughter,” says Mrs. Campbell. “It is sad to know how many parents and educators are still unaware of Bookshare and the benefits of accessible ebooks and technologies to improve a child’s reading ability. Everyone has to approach learning with the tools and strategies that work best for them. If you see a child falling behind or feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, you must seek out alternatives to capture their attention. Don’t stand in the crossroads believing there are no solutions. Learn more about Bookshare and keep exploring thoughts of your child being engaged in the reading process with an ebook and see what happens!”

Back to School Made Easy

back-to-school-made-easy photo collage of students , teachers and bookshelvesBookshare’s online accessible library has over 460,000 titles including textbooks, Common Core materials, educational titles, bestsellers, children’s books, and more. Bookshare is free for qualified U.S. students. To join Bookshare, students must have a qualifying disability that prevents them from reading printed text. Learn more about Bookshare and sign up today!Button that says Learn More and links to the Back to School landing page

Bookshare is an initiative of a technology nonprofit called Benetech and is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education.

Special thanks to Deborah and Alyssa Campbell for sharing their story.

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