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Justin’s Story: Audiobooks Help Reader with Learning Disability and ADHD Accomplish Amazing Things

NAMEJustin Novello
EDUCATIONBS, Communication & Media Studies and MS, Education, Columbia International University
OCCUPATIONEducator; media specialist; photographer; owner, Soda City Photography
LOCATIONColumbia, South Carolina
MEMBERSince 2016

Justin Novello is a self-described late bloomer. Due to learning disabilities and ADHD, he couldn’t read. In first grade, as the other students progressed into higher-level readers, Justin got stuck as a low-level reader. He thought he would never learn.

Finally, in college, he sought help. An academic advisor told him about Bookshare, and he began reading with audiobooks. They changed his life. He never knew what he was missing until he started listening to books. He never realized how wild the escape into a story could be. He began studying and learning new subjects like science and technology. Here is Justin’s story in his own words.

Justin’s Journey from Non-Reader to Graduate Student

I grew up my entire life not reading. I hated reading. In elementary school, I could never read the colored books that signified the “better readers.” I thought I would never be smart, I’ll never matter to people, and I didn’t care if I ever read again. 

Covers for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, First Man, The Phantom Tollbooth, and All the Light We Cannot See

My teachers would read stories in class like Hatchet and The Phantom Tollbooth. I loved listening to people read. I thought things would change and reading might get easier when I got older. I hated summer reading lists, and I couldn’t get through The Old Man and The Sea even though I knew I was going to get a bad grade if I didn’t read it. 

With learning disabilities and ADHD it was so hard for me to read. I knew my grades would suffer. It took me years to admit that to myself, and I was a senior in college before I sought help. I almost failed college because I couldn’t read well and hated to lie about my reading. Fortunately, my academic advisor told me about Bookshare and Capti Voice, a reading app that made it possible for me to graduate.

Disabilities Matched with the Right Tools Yield Amazing Results

By the time I was accepted into a graduate program I had already been using audiobooks for some time. It has changed my life. I never knew what I was missing out on. I can’t think what my life would be like today without Capti and audiobooks from Bookshare. The reason I got my masters’ degree was because of audiobooks. In fact, my masters’ thesis is about students with learning disabilities and how to best help them in the digital world.

Today I use text-to-speech for everything. I use Capti and listen to it at 300 words per minute for books and 360 for periodicals. I download the papers I write to Capti and listen to them to catch errors. I use the highlighting feature in Capti to keep track of what I read. My favorite voice is Karen from Australia, but I like Daniel from Britain as well. I prefer the electronic voices which make me feel like I am living on a space ship. 

Audiobooks Brought Justin “Inside the Circle”

Through audiobooks I have finally discovered that I am worth it. I’m capable of being successful and being a powerful creator in my community. I don’t know why I am crying right now. Honestly, audiobooks have changed my life because today I am as smart as Captain Nemo, as adventurous as Ned Land, a more motivated person with Simon Sinek, and I can survive the wild with Gary Paulsen. Those of us with disabilities have gifts, gifts when matched with the right tools, like audiobooks, can help us do amazing things.

Reframing the text-to-speech audio debate: both make reading easier

I can finally read novels I have only seen movies of. All the childhood stories I could never read and only heard others talk about can finally come alive. Because of Capti and Bookshare, I was able to discuss Narnia and many other stories I loved. I built friendships because I knew the stories and no longer have to be the one outside the circle. I hope to help kids like me find out they are worth it, and life can be wonderful. All they have to do is just listen and be free. 

Bookshare wishes to thank Justin for sharing his story.

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