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Reading Tools to the Rescue: Solutions for Learning on Couches and in Classrooms

A recent webinar provided valuable information on digital resources that help students read and learn anytime and anywhere. Watch it now!

Reading is critical for learning, and for schools that have adopted a distance learning environment during the pandemic, getting printed books into students’ hands can be difficult. And, for students that have reading barriers like dyslexia, blindness, or cerebral palsy, getting books in alternative formats can be even more challenging.

Digital books and other online tools are an obvious solution for teachers, librarians, and students. But with so many sources, reading tools, and other options available, how to make sense of them all?

Christine Jones, Associate Director of Global Literacy at Benetech and Miranda Doyle, District Teacher-Librarian in Lake Oswego, Oregon, answered this question and more during a webinar on August 27.

Support Students by Building an E-reading community

To start with, Miranda offered a helpful framework for building an e-reading community:

  • Encourage choice: reading is not optional, but how our students read is
  • Encourage experimentation: ask students to test different tools, apps, devices, voices, and other features to customize their reading experience
  • Integrate audiobooks into the curriculum as a normal part of learning
  • Model a curiosity about new books and technology tools 

Reading Tools Fit a Variety of Budgets, Needs and Platforms

Next, teachers can drill down and evaluate various reading solutions based on their school or district’s learning environment, students’ needs, budget, and preferred digital format. The webinar explains these options:

  • Many ways to read – different formats accommodate different learning styles. For example, multi-modal reading (audio + text) can aid decoding and boost comprehension
  • Two audio formats – text-to-speech and human narrated – both have pros and cons
  • Sources of ebooks – Sora, Tumblebooks, Overdrive/Libby (public library), Bookshare
  • Free reading tools – Read&Write for Chrome, Microsoft Immersive Reader, Dolphin EasyReader, CaptiVoice, iBooks, Thorium Reader
  • Paid reading tools – Snap&Read, Read&Write premium version, Voice Dream Reader, CaptiVoice premium version, Open Lore, Kurzweil

“With the right tools and support, reading books can be an effective way to support children. The science of reading reminds us that when children read, or are read to frequently, they continue learning and preserve skills learned prior to the crisis.” – Wendy Smith, “Why Reading in Times of Crisis Preserves Learning,” Worldreader, April 2020

Get Bookshare back-to-school resources for educators and parents

About Bookshare

Bookshare is an ebook library that makes reading easier. People with reading barriers like dyslexia, blindness, and physical disabilities can read in ways that work for them with a huge collection of titles in audio, audio + highlighted text, braille, and other formats. Bookshare is FREE for all qualified U.S. students and schools, and less than $1 per week for all other members.

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