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Canadian Parents Advocate for Children with Learning Disabilities 

Parent advocacy group in Ontario provides advice, resources such as Bookshare, and moral support for children with dyslexia 

Many advocacy groups emerge out of necessity due to an unmet need. Such is the case for Suzanne Bonneville and Lynne Carter, the founder and president, respectively, of a parent advocacy group for children with dyslexia in Ontario, Canada. For Suzanne, her journey started many years ago with her daughter who struggled with reading and writing and had low self-esteem. She was tested nine times before she received a diagnosis of dyslexia and dysgraphia – in spite of being evaluated as gifted.  

AFPED+ - Association francophone des troubles d'apprentissage

Suzanne, a high school teacher with 24 years of experience at the time, was so frustrated with the long, confusing process that in 1998 she founded AFPED+ – Association Francophone des Troubles D’Apprentissage – the Francophone Association for Learning Disorders. Her goal was to help other parents understand their children’s learning differences, navigate the educational system, and learn from her experience. 

Audiobooks Unlock Reading for Erika  

Lynne has a similar story. Her daughter, Erika, has dyslexia as well as attention issues. Lynne met Suzanne when Erika was in kindergarten, and Suzanne introduced Lynne to books and other resources in accessible formats including Bookshare, the world’s largest library of ebooks for individuals with reading barriers.  

L'Etoile dans la pomme by Marie-France Comeau

“Erika can listen to audiobooks longer than reading printed text, but a combination of print and audio support is most effective,” says Lynne. Bookshare offers ebooks in a variety of formats – audio, audio + highlighted text, braille, large font, and even Word – so students can choose the format that matches their learning style. Erika prefers a male text-to-speech voice in a lower register for easier listening, and she appreciates having multiple options to choose from. 

“When my daughter read her first book on Bookshare, she was so proud when she finished. It was the first time she had read a book from cover to cover on her own,” says Lynne. “Students with dyslexia are bright, but for many, their brains are not wired to decode words properly. Reading with their ears is an excellent way to understand printed texts and engage in meaningful discussions.”

“The beauty of resources like those offered by Bookshare is that they provide students with learning disabilities the opportunity to read relevant, age-appropriate material. And that, in my opinion, is the real game changer!” -Lynne

Advice from Parents Who Have Been There 

“Parents are never prepared to see their bright, curious, happy child have learning issues in reading, writing and math when they start school,” adds Suzanne. “As a result, many feel guilty, ashamed, angry, and confused. They don’t know where to start or what services their children are entitled to. Parents have the same questions I had over twenty years ago. I don’t tell them what to do; I just empathize with them, explain the education lingo, and show them which resources are available. They decide what is best for their children. Bookshare is one of the resources that is a godsend for kids with learning disabilities.” 

Bookshare Partners with CELA and Canadian Publishers 

Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) logo

Bookshare’s membership partner in Canada is the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA), a public library service for Canadians with print disabilities. Canadian Bookshare members have access to over 900,000 ebooks in the collection, including 2,271 titles in French. In addition, Bookshare members can access CELA’s catalog containing 102,000 titles in English and 19,000 titles in French. 

Bookshare partners with several Canadian children’s book publishers, including Anansi, Annick Press, Editions Bouton D’Or Acadie, md, and Hurtubise that have earned Global Certified Accessible (GCA) status. This means that parents can purchase ebooks* by these publishers, trusting that they will have built-in accessibility features like support for text-to-speech audio. 

Bookshare is proud to support Canadians of all ages with reading barriers and applauds the advocacy work that AFPED+ is doing to assist parents and their students with learning disabilities. 

*ebooks produced by the publishers before achieving GCA status may not be accessible. 

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