Innovative in-person and virtual programs at a school in Chicago achieve reading success through assistive technology and literacy tools including Bookshare
Kait Feriante and Kirsten Kohlmeyer know how frustrating it is to watch a child be misunderstood and denied the right support they need to be successful. At Redwood Literacy, a school that provides dyslexia interventions across school, community-based, and virtual environments, they know how transformative a positive, inspiring, and effective educational experience can be for kids.
Kait and her husband, Andre, both former teachers, founded Redwood Literacy in 2018. They had a deep desire to see the evidence-based reading intervention they had seen change the course of many students’ lives become more widely available to any student who needed it, regardless of age, geographical location, or socioeconomic background. Today, Redwood offers four programs for students with dyslexia: Redwood Literacy (after-school and summer tutoring); Redwood Day (a K-8 day school with core curriculum); Redwood + Alcuin (half-day remediation program + half-day Montessori program); and Redwood + Lawndale Christian Legal Center (community partnership literacy program for court-involved youth).
Assistive Technology Tools Improve Natalie’s Comprehension and Confidence
Kirsten, the Director of Assistive Technology with a doctorate in Occupational Therapy, joined the staff in 2021. As an experienced OT, she has been using assistive technology (AT) with individuals with a range of disability types for years, so when she arrived at Redwood, she brought AT with her to the interdisciplinary teams.
Kirsten shared the story of Natalie, an eighth grader with dyslexia and ADHD. She struggles with executive function skills, written expression, and reading grade-level curricular content. Initially averse to using AT tools because she “wanted to be like everyone else,” parental concerns coupled with Natalie’s anxiety about going to high school prompted her educational team to revisit AT options. Her willingness and ability to use digital text-to-speech – such as Bookshare with annotation tools – significantly improved her independent access to text, reading comprehension, ability to organize her thoughts for writing, and her confidence.
Bookshare Lets Redwood Students Read Their Way
Since all of Redwood’s students have dyslexia, they automatically qualify for Bookshare’s library of over 1 million accessible ebooks. Students read using a variety of apps such as Voice Dream Reader, Dolphin EasyReader, Capti, Immersive Reader, and Snap&Read on iPads and Chromebooks. The “mix and match” approach allows students to select the voices, narration speed, and text display options to personalize their reading experience.
“The research supports the benefits of using AT for reading remediation, not only for accessing grade-level content, but the remediation potential for vocabulary, comprehension, decoding, and background knowledge,” explains Kirsten. “The most important benefit, however, is the self-esteem and positive feelings that kids get when they can successfully access text at their interest level and not just their decoding level.”
AT is Essential Literacy Tool for Struggling Readers
“Digital text definitely has a place, especially as students age up,” explains Kirsten. “Start with free, basic reading apps, progress to more advanced apps, and learn the pros and cons of each. It is important to destigmatize AT, especially in the minds of parents, and reinforce its value as an essential literacy tool for struggling readers.”
Bookshare applauds Redwood Literacy’s programs that provide structured literacy remediation services for students with dyslexia, where they can feel like they belong, are understood, and can be successful.
Read Kirsten’s recent article in Edutopia – Tools for Supporting Students with Reading Disabilities – that explains how using text-to-speech tools boosts access and engagement for students with reading disabilities and leads to improved academic outcomes.
Are you ready for the Summer of Audio? Learn more about Bookshare’s summer reading lists and options.