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Reading Specialist Integrates Bookshare into Special Education Curriculum

Students with low incidence disabilities enjoy Bookshare books as part of their integrated curriculum at a special education school in Pennsylvania

At the George Crothers Memorial School (GCMS) in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, students are gathered in their classroom and ready for story time. The teacher opens The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Bookshare and projects the accessible ebook on the Smartboard. The students, many of whom have mobility challenges, take turns reading parts of the book aloud. Sometimes, they use a Hitch 2 switch to activate the text-to-speech narration that accompanies the book. The switch allows the students to control when the text is read; they can stop or start the narration by pressing a switch. The story is the first part of an activity about insects, and the students will learn about the life cycle of a butterfly next.

Meghan Heslin is a Reading Specialist at GCMS, an approved private school for students with low incidence disabilities. She creates Bookshare reading lists to support the school’s curriculum and the themes for each month. “I assign monthly reading lists from Bookshare for some of the classrooms,” she explains. “The lists are comprised of picture books for elementary students or a mix of picture books and early chapter books for secondary students. The book selections are based on the themes from the n2y curriculum, the school’s monthly themes, and holidays and seasonal events for that month.”

Bookshare is Integral Part of the Curriculum

n2y is an all-in-one solution for special education students, and the CADES teachers use its Unique Learning System (ULS) curriculum for ELA/reading, math, and science and social studies content. “For March, the ULS theme is Our Solar System, and the school themes focus on Dr. Seuss/Read Across America, St. Patrick’s Day, food and sport science, and math (counting). I select a variety of books in Bookshare that reinforce the themes and are incorporated into the lessons. For the secondary classrooms, I add easy chapter books in those themes as well,” says Meghan.

Here are some of the Bookshare books in the March reading list:

Teachers Customize the Reading Experience to Meet Students’ Needs

Judy Kerkeslager, special education teacher at CADES, set up the Bookshare accounts for all students who access the books through their Individual Memberships. “Since most of our students require adult assistance with all activities of daily living, they typically do not choose books to read on their own,” she explains. That’s why Meghan and the classroom teachers work together to select the books each month.

Bookshare offers over one million ebooks in a variety of formats for readers of all ages, needs, and interests. Bookshare’s flexibility allows the teachers at CADES to enable their students to read in the way that works best for them. The classes use Bookshare with their students on their own, during reading groups, and during story time. Benetech applauds the innovative curriculum and programs that CADES provides to foster meaningful living, learning and social experiences to individuals with a wide range of abilities. 

Do you know students with reading barriers who can benefit from Bookshare? Learn more.


CADES is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. Through the George Crothers Memorial School, a residential living program, and an adult day program, the staff works every day to empower people to achieve their highest potential. The integrated programs provide meaningful living, learning, and social experiences to individuals of all ages with a wide range of abilities. 

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