When assistive technology works, it’s life-changing. When it doesn’t—it’s just one more hassle. And with all of the other challenges teachers are currently dealing with, searching out the best assistive technology and researching all the ways we can use it is a very big lift. That’s why Bookshare has worked so hard to ensure it is a resource you’ll come back to again and again. The online ebook library app with over 1 million titles wants to help teachers, students, and parents with easy solutions that work. Even more, it’s free for U.S. schools and students with qualifying disabilities. You can learn how to get your school signed up for Bookshare on their website. But how can this one nonprofit resource help with some of the challenges teachers are currently up against?
Problem: Lots of students with different special needs
A few years ago, in addition to the normal list of adaptations and SDIs, I had four students in one class who all required different adaptations to work with printed text. One student needed the text enlarged, so I had to figure out how to make the pages bigger without cutting off sentences. Another student needed their article printed on colored paper. The other two required audio versions. None of these adaptations were impossible to manage, but they were time consuming. As more and more responsibilities are heaped onto teachers’ plates, however, finding time to meet each students’ unique learning needs can become overwhelming.
Solution: Lots of adaptations all done with one app
With Bookshare, so many of those adaptations can be made in one place, with one device. Here are just a few things the app allows qualifying students to do:
Problem: Students who struggle to read become students who hate to read
We see students like this every day. Reading barriers like dyslexia, vision issues, and physical impairments put students behind their peers and, after several years struggling to keep up, they give up. Who can blame them? We provide books in formats they cannot access effectively, and they lose confidence and the desire to read, even though they might love it.
Solution: Empower struggling readers with alternative formats and assistive reading features
Every Bookshare ebook comes in multiple formats. These include audio, audio + highlighted text, large font, and braille, giving students more ways to read than any other library. Plus, assistive reading features like the ones mentioned in the graphic above can make reading easier. So students spend less time decoding, tracking, or trying to see text, and more time learning (and maybe even enjoying a reading experience that works for them). Check out these students talking about how Bookshare has opened up the world of reading for them:
Problem: Teacher shortages mean more students and less time
There are so many reasons for our nation’s growing teacher shortage, but if you’re one teacher who’s doing the work of two (or three!), the reasons may not feel as important as solutions for how to teach way more kids than one person normally can.
Solution: Increased student independence
Think about the things that take up time in your classroom. Answering students’ questions about a text. Helping students find answers when they don’t understand what they read. Keeping students on-task while you’re working with others. While Bookshare acknowledges it isn’t going to fix every classroom problem, it does want to help teachers reclaim some of this lost time.
Tamela Wilson, a special education teacher at Bessemer City High School in Alabama who uses Bookshare, explains, “I don’t want to do students’ work for them. I want them to do their own work and see their own success.” She believes accommodations like Bookshare empower students with special education needs to find success in the general education classroom. The hope is, when these students are able to find their own solutions, better understand what they read, and discover new ways to engage with challenging texts, you’ll have more time to teach.
Problem: Parents want teachers to provide instructional material for them to use at home
This is one of those “good problems,” right? As we head into spring, the requests for supplemental instructional materials start hitting our inboxes. At parent-teacher conferences, parents ask how they can encourage their reluctant reader to pick up a book over the summer. Special education teachers start thinking about how to help their students continue to make progress on their goals over the break. While it’s wonderful to have opportunities to help our students continue to learn outside of our classroom, the fact is, the burden of providing that instructional material almost always lands at the feet of the teacher.
Solution: Home access to all Bookshare’s offerings
If a student qualifies for Bookshare, they have access to it anywhere and on any device like laptops, Chromebooks, smartphones, and tablets. Because of this, it’s a wonderful tool to provide parents who want their child to read more at home. Bookshare has an enormous library of popular fiction and nonfiction books. Students will be able to find books on almost any topic that interests them, that their teachers assigned, or that their friends are currently reading. Parents can learn more about how to use the app on the company’s website.
Want to learn more about how to bring Bookshare into your classroom?