It’s not always easy to find free quality resources for our students. Especially for those of us who teach students in underserved communities and students with disabilities. But what if I told you that your school could use a free nonprofit resource to support students with reading disabilities? What if this resource had everything that you needed to help students read, from access to textbooks to the most popular YA fiction? Enter Bookshare.
Bookshare is an ebook library with over 1 million books that are free to students with disabilities who qualify (it’s funded by the Office of Special Education Programs, so it’s quality). The best part: Bookshare has all kinds of supports to help students read better. Here are four ways teachers are using Bookshare in the classroom (get ready for some serious inspiration!).
1. To help build reluctant readers’ confidence
We all want our students to experience the joy of reading a book that they love. It’s heartbreaking when a student tells us, “I am never going to be able to read.” This is where Bookshare can make a huge difference. The built-in accessibility tools allow students with reading disabilities to customize their reading experience and become more independent.
Students can listen to audiobooks (and customize voices and reading speed), follow along with text using karaoke-style highlighting (so fun!), and make all kinds of changes to the font color and size. We will all feel better if we have something we can recommend to our students and our families. With Bookshare, we do! Want to see some of the features in action? Check out this video of Emery, a 6th grader with dyslexia, who learned to read with Bookshare.
2. To bring books to all students with disabilities
COVID-19 has made getting books to our students more challenging, especially in rural or underserved communities. Ben Griese, a special education teacher in rural Alaska, is experiencing this first hand. His students have poor and unreliable internet connectivity, and with the unpredictable weather, he can’t guarantee they will be able to log on. He knows it’s not helpful to assign an ebook that a student can’t read or listen to without Wi-Fi. Tools like Bookshare remove that barrier for students.
“One of the best aspects of Bookshare is that you can download books while you have internet access and then read offline at home. This feature has been a huge part of improving instruction during the pandemic,” Ben says. If we can download ebooks and audiobooks at school on school-issued tablets, we don’t have to worry about whether or not students can read at home.
3. To customize the reading experience
Teachers who teach English Language Learners use Bookshare to make sure their students have books to read in their first language. They also use the built-in accessibility features that customize the reading experience for students with reading barriers. Bookshare has books in 63 languages. Their Spanish collection has over 33,700 titles! So you’ve got plenty of options!
4. To make reading accessible for all students
Special education teachers use Bookshare to make reading accessible for all students. Vicki Numkena is a special education teacher on the Navajo Reservation in the Four Corners Area of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. Her students have limited access to the internet, and most of her students are visually impaired. She’s also facing the challenges of how to teach those students virtually. Some of her students don’t speak and have short attention spans. For Vicki, Bookshare means her students can listen to audiobooks using Voice Dream Reader.
“My greatest success with Bookshare has been to ‘turn on’ reluctant readers to the joy of listening to books and discovering favorite authors and types of stories that they prefer,” she says.
Free tools like Bookshare can help our students build confidence in their reading abilities because they get the personalized support that they need to read independently. To join Bookshare, students must have a qualifying disability like dyslexia, visual impairment, or physical disability. Visit this page if your students have a qualifying disability to learn more about how to get started with Bookshare.
Interested in learning more about Bookshare? Click the orange button below.