Valerie Chernek lives in Maryland and writes articles with educators and parents about the use of Bookshare and Accessible Books for Texas. She is a strong advocate for teachers and children with disabilities. Valerie also shares education and disability news and best practices on Twitter.
Catch Your Child Reading with Bookshare Accessible Books!
‘Thrilling!’ That’s how many parents of children with learning disabilities describe their child’s first successful attempt to read a book smoothly and comprehensively. And these experiences are happening more frequently for families, such as the Alvarezes in Texas, who discovered Bookshare, an online accessible library.
Mrs. Lola Alvarez credits Ann Henkels, her son’s dyslexia therapist at Frisco Independent School District, TX and Bookshare for the renewed hope she feels as she routinely catches her nine year old son, Jose, reading independently. “I can’t stop taking pictures of Jose reading,” she said. Since second grade, Jose struggled to read children’s books and pretended with his friends to know what the story was about. His brothers would fill him in on the details, and his mom, who is also dyslexic, knew he was having difficulty. All three of her sons have learning disabilities. “It’s heartbreaking to see any child struggle,” says Mrs. Alvarez. Now, we see a much more contented Jose, curled up reading books about Percy Jackson by author Rick Riordan. We want more parents to know about Bookshare and to make certain that the misconceptions about dyslexia are clarified.” Bookshare memberships are free for U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities and the schools who serve them, thanks to awards made by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Print disabilities can include blindness, low vision, physical disabilities, and learning disabilities such as dyslexia. The Bookshare library offers more than 305,000 accessible titles, including K-12 textbooks, teacher recommended reading, and best sellers. Memberships include free technologies for reading the books. Mrs. Henkels, Jose’s dyslexia therapist, learned about Bookshare through a program funded by the Texas Education Agency called Accessible Books for Texas. Texas K-12 educators can receive local, no-cost professional development to learn how to use accessible eBooks and technologies. She works with twenty or more students and encourages their parents to sign up their qualified students for individual Bookshare memberships. She says, “Students need their own accounts in order to read independently and pursue their own interests. We see measureable progress in students who read accessible books on a regular basis. If schools sign up for organizational memberships, which are also available at no cost, teachers can provide accessible K-12 textbooks to students who qualify. Parents love this! I think the earlier the better to introduce children to accessible books. When students say, ‘I can read now,’ or ‘I don’t feel dumb anymore,’ these are words every teacher and parent wants to hear.” Today, Jose reads books on a fifth-grade level. When he started the third grade a few months ago, he was reading on a second-grade level. “His teacher and Bookshare are rock stars,” said Mrs. Alvarez. “Thank you for the joy and happiness you’ve brought to our son and family! We are thrilled with his progress!” Educators and parents are encouraged to subscribe to the Bookshare blog for more information. Parents who are interested in becoming Bookshare advocates should consider joining the new Parent Ambassadors program.