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Aiming for Access

June Behrmann

June Behrmann is a longtime special education teacher (pre-K to grade 6) who retired for about two seconds, and is now prospecting for accessible instructional resources. Follow June on Twitter @aimnoncat. Thank you to AIM-VA: Accessible Instructional Materials for sharing this blog with us.

5 Reasons Why Dyslexic, Other Young Readers Need Accessible Books to Grow Emotionally

April 30, 2015

Young people with dyslexia and other print disabilities need the same opportunities for social-emotional learning as their peers. Some of this growth occurs as they read books. A student with a print disability needs the same benefit from literature; but this student requires an accessible version in order to access the text. This is possible at no cost and happening for students whose educational team considers and elects accessible education materials (AEM) during an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting. 

An article on the Barnes and Noble blog, "How Books Can and Do Save Children" spells out the importance of children's and teen literature in the development of social emotional skills. That part of the curriculum involves self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. 

Psychology and literacy

On the B&N blog, writer Ester Bloom writes that her mother took her as an elementary school student to see a child psychologist. The fifth grade teacher noticed Ester's sad demeanor and her habit of picking books that brought her to tears. The psychologist wanted to know: What was she reading? What had she read? What did she want to read? He asked her to write a story about a girl who is perfect. It was his way to know her issues using her book choices. 

Bloom goes on to tell readers that young adult author Sherman Alexie recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal in defense of “sad” books. Other writers, too, she said revealed that books help young people to cope with a wide range of emotions. On the list:  

When Bloom interviewed Dr. Alberto Escallon of Mount Sinai Hospital, a board-certified child psychiatrist of nearly eight years, he was clear that "books can and do save children." Here is why:

  1. Books teach and encourage resilience.
  2. They improve "the sophistication" of [children's] language.
  3. They develop a child's ability to be more introspective.
  4. They help children understand concepts presented by other people that they can use on their own.
  5. Books remind children that life is supposed to be difficult.

"Trauma in the life, loss, inadequacy—books present those aspects and kids relate to that better than in a movie. Books give them the opportunity to see that other people struggle with similar issues and can be successful at the end. They provide empathy, hope, and a reminder that life is not so easy. Like Joseph Campbell said, we all have to struggle to become the hero we want to be, the hero of our own lives. It’s a process," Bloom says on the blog. 

Give them books

Students who struggle with print can have alternative book formats to keep on track academically and emotionally. If traditional print closes doors, teachers can get alternatives. AIM-VA and its partners, Learning Ally, Bookshare, Don Johnston, Inc. and the Virginia Department for the Blind and Visually Impaired are helping students with print disabilities in the Commonwealth. Learn more on the AIM-VA homepage.

In other states, ask a special education teacher or school administrator about Accessible Educational Materials under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and an exception to federal copyright law. 

The Edutopia website has many resources devoted to social-emotional learning and ways to encourage a young person's skill for managing their emotions, resolving conflicts, and making responsible decisions.

Thank you to AIM-VA: Accessible Instructional Materials for sharing this blog with our Reading Rockets audience.

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"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go." — Dr. Seuss