Blogs About Reading

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.

Book Battle Is On: Grow The Accessible Book Supply! Be Inclusive of More SPED Readers

January 29, 2016

Get ready for the Battle of the Kids’ Books (BoB) that begins March 9. Schools, parent groups, and librarians nationwide work together to put on this "book-centric" equivalent to basketball's exciting March Madness tournament.

Be Inclusive

But wait! Are the chosen books in the competition accessible to students who struggle to read traditional print? AIM-VA offers some ideas so the fun of reading includes the widest possible audience who participate in the way they learn best.

Virtual Elimination

This event is a fun, educational and community-building actvity, according to Rebecca T. Miller, a School Libary Journal (SLJ) editor-in-chief who writes the Extra Helping column on the SLJ website. BoB is a virtual elimination contest that pits the top children's books of the year against one another until a winner is chosen. Advance planning is needed so there are enough books to go around. Special education teachers may be able to increase the supply of available books if their students are eligible for a federally funded program that provides accessible versions at no cost.   

In the Jan. 21 newsletter there are tips for getting the BoB match off to strong start. We add suggestions so accessible book formats, from audiobooks and accessible PDFs to braille are part of the mix. These help students with disabilities access text with understanding. These particular formats have built in supports to aid reading problems including aspects of decoding, fluency and comprehension. When librarians collaborate with special education teams, the book supply will grow and more students will get in the game. 

Ramp up Planning

Here are winning BoB strategies:

  1. Read How Do You BoB? for successful ideas from past years.
  2. Consider hosting a mock battle in your school or library. Here's how.
  3. Read "Pictures of The Week" an article describing a BoB collaboration between the Glen Ellyn (IL) Public Library and a local bookstore.
  4. Follow the BOB blog.
  5. Follow #sljbob on social media.
  6. Download a free playoff bracket poster to log in results.
  7. Read about book bundles available through SLJ sister company Junior Library Guild.

Accessible Text

This year, librarians can work with special education teachers whose students are eligible for accessible educaiotnal materials (AEM). Books in accessible formats are proved at no cost from sources including the state AEM program, Learning Ally, Bookshare and other agencies of state government. There are up to 11 possible formats so expect some students will be "ear-reading" audiobooks with learning supports, others choosing accessible PDF versions, or some who read braille formats.  AEM eligbility is a decision all special education teams can make at a student's Individualized Education Program meeting or through an addendum when team members agree. 

Be Inclusive

  • Read aloud some of the books on the list in or out of class using aides, mentors, and/or family members.
  • Reserve digital editions if the school or library subscribes to OverDrive or other digital book services.
  • Select and place BoB books in the book queue if students or schools have Learning Ally and Bookshare accounts.
  • If no accessible book is available and the school owns the book, ask the state AEM program to covert a title for an individual student (as per the rules). Copies can often be ready in a week in our state. 
  • Follow the AIM-VA blog to keep abreast of accessible learning materials from many sources.
  • Establish a habit of using a student's individual AEM materials during library-related activities all year long so that accessible learning is naturally occurring across settings.
  • Expand the use of electronic resources using websites with accessible options, as well as apps and extensions so students with and without disabilities have choices about how they learn best. 

Best Laid Plans

Educators and librarians with the best laid plans will still find that making books accessible presents challenges; but the learning environment is improving and librarians and educators together hold the keys.

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

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"Let us remember: one book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world." —

Malala Yousafzei