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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.

Remembering Walter Dean Myers: Are His Books Accessible to Readers with Dyslexia?

July 16, 2015

Readers can count on Walter Dean Myers to bring them stories that had been left off the shelf.

"What made Walter special wasn’t necessarily his books or writing, although those are still pretty special. No, what made Walter stand out was his tireless belief that the telling and reading of all kinds of stories mattered, that teens mattered, communities and families mattered, and that libraries and librarians mattered."

The remembrance is found in "The Legacy of Walter Dean Myers," by by Anne Rouyer, Supervising Librarian, Mulberry Street Library (New York Public Library) on the blog Stuff for the Teenage last December 2014. Myers died on July 1, 2014 at age 76. She goes on to remember, "Walter wrote a little bit of everything," including:

The list goes on and on and on, Rouyer says. Myers wrote books with the same commitment and assertion that ALL children and teens need books and stories filled with characters and people that look like them. Teens constantly ask NYPL librarians for stories “about people that are like me,” she writes.

Accessible Formats?

On a positive note many books that Myers wrote about children of color, and about teens and their social and economic conditions are converted from print formats. Traditional books in print are known barriers to learning for students with dyslexia and other learning or sensory disabilities. These young people need books in alternative formats in order to access the text. The federal government funds an accessible educational materials program (AEM) for learners with print disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and an exception to copyright law. As a result, eligible readers can experience Myers beyond a read-aloud.

Book Talking

The access to audiobooks, braille, PDFs and other versions of books by Myers and thousands of other authors means that struggling readers need not be left behind or dependent on family, assigned aides at school, or others to read to them. Moreover, AEM is provided at no cost. Once a student is found eligible by his or her education team, the chosen book formats can be downloaded electronically to student accounts or delivered to their school buildings. Access through AEM is the way to make struggling readers part of the conversations in or out of class about Walter Dean Myers and other great authors.

Myers was the third Library of Congress (LOC) "Ambassador of Young People's Literature" in 2012-2013. He published more than 100 books, including the New York Times best-seller "Monster," the first winner of the Michael L. Printz Award, a National Book Award finalist and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, according to the LOC. He received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults and, in 2009, he delivered the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture, a distinction reserved for an individual who has made significant contributions to the field of children’s literature.

For lists books of Walter Dean Myers, look on the listings by grade, age, and topic on his official website in the section for parents and teachers. Parents and teachers in any state can determine if audiobook versions, including versions with learning supports such as highlighting and links to dictionary definitions are available, on the AIM-VA bookfinder. Type in Myers in the author box; set the results drop down to "all."  Use the format or book type options, if desired. Results appear below for sources including Learning Ally and Bookshare, as well as conversions that may be available through the AEM program in each state.

For other information on Myers, log on to walterdeanmyers.net. For information about AEM in your state: Log onto the AIM-VA homepage in the Commonwealth or, In other state,s ask a special education teacher or school administrator about AEM.

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

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"When I say to a parent, "read to a child", I don't want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate. " — Mem Fox