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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.

Video Trailers Whet Learner Appetites for Audiobooks: A Strategy for Struggling Readers

May 29, 2015

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb is a trailer from Libro.fm. Viewing the video is a strategy that could engage readers with an audiobook and its author and or illustrator before listening.

There are 48 videos posted on Vimeo thus far by the Seattle-based digital audiobook service. Some are appropriate for tweens and teens, although I did not see a sort feature by age or grade level. The actual books are for sale in listen-only mode.

Seriously Fun

Another audiobook retailer is Listening Library by Random House.  In advance of a purchase, readers can listen to book excerpts and browse through three categories: Young Listeners (Preschool-2nd grade)Middle Grade (3rd-6th grade) and Young Adult (7th grade & up).

In the video that follows, the famous children's picture book and audiobook author Jon Scieszka explains why "Audiobooks = Seriously FUN Reading." The audio format can help readers to pronounce words and "learn the pace of storytelling," he says. Many learners show they can understand books meant for readers up to two grades above their own. Illustrator Brian Biggs narrates with Scieszka in the Frank Einstein book series so students can hear both the author and illustrator read aloud. He adds that audiobooks improve both comprehension and motivation, and he cites the value of listening to audiobook narrators.

Supported Audio

As long as students are enjoying books and comprehend what they hear, listen-only audiobooks are good options. They may be costly, but public and school libraries increasingly provide them when there is demand and enough budget. But struggling readers often need more.

Audiobooks that come with built-in learning supports are essential when students have serious decoding problems and reading rates that are far below their grade level. Supported formats with learning tools such as highlighting spoken words, phrases or sentences, are available at no cost when students are found eligible for "accessible educational materials" by a school's individualized education program (IEP) planning teams. This service supports students with specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia, or visual or physical disabilities. Alternative formats, including braille and accessible PDFs, are provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). A student is entitled to more than one format depending on their needs. For more information for students in Virginia, start on the AIM-VA homepage. The program is available nationwide, so In other states ask a special education teacher or school administrator about AEM for students with print disabilities.

Check out the value of supported audiobooks by AIM-VA partners Bookshare and Learning Ally.

  1. As They See It: Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities: Texas students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities share their excitement about alternatives to print that empower learning and support school success. (3:30 min).
  2. Children's Dyslexia Struggles Give Way to Success: Youth using Learning Ally audiobooks with learning supports share what it feels like to read print when they have dyslexia, and how specialized resources help them be successful. (3:26 min.)

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

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"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader." — Margaret Fuller