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.

Disabilities or Not: Great Ideas for Digital Summer Learning That Work All Year Long

June 22, 2015

To be sure teachers and related services personnel offer top summer learning ideas that include accessible educational materials (AEM) here are suggestions from reliable resources that can stand up to learning demands all year long.


The AT (Assistive Technology) + UDL (Universal Design for Learning) experts have a long list of suggestions in the AT & UDLNews for May 2015 edition. From apps and equipment to performing and visual arts ideas, check out these resources compiled by the Florida Diagnostic & Learning Resources System (FDLRS) and the Florida Department of Education Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services.


Students with print disabilities can read chosen books that are required or books chosen for pleasure reading if they have accounts with Bookshare or Learning Ally. These organizations provide innovative digital reading options when decoding and slow reading rates interfere with learning. The service is free when students are found eligible by their education teams under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Eligiblity occurs at an annual planning meeting, at a specially convened meeting or, when team members agree, by an addendum without a face-to-face meeting. Learning Ally offers Summer Reading Together with human-narrated books, many with synchronized text so learners can see the text highlighted as the narrator reads. Bookshare has a Summer Reading Challenge where students read books and share reviews and comments using social media.

Apps, e-Books

5 Tips for Preventing Summer Learning Loss, is a guest post on Friendship Circle, the non-profit organization, that provides programs and various means of support to the families of individuals with special needs. The website is full of interesting resources, including rated apps and low-cost e-books for parents related to special needs across disability categories.


Family Time with Apps, a free interactive guide for parents and caregivers from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, features comic strips that parents and children can enjoy together, along with advice on choosing apps that can help turn screen time into family time. Find it on the iBook Store. This organization advances learning in the digital age through Games and Learning, Learning Together, and Literacy by 10 initiatives. Learn more about the projects.

Natural History

The Smithsonian Institution offers a comprehensive virtual tour of the National Natural History Museum for remote visitors using a desktop computer (Windows, Mac, Linux) or a mobile device (iPhone, iPad, Android). Take a virtual, self-guided, room-by-room walking tour of the whole museum. Browse a list of past exhibits, which is found on the ground floor map (see upper right map buttons). Navigate from room to room by clicking map locations or by following blue arrow links on the floor that connect the rooms. The desktop version includes camera icons, which are designated "hotspots" to get a close-up view of a chosen object or exhibit panel. This tour was created in Flash and HTML5 / Javascript versions. Use Flash for computers with (Windows, Mac, Linux).Use HTML5 for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The mobile version of the tour is being updated to include hotspots, but for this release, that feature is only available for desktop visitors.


iCivics, a free sources for online games, digital interactive experiences, and educational materials for tweens and teens. The focus, taken by founder and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, is on reversing Americans’ declining civic knowledge and participation. Players come away with an understanding about active participation and democratic action. Resources include print-and-go lesson plans, award-winning games, and digital interactives.


Tenmarks, an Amazon Company that creates products to improve learning outcomes, offers a free Summer 2015 foundational math program that usually costs just under $40. Parents sign up students with a user name and password. Learners work on K-12 math after a diagnostic assessment individualizes the program. Instruction is on-demand with hints and a patient tutor when needed. Parents can set up a reward system.


Students who struggle to read print are eligible for free resources as part of a federally-funded program that supports learning with alternatives to print. For students in Virginia, log onto the AIM-VA homepage. In other states ask a special education teacher or school administrator about accessible educational materialsl (AEM) under IDEA and an exception to copyright law.

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

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"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald