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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.

Ear Read Those "Clifford, The Big Red Dog Books?" This Strategy Helps Dyslexics, Others

December 17, 2014

The author of Clifford the Big Red Dog series died this week. For students with print disabilities, "ear reading" Norman Bridwell's famous books by using audiobook versions is a must. Overcoming or bypassing their disability and accessing text in the way the student learns best helps them join with peers to discuss Bridwell's stories, his life (author studies), and books by other authors on the same topic.

Alternatives To Print

Copies of "Clifford" books are waiting for downloading by eligible students in Virginia and other states nationwide. The federally funded accessible education materials program, (AEM, formerly AIM) makes it possible for students to "read" these books once a teacher orders the titles on the "search for a book" tab (in Virginia), and sends the titles to a student's personal file.

The style of "ear reading" can vary. Some students will listen only, while others will listen and follow along with the print edition. These essential alternatives to print, such as audiobooks, or any of the other 11 possible formats in the AEM program is "best practice" when a student struggles with traditional text.

In "Clifford's" case, an accessible version in braille can be ordered and delivered to an eligible student's school. The Commonwealth's Division of Blind and Visually Impaired, DVBI, an AIM-VA partner, has one book in braille available. Teachers can request that other titles be converted to alternative formats.

Take A Look

Happily for schools on a budget, the alternative books are free and, in this case, plentiful. From Learning Ally: This AIM-VA partner has 10 audiobooks narrated by a human voice.

From Bookshare: There are more than 50 books available for "ear reading" from this AIM-VA partner's accessible book collection. They are narrated in an electronic voice.

Book Search

Once a student is found eligible during a meeting of the individualized education program team, a teacher's job is uncomplicated. Teachers can search online for titles by ISBN, number, book title or author's name. Change the drop-down menu to "All" and see the range of available editions, then press search. Use the tabs to locate which of AIM-VA's partners can provide the chosen titles (DBVI, Learning Ally, Bookshare) at no cost. There is also a selection for "Third Party" retail providers. Each state has its own procedure for finding books.


Instead of struggling with books in print, students using alternative formats are more likely to experience literature in a positive way. Their teachers are better able to create the conditions for students to understand story structure and hear written language conventions as well as familiar and new vocabulary. There is a greater chance these students will start and finish the books as they build general background knowledge along with the foundation skills all students need to engage with more challenging text.

For more information about eligibility for AEM=AIM, go to the AIM-VA homepage. In other states, ask a special education teacher or school administrator where to start.


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

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"Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!" — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1943