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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.

Few Know Their Library Loans Out e-Books: Clues to the Local e-Book Kingdom with a Caution

September 24, 2015

A vast majority of libraries in the United States have an e-book collection but few patrons know the books are there for loan, according to writer Michael Kozlowski.

In fact, the American Library Association claims that 90% of all branches have one, and the Library Journal puts the figure around 95%. Yet, Pew Research reports that less than 38% are actually aware their library has a digital collection and only 6% have actually borrowed one, he writes on the website.

Access to Curriculum

For students with print disabilities who struggle to read traditional books, the local or school library may have e-books that would appear to create access to the curriculum from English/language arts and science to history or math. But some offerings lack the build-in supports that give benefits that struggling readers need. There is a difference among digital editions. Many e-books that are available in local and school libraries offer fixed text that provides little advantage. When text is locked on a screen without allowing a student to "interact" with it, the student may struggle with it as they do with print. Flexible digital editions, on the other hand, provide text with extra supports that are known to lead to improved reading comprehension and vocabulary, increased confidence, time savings and, for many, better grades.

Flexible Editions

Special education teams can help discern which digital text is needed. Students who are turned off or discouraged by books in print could have a print disability due to a learning disability (including dyslexia), or a visual or physical impairment. Decisions to meet their educational needs with specialized materials come at a Individualized Educational Program planning meeting that is held annually on or demand for special education students. When these students are found eligible for accessible educational materials (AEM), they are entitled to alternative formats at no cost to families or schools. The federally funded AEM service includes audiobooks, PDFs, large print, braille and more. The audiobooks have built-in learning supports such as text highlighting that in some cases is synced to the narration. Another feature includes linked access to dictionaries and note-taking capabilities. With AEM, students can have more than one alternative format. For example, a student may need an audiobook during class or study hall and, later, a PDF version of a book for homework.


Yet, when AEM is not in place, the public and school libraries are an option. Parents can watch for promotions including flyers or posters about audiobooks and e-books. Sometimes companies including 3M, Baker & Taylor and Overdrive offer free content, Kozlowski writes in "Hardly Anyone Knows their Library Loans out e-Books." And, there's more:

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

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"I feel the need of reading. It is a loss to a man not to have grown up among books." —

Abraham Lincoln