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.

Hook Kids on a Book Series! We Add Accessibility

June 22, 2015

Meet two ambassadors for summer reading who are advocating for high quality summer learning experiences that boost literacy and establish a habit of reading.

Hear ideas from Georgia Madsen, a second grade teacher, Rice Lake Area School District, and Katherine Elchert, librarian from the Rice Lake Public Library in Wisconsin as they make recommendations in the video embedded above. Their advice: Hook students on a book series that they love in order to keep them reading throughout the summer.

I put on my AIM-VA "special needs" lens on the book series idea and it becomes the "Accessible" Book Series, a literacy strategy for students who struggle with print. The good news is that many beloved books in the series that follow are accessible all year long in audiobook formats, some with built in learning supports.

Formats Matter

The accessible version swtiches out the book in print for a digital alternative. Traditional books are a known barrier to learning for some students. Among them are learners with dyslexia, other learning disabilities, ADD, ADHD, intellectual disabilities and autism. Students with vision impairments or those who have physical difficulties handling books also need alternative formats. Flexible digital versions of books allow students options to interact with text by hearing it read aloud, seeing words highlighted, checking dictionary definitions or making notes. The good news is that Learning Ally and Bookshare provide the flexible formats for eligible students with print disabilities.

There is no cost for those books when a student's education team considers and selects accessible learning materials (AEM) during an Individualized Education Program planning meeting. The choice can be made at an annual meeting or, if the team members agree, as an addendum without a face-to-face meeting.

Audiobook Sources

Generally, the listen-only audio versions (without learning supports) are available from the public or school library, or they can be purchased from a retailer. Reading a book aloud is another good option, and it is a necessity when only some of the book titles in a series are accessible. The advantage for students who receive AEM is that books can be ordered and delivered to a student's account and be in the queue ready to read. Teachers then can monitor which books are read or not, and data that is compiled can inform instruction during the next school year.

The Madsen-Elchert Summer book series recommendations follow with their accessible versions noted for students who are eligible for AEM:

Youngest readers:

Chapter books (Grades 3 and up)

More From Scholastic: Book Series for New Readers

Free Spirit's Middle School Confidential

This award-winning graphic-novel series blends fiction with practical advice for tweens and teens during important years when self-esteem is still emerging. Graphic novels are not accessible to screen readers, but there is an option. Book apps are available for three titles where Jack, Jen, Mateo, Abby, Chris, and Michelle negotiate the social sphere filled with the ups and downs of friendships and family.

These apps offer some accessibility for reading text on an iPad, iPhone, and/or iPod Touch. Readers can zoom in for frame-by-frame reading or zoom out for a page-by-page view. An auto-save feature keeps the reader's place in the story. The menu page adds the option to move to any of the eight chapters.  Books come with a free project-based learning guide and downloadable leader's guide. Check out the apps or the video review from Apps for Children with Special Needs that follows.

AIM-VA, Elsewhere

For more information about AEM in Virginia, go to the AIM-VA homepage. In other states, ask a special education teacher or school administrator about eligibility for accessible educational materials under IDEA and an exception to federal copyright law.

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