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.

Kate DiCamillo Summer Book Picks: Try Accessible Versions for Readers Who Struggle with Print

July 31, 2015

"Summer Kid Book Suggestions from author Kate DiCamillo and Others," an article published on June 2 in the Washington Post, lists favorite books that make good reading during the summer or any time of the year. And, there is some good news about DiCamillo's and the others' best bets.

Reading for Pleasure

Most of the books are available for learners with disabilities who struggle to read traditional print. Alternate versions such as audiobooks with learning supports or braille open the door to literacy. There are thousands of students nationwide who have difficulty decoding traditional books; or they read so slowly that they cannot easily start and finish books in a timely way. Often, these students read very little, or they stop reading for pleasure. Alternate versions used on a regular basis as part of a reading habit are proven to move literacy ahead.

LOC Ambassador

DiCamillo is the fourth National Ambassador for Young People's Literature for 2014–2015. The rotating position created by the Library of Congress in 2008 gives her a two-year platform to promote "lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people." Her theme is "Stories Connect Us." The word "connect" is important. Students with print disabilities need their parents and education teams to connect them to the free federally funded acccessible educational materials program known as AEM. When the students are found eligible, they have access to the same content as their peers, a measure that helps to keep them on grade level, meet individualized and district-wide educational goals, and master state standards of learning. Moreover, when they read what their peers are reading, they can participate in formal and informal "book talking."

Bookshare, an AIM-VA partner that produces alternatives to print, has many of DiCamillo's favorites on hand. These are ready to download into accounts set up for eligible students. These books, already converted to accessible digital text thanks to an exception to federal copyright law, can be read in many ways:

  • On a Smartphone or Tablet
  • On a computer
  • On a hardware device

Other Partners

Learning Ally, another AIM-VA partner, offers some of the titles in accessible versions, as well. While Bookshare reads aloud using synthetic speech, Learning Ally uses human readers. Some of the titles come in VoiceTEXT. In this version the words read aloud are in sync with text highlighting that helps readers follow along. Both Bookshare and Learning Ally operate nationwide for all students who are found eligible for AEM.

Best Bets

Here are DiCamillo's best bets that are found in the Bookshare online library:

*The embedded video above is from "A Video Interview with Kate DiCamillo" on the Reading Rockets website.

More Accessible Books

Other book choices from the article are in the Bookshare library:

  1. From Bob Hassett, a librarian in Fairfax County (VA) – Middle schoolers: The Summer I Turned Pretty, Zom-B - (a series), Lost and Found (Bluford Series #1) (a series)
  2. From Author Deborah Johnson – Family read-alouds: Fortunately, the Milk, Wolf Story, Middle grades: Who was... series, Where is Mount Everest? , What Was the Alamo? Don't miss series...Diary of a Wimpy Kid #1


The federally funded Accessible Educational Materials program supports print-disabled students in every state. The program provides no-cost alternatives to eligible students when traditional books are converted to digital or other formats that best help the students learn. To learn more in Virginia, log onto theAIM-VA homepage. In other states, ask a special education teacher or school administrator about AEM under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and an exception to federal copyright law.

Be sure to check out AIM-VA's many webinars. Follow AIM-VA on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter at @AIMVirginia and/or follow me @aimnoncat. Subscribe to AIM-VA's new monthly newsletter for the latest on AEM. Sign up here.

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

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"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go." — Dr. Seuss