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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.

Mother-Daughter "Accessible" Book Club: Inspired by Common Sense Media with a Twist

May 8, 2015

It is Mother's Day weekend. Reading books together can build strong connections between moms and their daughters, says the popular education and advocacy group that promotes safe technology and media for children.

In fact, Common Sense Media advises that in order to form those bonds a mother-daughter book club is the way to go. I put my AIM-VA  special needs lens on this inspiring idea, and the result is: The Mother-Daughter "Accessible" Book Club when either one or both struggles to read print.


The accessible version of the club shifts the format of the reading matter from traditional print to a print alternative. For some readers, print is a proven barrier to learning, including those with learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADD, intellectual disabilities and autism. Audiobooks or the audiobooks that are produced with built-in learning supports permit "ear" reading. Learning Ally and Bookshare, AIM-VA's literacy partners, provide this format at no cost for students whose education teams considered and selected alternative learning materials during Individualized Education Program planning. Students with physical and vision difficulties can also be eligible. 

Exciting, Enthralled

The books for the club(s) are suggested by Common Sense Media and suited to learners age 8 to 14. Chosen books "have enthralled readers in book clubs, classrooms, and when reading for pleasure at home." Moreover, the stories are "all bound to spark interesting, thoughtful discussions." 

Choices range from family stories, memoirs, offbeat romance, science fiction, and fantasy to classics and historical fiction. "Find a title that suits your daughter's age, reading level, and interest, then dive in together," the book choosers say. Check out the "Sure-Fire Picks for Your Mother-Daughter Book Club" with descriptions from Common Sense Media, then search Learning Ally or Bookshare for their accessible versions.

For eight years of age:

For nine years of age:

  • Anne of Green Gables: Beloved classic features lovable, imaginative heroine. (Bookshare, Learning Ally)
  • The Mighty Miss Malone: Unforgettable 12-year-old girl battles the Great Depression. (Bookshare, Learning Ally)

For ten years of age:

Click to see the list of books for youth ages 11-14.

Digital or Human Narration?

Audiobooks from Learning Ally offer human narration, while Bookshare's model use synthetic speech and digital voices. Each company has features that may suit individual readers, such as Learning Ally's VoiceText that highlights words as they are read aloud, or Bookshare's web reader app that allows access to chosen books on the go with a password and log in from compatible browsers. Eligible students could have free accounts to both services. 


The Accessible Educational Materials program operates in every state for students who are found eligible during their Individualized Education Program plan. This designation gives them free accessible versions of their curriculum materials at no cost. Audiobooks, braille, and PDFs are among the alternatives that teachers can select and provide. For more information in Virginia, go to the AIM-VA homepage. In other states, ask a special education teacher or school administrator about accessible learning materials under IDEA. 

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

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"You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me." — Strickland Gillilan