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.

National Book Festival 2016 Authors: Your Books in Accessible Formats Help Struggling Readers Thrive

September 16, 2016

The highly anticipated National Book Festival 2016 (NBF) in the nation's capital is days away with excitement building in and out of literacy circles.

National Book Festival 2016

Diverse literacy opportunities

Readers of all ages who attend on Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center will find diverse and entertaining literacy-related opportunities in exhibits and live on more than 12 stages thanks to the Library of Congress. Three of the stages will feature authors for children and youth. For those who cannot attend this annual event in person, online activities and free resources give a taste of the fun. Videos will follow later.

Here, we are adding our two cents to raise awareness about existing accessible book editions that are written by the invited NBF children's and teen authors. Alternatives to print are essential for some readers to thrive. Yes, there are digital books in some cases, but educators, therapists, and parents must be discerning because not all digital books are accessible. Many schools purchased inaccessible digital editions of textbooks, for example, that are no better than print for some readers.

Our book conversions are accessible, legal under copyright laws, and they are free to eligible students. See a description of all available formats on the AIM-VA website.

Strategy for struggling readers

The good news for struggling readers is that literacy can continue to blossom so long as an increasing number of all books used in schools are "born accessible" or converted to alternative formats when print is a barrier to learning. Special book editions are a time-tested proven strategy that makes starting and finishing books a reality. That leads to more book talking with friends or families, more completed assignments in English/Language Arts class and even a preference for particular writers!

How many multiple formats are needed?

Students who have reading decoding, reading rate, vocabulary and comprehension difficulties cannot easily read traditional books; but they do get involved with books and best-selling authors when they have a choice of formats. "Just-right" editions include audiobooks, accessible digital editions, braille versions, and books in large print.

When educational supports for these students are also in place, such as proven explicit reading instruction with or without assistive technology, there is hope that books can become one of their passions or even a reading habit. Note that some apps and extensions are helping to make books more accessible, too. Don't be surprised if students ask to work with more that one format depending on the learning task.

Access to converted books exists in all states, but not all school districts or individual teachers take advantage of the program. If yours does not, ask "Why not?"

52 Great Reads

Readers in Virginia can boast that author Wendy Shang of Northern Virginia is the deserving honoree on the list of books representing NBF 2016's literary heritage of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The LOC's Center for the Book issues this listing annually known as 52 Great Reads. Shang's newest book, The Way Home Looks Now, is a story about growing up, family, loss and learning to play baseball. Her first book, The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, won the Asian-Pacific American Librarians Award for Children’s Literature and now appears on several state reading lists. 

Authors with accessible books

They may not know it, but a good number of NBF 2016 authors have books that are converted from print for struggling readers thanks to the "Accessible Educational Materials" program under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (originally called Accessible Instructional Materials). All of the authors listed below have alternative formats for students with print disabilities available now from the AIM-VA collection, or from Bookshare, Learning Ally, or other partners.

Children's authors

Also see:

YA authors

Also see:

NBF 2016 resources


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"What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person ..." —

Carl Sagan