End of summer and back-to-school. A time millions of parents anticipate and also dread, because they know they will face hours of assisting their son or daughter with their homework. It’s possible some of the parents have been told that their child has a learning difference like dyslexia, but other students may not have been diagnosed. As one mom said, “As far back as kindergarten, my son struggled to read. As his assignments got more difficult, the pain on his face grew… along with his frustration.” “Words stuck in my head,” added her son. “I didn’t understand why my friends could read and I couldn’t.”
Other parents assist their children with reading because their sons and daughters can’t read print due to a physical disability or visual impairment. One family worried for years about their sophomore in a wheelchair with learning and physical challenges. Aides lugged heavy books through the school halls.
The frustration and confusion for these parents builds up over the years. They seek answers but can’t find them. One mom described her struggle, “I felt helpless and cried a lot and so did he. I quit my job when he was behind grade level by four years. I was determined to find the right tools and strategies to minimize his despair and help other families dealing with the same challenge.”
Does your child want to read Harry Potter or the Twilight series if they could?
These parents found Bookshare, a free (funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs) online library of digital books and free software to use to read the books. The library has over 150,000 books including textbooks, popular literature, teacher-recommended reading, reference books, as well as books on any topic your child might be interested in.
Already, over 200,000 students are reading digital books; these books help students read independently and perform better in school. Many students who didn’t like reading become readers! To see how it works, listen to the words of one 8th grade student, who says:
• “You feel smart.
• You know you are going to do well on tests; it’s easy to get a good grade.
• Bookshare will really help because you can listen to it and read it at the same time.
• I didn’t understand the book, but with Bookshare it’s much easier to know what’s going on.
• Books take me to different places in the world.
• It’s easier to pay attention and relax.
• It stays in my brain.
• I’m reading a couple of books at once.
• Take it to college, take it to high school.
• I don’t feel dependent on my mom. My Mom doesn’t have to help with reading.”
The high school student in the wheel chair improved her academic ability through the use of technology and digital books from Bookshare.
Does the saga from these parents sound familiar? If so, your child may qualify for free digital books and reading tools from Bookshare.
What can you do? You can take first steps at Back-to-School night or a parent/teacher conference, if you haven’t already mentioned Bookshare to your child’s teachers:
1. If you don’t know if your child is qualified, find out; if you do know, then ask, “Can you sign my child up for Bookshare?” Your child’s teacher can start sign up process here; the teacher will certify that your child has a qualifying disability. Watch this video to learn more. Once your child is signed up at school, the teachers will be able to download books for him/her.
2. Get your child an individual membership. It’s like an unlimited library card. Your child will be able to explore the library, download books and read on his/her own. Ask your child’s teacher to print the individual membership form. You can sign it on the spot! Then, you or the teacher faxes the form back to Bookshare. Here’s a guide to the process!
Or, get your child an individual membership even if your school doesn’t sign him/her up first. Watch this guide to the process!
If you want to investigate further like many parents do, you can explore the parent and training pages on the Bookshare website. Students who qualify for free memberships have a learning disability, like severe dyslexia, a visual impairment, or a physical disability.
Bookshare is a literacy solution of Benetech (http://www.benetech.org/), a nonprofit funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.