Have Students that Struggle with Reading? This Program Will Help Level the Playing Field In Your Classroom. And Best of All…It is FREE!

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

-Hebrews 13:16 NIV

Reading Can Be Difficult for Many Students

Reading is the gateway to endless possibilities for our students. For many of our students, reading does not come easily to them. Students may have trouble with their vision, have a learning disability, or might have minimal support at home to foster reading outside of the classroom. There are many times when all three examples are present for a child. The truth is, if we are good at something, we want to keep doing it because we have been successful in the past, and we know that we can be successful in the future.

For students that struggle with reading, they might act like they are reading, but could be faking it because the words are too tough. Other students may look to distract others, or get into trouble rather than to read in class. They have found that it is better to get into trouble than to be embarrassed in class, especially at the higher grade levels. The gap certainly widens as students grow older. The expectation to read long chapters in textbooks increases. For students who do not like to or are not good at reading, they will skim the sections at best and move on. This is not what we want from our students. We want them to be engaged and ready to learn. We will look at some of the key features of the program as well as some drawbacks to consider if it is right for your students.

Features of Bookshare

I have been a huge proponent of Bookshare since I found out about it around 4 years ago. There are many great features of this program that can support K-12 learners, and possibly into college. In order to have your student enrolled in Bookshare, you need a log-in with a username and password. Once you have all of your information loaded, you can start to add students. You can have as many students as you would like, but the restriction is that they have to have a documented IEP or 504 Plan. Here are some of the great features of the program:

  • Download virtually any book you can think of- I have only had a few book titles that I have not been able to find for my students. Really the only ones not available where the ones that had just been released.
  • The actual book shows up on your device so you can read along- The book along with the actual pictures from the book show up so your student can follow along.
  • The book can be read to you!– This is probably my favorite part. The books can be read to you and as it reads, it highlights the word being read so students can see and hear the words read correctly.
  • You can make adjustments to fit your needs- The pacing of the book can be adjusted from faster to slower along with how many words you can see on a page. You can also set different backgrounds to help with contrast.
  • Books can be translated into multiple languages- There are many different languages that you can choose from in this program. A helpful hint: If the Chrome US English is at the bottom of the drop down selection.
  • You can even add textbooks!- I have added my students’ math textbook, science, and social studies textbooks onto Bookshare. A great resource if students have to read a chapter that is far above their reading level.
  • Is available anywhere there is WiFi or Downloadable- You can choose the Read Now option or Download if you need it on your device.
  • Perfect for book clubs– Students can all read the same book together and discuss. This allows students with reading difficulties to work with more of their peers.
  • Levels the playing field– Allows students to read higher level books and experience text that their classmates are being exposed to.
  • Membership follows the student through their academic career– As the students move from building to building, their membership moves with them.
  • Multiple titles in a reading list- I currently have a reading list for my 5th graders. There are approximately 50 books right now that any of my students can read at any time!
  • It’s free!– All you need is documentation that a student has an IEP or a 504 plan.

Drawbacks of the Program

While I have a lot of great things to say about the Bookshare program, I do see a few drawbacks that should be noted. The first is that the program is only available to students with an IEP or 504 plan. We all know of students that do not have one of these plans, but could benefit from this program.

Another drawback is that you have to switch the language when you are reading a new book. Chrome US English is not the default language, so you need to scroll down to find it. This is not so much of a drawback, but it does take some teaching.

The last drawback that I have found is that there is not a lot variety for voice for how the book sounds. The books have a computer voice. This is probably how they can have so many titles of books in their program.

Give the Gift of Reading

Overall, I feel that the benefits and features of Bookshare heavily outweigh any of the drawbacks. Bookshare is an amazing program that levels the playing field for our students who struggle with reading. If you know of any students who have an IEP or 504 plan, please pass their name on to your special education staff. They can then set up an account and help your students develop a love for reading and growing. This new year, give the gift of reading to your struggling students. This will open the door of possibilities for them!

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