IA Specialist - Laura Koch

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Online Accessible Library Brings 'Reading for Pleasure' ALIVE for Students with Learning Disabilities Challenged by the Printed Word

Laura Koch, Resource Specialist for Muscatine Community School District, Muscatine, IA teaches 9-12th graders in a resource class setting for students with Individualized Education Plans or IEPs. These students receive special education services and also participate in general education classes with or without the assistance of a team teacher.

In 2008, Ms. Koch learned about Bookshare (www.bookshare.org) from the district's Director of Special Education. This accessible online library received a $32 million dollar award from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education (OSEP), to provide free access for qualified students with print and learning disabilities. Bookshare provides timely access to digital books, textbooks, and teacher recommended reading, as well as offers two downloadable 'ebook' text readers at no cost to the school.

Ms. Koch shared, "Bookshare has made it easier for my students to have access to digital books for educational reading and reading for pleasure. In the past, we would always scan books for the kids. This task is time consuming. Even more time consuming is editing the scanned books. Bookshare has lessened our scanning and editing time by three-quarters. I think our scanner is even getting a little dusty. Bookshare has helped me provide required books for my students faster than I could imagine. Students get the books they need in 5 minutes compared to one day!"

The new Bookshare library has many books that the Muscatine Community School District English classes assign as required reading. To complete the assignments, students download an e-text version of the book so they can listen to it orally and read along simultaneously using text reader software. The two downloadable text readers on the Bookshare website are READ:OutLoud by Don Johnston and Victor Reader Soft by HumanWare. These assistive technology tools are software applications that make it easier for students with print disabilities to read independently. Ms. Koch says, "These tools help a struggling student complete their work in a comparable time with their classmates."

Before Bookshare, students were required to read on their own, but did not understand what they read. They may have needed the Resource teacher to read to them which monopolized the teacher's time, while other students would not get the help. Alternatively, students waited long periods of time for the Resource teacher to scan the book so that they could read or listen on their own. Ms. Koch says, "Bookshare has helped these students become independent readers. Often students with learning challenges cannot read for pleasure at their interest level because books are written at higher lexile reading levels. The text is difficult to comprehend. Now that students are accustomed to Bookshare, they enjoy their reading independence and ask for more books to be downloaded."

"Some struggling readers have never read for pleasure. In fact, most hate to read," shared Ms. Koch. "Bookshare has created a new interest in reading for them. In my spare time, I would scan books that my students wanted to read, but it was a daunting project. I felt badly that students would have to wait for weeks for books to be scanned and edited. Now, students love that they have a choice of thousands of books (even popular reading) from Bookshare, and can download them in just minutes. Bookshare has made it easier for them to enjoy literature for educational purposes and reading for pleasure. I encourage all reading specialists and educators to sign up their qualified students for Bookshare and watch the reading transformation take place for their students."

This Bookshare Member Story was written by Valerie C. Chernek in January 2009