Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2014
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Voice Dream Reader - Text to Speech

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Versatile tool makes text accessible to kids with visual impairment

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Character & SEL

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • English Language Learning
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6-12
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Pros: Students can listen to classic lit or their own work.

Cons: Robo-voices don't demonstrate expressive reading.

Bottom Line: Customization and accessibility to texts set Voice Dream Reader apart from similar tools.

In a 1:1 environment, Voice Dream Reader could go on devices of all kids with modifications for oral presentation of material, for directions, or as a designated reader. Teachers could share lesson documents and instructions via Google Drive or Dropbox for students to access with the app. With only one or a few devices in the classroom, teachers could offer use of the iPad to students with oral presentation mods as a station or in small groups. For novels, students might get a better understanding from professionally read audio books, but in a pinch (for books not available as audio books), Voice Dream Reader will work.

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Voice Dream Reader - Text to Speech is an app that can read content in a variety of voices from a variety of sources. Students can import text from documents, websites, and DRM-free epub books. The app connects with Google Drive, Evernote, and Dropbox accounts to access saved files and can pull text from websites through an in-app browser. It works with Instapaper and Pocket to read entries, and it accesses free ebooks through Project Gutenberg and Bookshare. It's highly customizable, from reading speed to voice to font and text size. Some voices require in-app purchases ranging from $1.99 to $2.99 each, but a few are included free with the app. Students with dyslexia or auditory-processing or vision impairments would find Voice Dream Reader especially helpful.

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Voice Dream Reader is a must-have tool for kids who have difficulty processing visual text, and it's really handy for anyone who wants to have text read aloud sometimes. It's pretty easy to use, and it's nice that the instructions serve as a model for how the app works -- with the Voice Dream Reader reading them aloud. The voice quality on the included voices is decent, but the in-app-purchase voices are much better quality and more natural sounding. The app does import text from websites as best it can, excluding ads, but the read-aloud on websites is a bit clunky. Overall, it's an impressive tool, especially for reading documents and epub books.

With Voice Dream Reader, students can learn how to use adaptive technologies to achieve academic and personal goals. As the text is read aloud, kids can focus on comprehension and analysis, rather than struggling to get past the visual distortions printed text may present to them. If kids are hearing their own work read to them, they can concentrate on improving their writing and ideas. It also gives kids the chance to read for enjoyment, which is important for developing strong readers.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Kids may enjoy having text read aloud to them, but the voices are still a bit too robotic to be engaging. The design is easy to use and highly customizable.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Kids benefit from hearing their own writing read out loud. It's also an easy tool for kids who require modifications for reading aloud.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

It makes text accessible to those who have difficulty reading print. Even the help section, which is thorough, is read aloud.


Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

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