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Pros: Once registered, students with dyslexia, blindness, cerebral palsy, and other reading barriers have access to a huge library.
Cons: A little patience is needed when accessing or downloading texts, as there is some lag time.
Bottom Line: This fantastic digital library service provides a powerful sense of independence for students.
Schools and teachers can sign up for a free organizational membership. School personnel should develop rosters of students who are eligible for Bookshare access. Teachers can download books for their students, and students can also have individual memberships that they use from home for recreational or personal reading. Right on the homepage, you'll find the Quick Start Guide for Teachers. This is a great place to start, as it will guide you through the steps to get it all set up.
There's also a Get Started section that covers how to sign up, how to find books, and how to read books, as well as links to some of the available reading tools. Teachers can download books from required reading lists, and then model for students how to read them using available technology. Also, it's always a good idea to keep parents up-to-date; send information home so that parents and caregivers can help students find and download books in their areas of interest. You may find that the Help Center section of this site is also helpful for accessing reading tools and providing answers to questions that teachers and other users may have while using the site. Under My Bookshare, you'll also have access to a Download Reading Tools section that can prove useful and very practical in identifying the best reading tools for students. Specifics on pricing, platform, and special features are included for a wide range of tools based on readers' preference.
Bookshare's accessible books can be read in a variety of ways. Downloadable books (including textbooks, kid-friendly novels, news media, and more) are made accessible through high-quality text-to-speech voices, or you can hear and see highlighted words on-screen, or read with digital braille or enlarged fonts, physical braille or large print, directly from an internet browser or a mobile app on a smartphone or tablet, and more. Books on the site are available in multiple accessible formats including braille, audio, and two formats for accessible text: DAISY and ePub3. Students will need access to tools that are compatible with these files; students could have books read to them in a variety of ways, or even converted to embossed braille. Used with these tools, Bookshare allows students the independence to read close to a million different titles that may have been inaccessible otherwise.
While there are many sources for digital textbooks and educational materials out there, Bookshare makes all types of reading materials, even consumer fiction and nonfiction, accessible to those with reading barriers. This puts it in rare company, and even among other providers focused on accessibility, it excels in terms of the raw amount of available texts. Logging in and learning to use the site is straightforward and relatively user-friendly. New books and publications are added frequently, so students who have learning and reading challenges won't feel behind their peers on the latest addition to the Percy Jackson or Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
Once they qualify for a membership and have the entire library at their fingertips, students can learn just about anything. Bookshare's selection has nearly everything a standard library does, from astronomy to zebras, and students can explore their favorite subjects with ease. This level of accessibility can rekindle enthusiasm for any student with a print disability, including those with learning disabilities, cognitive disabilities, physical limitations, blindness, or low vision. With Bookshare, you can provide your students the same independent reading and learning experiences as their peers.