Review by Adirondack AccessAbility Inc. , Common Sense Education | Updated March 2014

Universal Reader Plus

Text reader and summarizer with translation for eight languages

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts

  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: A great accommodation for any student who needs reading support, particularly ELLs.

Cons: Users can get free plugin utilities, but they can't all be found in one place, and they aren't as easy to use.

Bottom Line: Software for struggling readers supports comprehension and also includes a translator.

One of Universal Reader's most practical applications is probably to use it as a tool for reading tests and assessments aloud for students who need that accommodation. And because it can read just about any format, it's a useful modification for meeting the needs of students' IEPs. Furthermore, teachers of ELLs may find the program extremely helpful in giving students of varying language levels access to the same texts.

One of the more useful features of Universal Reader Plus might be the summary tool. Using algorithmic language technology, it can solidly summarize any amount of text, from a single paragraph to a full chapter. This awesome feature can help kids with comprehension issues -- furthermore, students can get a synopsis of a text to help them decide if it's what they need to read.

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Universal Reader Plus is a downloadable text-to-speech reader that also summarizes and translates text. It's designed to help kids with comprehension and reading difficulties, and it can also be useful for ELLs.

The tool can read almost any text: normal text, PDFs, Flash files, even words embedded in graphics that computers don't typically recognize as text. Non-digitized text materials can also be scanned and read. Additionally, an intuitive auto-summarizer tool can condense texts of varying lengths, and texts can be translated into eight different languages.

With its simple toolbar, Universal Reader Plus reads selected text aloud, helping kids with comprehension and reading difficulties that would otherwise be a barrier. There are other free readers, auto summarizers, and language translators out there, but Universal Reader Plus is the whole package in one tool.

The program can read Flash files, has a talking pointer that reads anything (even if a computer doesn't see it as print), can summarize texts (no matter how short or long), and can translate text into eight languages. It's difficult to find all of these features in one place, and the toolbar here combines them in an intuitive way. Using the tool, students can comprehend texts that are beyond their reading level, while also improving their reading.

Overall Rating

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

Kids will enjoy engaging with content they may not have been able to access before. The toolbar is easy to use and visually appealing.

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

The website provides access to key learning materials, and interpreting texts in multiple ways (both seeing and listening) can be a great way for kids to improve their reading fluency and comprehension.

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

Within the help menu, short, simple, and specific videos assist while also keeping kids' attention. Also, there are support texts that can -- of course -- be read aloud.

Common Sense Reviewer
Adirondack AccessAbility Inc. Assistive Technology Consultants & Trainers

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