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Aiming for Access

June Behrmann

June Behrmann is a longtime special education teacher (pre-K to grade 6) who retired for about two seconds, and is now prospecting for accessible instructional resources. Follow June on Twitter @aimnoncat. Thank you to AIM-VA: Accessible Instructional Materials for sharing this blog with us.

Snoopy Livens Up "Library Sign Up Month" While Accessibility Grows in School and Public Libraries

September 2, 2016

ALA Library Card Signup Month

Snoopy, the world-famous beagle, aka The Flying Ace, returns to the big screen this fall in The Peanuts Movie from Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios. Meanwhile during September, he is also the Honorary Chair of "Library Sign Up Month."

The American Library Association holds this annual event to mark the start of the school year and to remind patrons that books are a key to opportunity and bright futures. 

Do school library and public library books support struggling readers?

School openings are a good time to consider what digital resources are available in local school and public libraries, and whether audiobooks and e-Books there offer enough accessibility and learning supports for struggling readers. Educators and librarians do have a choice about adding a free source for accessible digital books for certain special education students who have print disabilities.

The accessible learning materials program in every state offers free accessible digital and other formats such as braille and large print editions to eligible students with print disabilities at no cost. Individualized education teams determine who gets these resources. By and large when compared with school and public libraries, this federally funded source is a richer resource for struggling readers to access to the curriculum. There is also more potential to establish a reading habit. Books available include textbooks and trade books converted from print.

Alternatives to print with accessibility in mind

School and public librarians first engaged in a digital shift several years ago; yet not all digital books were purchased with accessibility in mind. Until they are, librarians and educators working together could opt for an outside choice where the books are produced for struggling readers at come at no cost to families or schools.;

The federally funded initiative known as the Accessible Educational Materials program or Accessible Instructional Materials program (AEM, or in Virginia it is AIM) provides "just-right" accessible formats to students who need them due to a print disability. There are 12 formats in all. Collections are built in each state when teachers request books for individual students who are eligible. More information follows at the end of this blog.

More accessibility features in OverDrive

Eligibility is a process that takes time, so the good news is that OverDrive, the free service offered by a library or school offering e-Books and audiobooks, is increasing accessibility options. The problem, however, is that every OverDrive collection is slightly different because each library or school staff picks the digital content they want for their collection, the company advises. In addition, OverDrive is not available in every library.>

But OverDrive this summer announced that Read and Listen, two of its programs, are busy boosting accessibility features. That means that the browser-based reading and listening experience is expanding in order to reach more readers.

OverDrive Read: e-book updates

  • Updated the menu icon.
  • Changed “Readability Settings” to “Reading Settings” and updated its menu icon.
  • Added sepia as a lighting option in “Reading Settings.”

OverDrive Listen: audiobook updates

  • A sleep timer is now available. It’s set at 30 minutes by default, but can be changed based on the user’s preference. Simply swipe (or click and drag) to set a different time.
  • Moved the playback speed control to the header. Click or tap the speedometer icon to adjust the speed.
  • The header now simply includes the playback speed control, menu, and sleep timer for quick access to the most utilized features.

Relevant help articles are updated at OverDrive Help.

OverDrive's improved accessibility or usability can be useful to struggling and able readers. For students who need maximum reading support, educators and librarians can supply books through AEM/AIM. Collections of audiobooks from the program's national partners, Learning Ally and Bookshare, consistently offer supported books tied to the curriculum. Also find online support with literacy and sharing opportunities. These include contests, webinars with book authors, and places for online postings. These providers also give account holders data that inform instruction, are a means for feedback and reflection, and aid progress monitoring and reporting.

Take-ways as schools open nationwide

  • Urge students who struggle to read to sign up for library cards and experience books in accessible book formats.
  • Explore audiobooks about Snoopy from Bookshare and the support services it offers on its website.
  • Take a fresh look at your state's AEM/AIM program for optimizing reading with a reliable source for books when students have print disabilities.
  • Involve librarians with the range of books, formats, and external supports available through the accessible learning materials program and its partners.
  • Check out Snoopy visuals for fun on Vine at 34.8M Vine Loops.

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"Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. " — Neil Gaiman