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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.

Using Text-to-Speech to Unlock Reading Barriers

October 24, 2016

Guest post by Stacie Brady, AIM-VA

October is Learning Disabilities (LD) Awareness Month, which means it is time to recognize individuals with learning disabilities and the educators who support learning differences. Since 1985, this month is used by organizations such as the National Center for Learning Disabilities and the Learning Disabilities Association of America to educate the public about those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Students with a learning disability that affects reading abilities may benefit from using accessible books.

Accessible books

Accessible books are books that have been legally produced in an alternate format such as digital text, audio, or large print that allows usability when print is a barrier for learning. Paired with technology, these alternate formats provide assistance with unlocking reading barriers such as decoding, comprehension, reading fluency, and vocabulary development. Depending on the needs and preferences, selected features that can be used with accessible books include text-to-speech, dictionary or glossary, highlighting, copying and pasting, homophone tool, and text simplification, to name a few.

Research supports text-to-speech

Text-to-Speech: What the research says (2016), on the Learning Technologies website, reviewed a number of studies using accessible book tools in the classroom. One of the many features that accessible books offer is text-to-speech. Text-to-speech provides bimodal presentation of both visual and aural text. Seeing and hearing the text at the same time allows students to focus on comprehension instead of sounding out words, as well as, improving word recognition.

Software programs such as Don Johnston’s Read: OutLoud highlight the words as they are being read with voice synthesized speech. Students can modify the font size, voice settings, speech rate, and style the text is presented. Read: OutLoud has the options of cutting and pasting notes and an online dictionary.

Hasselbring and Bausch state in an article in Education Leadership that text to speech empowers struggling readers to read and work independently at their grade level, as well as strengthen literacy skills.

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"I feel the need of reading. It is a loss to a man not to have grown up among books." —

Abraham Lincoln