Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement

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Now more than ever, people with learning and visual disabilities are flourishing in the classroom, launching productive careers and becoming assets in their communities. This blog spotlights remarkable individuals who demonstrate that having a visual or print disability is no barrier to educational success.


Reading Champion: Michele Chisholm
Michele Chisholm

January 25, 2022 by Jhara Navalo

Reading specialist Michele Chisholm sits down with us and shares why she recommends Learning Ally to all of her clients.

I am honored to be involved with Learning Ally. It is a wonderful program that has helped many children, including the ones that I work with. My journey began with my own child, when he was diagnosed with dyslexia nine years ago. I have an elementary education background but didn't learn about dyslexia in college. My youngest child struggled to learn how to read and so I began to teach him using the Barton Reading and Spelling System. Although he became quite a good reader, it took many years.

Throughout that time, he wanted to read books that his peers were reading. So, we began using Learning Ally. This is an incredible program that allows children access to all of the same books that their peers are enjoying. It was wonderful for him to be able to immerse himself in a book while "reading with his ears". I reminded him that although he was not reading in a traditional way, it was still reading. He was building his vocabulary and improving his comprehension and he was able to be involved in the conversations his peers were having about books that were too hard for him to read in a traditional way.

Currently, I own a tutoring business, Beautiful Mind Tutoring in Salt Lake City, UT. I have nine amazing tutors who work with me! We teach math and writing, but our main areas of focus are reading and spelling. I meet with every student before assigning them to a tutor. At that initial meeting, I always encourage parents to join Learning Ally as a way to improve their child's experience with reading. In fact, the student’s eyes always light up when I tell them that for the first couple months of tutoring, we ONLY want them reading with their ears by listening to audio books. I have found that this is a wonderful way to help the children learn to love books again!

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Holiday Season Audiobook Recommendations

November 17, 2021 by Jhara Navalo

With over 80,000 human narrated audiobooks on the only app specifically designed for struggling readers, you can easily find the books you need and want to read. We hope you take some time during the holidays to read with someone you love! If you’re looking for inspiration, here are a few audiobook recommendations and book trailers from our audiobook library. Please note full access to the audiobook library is reserved for Learning Ally members. Learn more about membership at LearningAlly.org/join.


The BFG


Roald Dahl
Grades 6-8 

 

George Washington

Watch Book Trailer

What Was The First Thanksgiving


by Joan Holub
Grades 5-7

 

Spy School Secret Service

Watch Book Trailer

Frozen Storybook Collection

by Disney Book Group
Grades 0-3

Malice Toward None

Synopsis

The Frozen Storybook Collection, featuring eighteen stories is a must-have for any Frozen fan. This is a great compilation that includes stories from some of our favorite characters: little Elsa and Anna, Bulda the troll, Kristof, Olaf, Marshmallow, Oaken, etc.

Browse our Audiobooks and search for great audiobook selections.


About Learning Ally

Learning Ally's reading accommodation and audiobooks will help you level the learning field for students with reading deficits. Use the library to ensure that all students receive equitable access to grade-level text on their intellectual level, as well as to popular books and genres that interest them. Learn more about membership or if you are a school representative sign up for a demo to experience the satisfaction of seeing your emerging and early learners, as well as older students, improve their foundational reading skills, learning confidence, and academic potential.

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#Dyslexia Awareness Father & Daughter Tik Tok Fundraiser
Tik Tok Neurodivergent

October 20, 2021 by Jhara Navalo

Tik Tok Neurodivergent

11 year old Jaedyn is an avid user of Learning Ally, KC Johnston, her father states, “[Learning Ally] has been such a blessing and helps her manage her dyslexia.” KC is a professional audiobook narrator and dyslexic who recently produced a tik tok video with his daughter explaining to parents the beauty of having a neuro divergent child. They recorded the video in a way that compares her dyslexia to imperfect dice for dungeons and dragons.

Through the magic of social media, their video reached a custom dice maker that offered to make a set of dice for Jaedyn for free! She quickly responded that she recently purchased a new set of dice but is willing to have the new custom set sold and donate any proceeds to a charity that helps kids with dyslexia. This idea morphed into a Dyslexia Awareness Month fundraiser in support of educating, bringing awareness to and raising funds for students who learn differently.


Jaedyn selects Learning Ally as the beneficiary of her Dyslexia Awareness Month fundraiser!

So far KC Johnston and Jaedyn have partnered with 35+ dice makers who are donating their wares in support of building awareness for students who learn differently. KC Johnston and one of the dice makers are going to match the donations/auction proceeds of up to $500.00 each and he is paying for auction item shipping costs.

Tik Tok Chsarity Learning Ally

Auction Items

To bid or to donate please visit: https://go.rallyup.com/oddportal-learningally-auction

Learning Ally is a 501©(3) non profit organization that provides educational services to support students who struggle to read, educators, schools and communities. We are grateful to both KC and Jaedyn for their great idea and fundraising spirit. Our most vulnerable families will benefit from their efforts and your support - this is a great way to celebrate neuro divergence and dyslexia.

On behalf of KC Johnston and Jaedyn, we want to sign off,

Read to you next time!

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Audiobooks Aren’t Cheating. Let's Talk Equality vs. Equity and Bust This Myth!
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September 10, 2021 by Learning Ally

By Dr. Terrie Noland, Ph.D., CALP, Vice President of Educator Initiatives at Learning Ally

 

“I hate school!" These are the words of a 4th grader who walked into my office for tutoring recently. My heart sank. I never like to hear those words, and more kids are saying it.  I asked his mom. "Is your son’s school providing reading support, like audiobooks?” Her response was "No, everyone says audiobooks are cheating." 

That’s another phrase I’ve heard a lot and wish I had not, because this statement is just not true! We’ve got to bust the myth that providing struggling readers with audiobooks is cheating. It is not. This is a myth. 

Cheating implies taking someone else's work and claiming it for yours. Providing audiobooks to support a struggling reader is like putting on glasses to see  clearly. I’m writing this blog, so more of us can better understand this concept, “education equality vs. education equity.” 

Education Equality Isn't the Same as Education Equity 

Education equality is an overarching attempt to treat every student the same, but lots of students learn differently. To reach the ultimate goal of education equality, each student must receive the strategies and tools they need to address their individual challenges...in other words equity. 

Let me reiterate this difference.  

-- Education equality is an attempt to treat every student the same.

-- Education equity is addressing each student's individual needs. 

While the evolution to strive for educational equity is a vigilant goal, millions of students are still not able to read on grade-level. Take Brooklyn’s learning journey for example. 

Brooklyn's Story

Brooklyn is an eighth grader who loves to bake, cook, and connect to her Mexican American heritage, but there is one major difference between her and other eighth-graders. Booklyn’s reading scores are very low. Her word identification and comprehension level are 5.4, about a fifth grade level. Her independent reading level is 2.3, about a second grade level.

As an eighth grader, Brooklyn wants her independence. She doesn’t want to be read to by a teacher or reading specialist. She wants to read on her own. She wants to read books that her friends are reading. Brooklyn needs equitable access to educational content that is on her grade and intellectual level -- preferably human-read audiobooks -- that will increase her skills in vocabulary, comprehension, decoding, phonics, fluency and critical thinking. Brooklyn may have a 504 plan or IEP, and she may receive some "Response to Intervention" (RTI) services. Whatever her legal or procedural classification is - it doesn't matter, because Brooklyn spends the majority of her day, up to 80%, sitting in a grade level class. 

Having the Conversation About Audiobooks

I like to advise parents to have an open conversation about their child’s needs with teachers. If your child is struggling to read print, then request access to reading materials via the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution. You may hear these concerns and will want to have replies. 

That’s not fair. 

Your response: There is a difference between equal and equitable. Audiobooks provide equity to grade level content - we are not trying to make things equal. You can send them a link to this blog and my podcasts.

They can’t understand higher level books. 

Your Response: Cognitive ability has no correlation to decoding ability. Research shows that students' ability to listen and comprehend outweighs their ability to decode up until the middle grades. 

They should be reading. 

Your Response: The term reading has many meanings. It is important for parents and educators to understand what the learning goal is. If the goal is practicing the skill of decoding, then a student needs decodable or leveled books. If the goal is comprehension, then an audiobook will enable a student to read at grade level and participate in class. 

I’ll curve their points. 

Your Response: Please don’t! Give struggling readers access to content using audiobooks and there is no need to curve their points.

Word Drought

Another term I’d like us to learn more about is “word drought,” coined by literacy expert, Dr. Maryanne Wolf. Students who are not meeting reading proficiency levels may not be reading at all because of a deficit in vocabulary - thus “word drought.” In her talks, Dr. Wolf discusses the importance of word exposure and access to words. Human-read audiobooks provide the reader a ‘word feast,’ with words that are accurately pronounced, not like computers.    

Addressing the Educational Divide

Working with U.S. schools and districts, Learning Ally has research about students who use audiobooks. In a large school system in Denver, students doubled their reading growth on the STAR assessment (standardized test) of reading in just a single year. This is an outcome every teacher wants. Request the case study

Please bust the myth that reading with audiobooks is cheating. Far from it. Audiobooks are a simple and scalable solution to address an individual student's needs. By providing equitable access to audiobooks, you can close the achievement gap for students who are not meeting reading proficiency, and reach the ultimate goal -- education equality for all. 

Thousands of educators today have chosen to provide equitable access to educational books via audiobooks. These are the literacy champions making a difference for students like Brooklyn. Busting this cheating myth will take us one step closer to having more educators become literacy leaders in their schools and more students on a much better learning track. 

Please share this blog, and join my podcast. Thanks!

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Announcing The 2021 National Achievement Award Student Winners
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May 30, 2021 by Learning Ally

Learning Ally's 2021 National Achievement Award (NAA) student award recipients have been selected for The Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Award and the Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Award.

For over 60 years, our organization has offered the two endowed scholarship awards to students in high school and college with print and learning disabilities. These outstanding learners have overcome great obstacles to achieve extraordinary goals in school and beyond. As an organization, we can take pride in this beneficial program that acknowledges underserved students who rise above all expectations.

About the NAA Student Awards

The Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Award (LTL) is granted to student members who are high school seniors with learning disabilities in recognition of their academic achievement, leadership, and service to others.  

The Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Award (SAA) is given to college students who are blind or visually impaired, who are also high achievers and stellar individuals. 

This year's award recipients are exemplary role models and an inspiration to all students who are challenged in ways many of us can never imagine.  The top three winners from each category (LTL and SAA) receive a $6000 scholarship award. Students who receive special honors receive between $2,000 and $3000 monetary awards.  

Please join us in congratulating all winners and participants! You can learn more about each of our students by clicking on their names. These individuals can be immensely proud of their outstanding academic prowess and personal achievements. They are stellar role models for students who learn differently and who demonstrate the highest standards of performance and commitment in their classes and communities.

Winners of the LTL Awards

Samantha Widdison, Winner - Belmont, MA

Carragon Olles, Winner - DePere, WI

Pauline Simonson, Winner - Salt Lake City, Utah

Nicholas Talik, Special Honors - Houston, TX

John Andrew, Special Honors - Gloucester, MA

Benjamin Payson, Special Honors - Cape Elizabeth, ME

 

Winners of the SAA Awards

Katherine Barba, Winner - New Rochelle, NY

Qusay Hussein, Winner - Austin, TX

Jonathan Zobek, Winner - Kenilworth, NJ

Yolanda Keahey, Special Honors - Jersey City, NJ

Debra Whitt, Special Honors - Springfield, MO

Jennifer Ratliff, Special Honors - Oklahoma City, OK 


You can learn more about our application process and our award programs at LearningAlly.org/NAA and view the video submissions of our 2021 winners. 

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