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.


Dyslexia Awareness Audiobook Selections for All Readers
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October 18, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

Why are so many accomplished entrepreneurs, like Richard Branson, and scientists, like Albert Einstein, and mathematicians, like Norbert Wiener, and artists, like Pablo Picasso dyslexic? People with dyslexia see the world differently. Each of these amazing individuals struggled as young learners, but their determination, grit, and ability to perceive new ways of doing things, brought them extraordinary fame and gave our humanity unprecedented gifts.

In this blog, we’re celebrating National Dyslexia Awareness Month because we know that with the right champion, resources and motivation, all students can learn and reach their dreams. We hope your students will be inspired by this selection of audiobooks to appreciate and celebrate diversity in thought, mind, and ability.

 

My Dyslexia by Philip Schultz

Synopsis
Despite winning the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2008, Philip Schultz could never shake the feeling of being exiled to the "dummy class" in school, where he was largely ignored by his teachers and peers and not expected to succeed. Not until many years later, when his oldest son was diagnosed with dyslexia, did Schultz realize that he suffered from the same condition.


 


Who Is Richard Branson? by Michael Burgan

Synopsis
What would you do with a billion dollars? This question gets a definitive answer from billionaire Richard Branson: do everything! Born into a wealthy family in London, Branson suffered from dyslexia and was a poor student. Still, his knack for business started early with a successful parakeet-breeding enterprise at age 11.


 

The gift of dyslexia : why some of the smartest people can't read and how they can learn
by Davis Ronald D. (Ronald Dell)

Synopsis
In this exciting book, Davis shares the startling discovery he made which helped him overcome his own dyslexia; reveals how dyslexia may be linked to uncommonly high levels of intelligence, creativity, and imagination; and outlines a clear and simple plan that anyone can use to help themselves or others conquer this all-too-common disability.


 

Leaders Visionaries and Dreamers
Extraordinary People with Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities
by Paul J. Gerber; Marshall H. Raskind

Synopsis
This book is an in-depth look at 12 incredible people with LD and dyslexia whose lives are characterised by major accomplishments and contributions that they have made in their respective fields as well as on the contemporary American scene.


 

Dyslexia A True Book Health Series by Ann O. Squire

Synopsis
From diet and exercise to dangerous diseases to the way we are born, our health is affected by countless factors. Learn more about the ways different factors can impact your body and mind with this A True Book subset. Readers will discover how diseases are diagnosed and treated, how they can avoid getting sick, what steps they can take to improve their health, and much more.


 

Dyslexia LifeBalance by Landau Elaine

Synopsis
What did Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill, Walt Disney, and Alexander Graham Bell have in common? They all had dyslexia. Today, it is estimated that 5 to 20 percent of school-age children are affected to some degree by this learning disability. Elaine Landau relates the inspiring stories of individuals who overcame dyslexia to excel in life. She also explores the various ways in which people are affected by dyslexia, how it is diagnosed, and the latest educational techniques that are being used in the classroom to help students cope with this problem. Book jacket.


 

The Power of Dyslexic Thinking How a Learning Disability Shaped Six Successful Careers
by Langston Robert W.

Synopsis
In The Power of Dyslexic Thinking, Robert Langston shares the inspirational stories of people who overcame the hurdles of living with dyslexia to become influential business and cultural leaders. From Kinko's founder Paul Orfalea to prominent financier Charles Schwab to Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mike Peters, Langston profiles some of the biggest players in the business world and elsewhere to paint amazing portraits of courage and dedication. Through both research and personal experience, Langston has come to believe that dyslexia is a condition that does not need curing, but rather a greater understanding of the different capabilities and skills it can provide those who have it. He hopes that understanding more about the creative and intuitive benefits of dyslexia will allow educators and parents, as well as dyslexic children, to see dyslexia not as a disability, but as a gift.


 

Reading Difficulties and Dyslexia
An Interpretation for Teachers
by J. P. Das

Synopsis
This book is a ready reckoner on dyslexia, a condensed and updated source of information on the subject, for not only teachers and parents, but also for professionals concerned with Learning Disabilities. For the school psychologist, the book is an interpretation that gives pre-eminence to the PASS (Planning-Attention-Simultaneous-Successive) theory of cognitive processes--the four major processes that replace traditional views of IQ and redefine intelligence.


About Learning Ally

Learning Ally is a leading nonprofit ed-tech organization delivering a comprehensive learning solution for struggling readers in elementary, middle and high schools. Our proven solution includes the most extensive library of human-read audiobooks that students want and need to read both at home and at school. This reading experience helps accelerate learning, enables a new level of access to knowledge and powerfully increases confidence and self-belief.

Learning Ally empowers over 375,000 students with improved comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, and critical thinking skills. For over 70 years, we have helped transform the lives of struggling readers by bridging the gap between their reading capability and their academic potential as they confidently become lifelong learners who thrive in school and beyond.

Learn More About Becoming a Learning Ally Member

Read More about Dyslexia Awareness Audiobook Selections for All Readers

Teaching Literacy Through Skill Building Exercises
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October 12, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

By guest blogger Holly J. LaVine, Director of Literacy Learning Solutions, LLC, Nashua, NH


Child's BrainThere’s an old adage that says, “everything I ever learned, I learned in Kindergarten”. I am excited to offer this blog to all parents of Kindergarten children as a former seasoned public school educator, now turned dyslexia clinic director of her own literacy clinic. Essentially, what I am saying is a modified version of this very same adage from the teacher's perspective. “Everything I ever learned about properly teaching the English language, I learned through my role as a Kindergarten teacher!” Allow me to explain and elaborate. Explicit, direct, prescriptive and purposeful instruction in the sound-letter code of the English language coupled with rich exposures to language building activities is the effective and powerful approach I had used in balancing a top-down literacy teaching strategy with bottom-up skill building exercises.

With a few resources and a little bit of education on this topic, parents can also empower themselves to successfully engage in this reciprocal teaching, in order to set their children up for maximum literacy achievement. And, the best news is that they might already being doing it without even realizing it.

When I was a Kindergarten teacher, I was vigilant over embedding phonemic awareness training in everyday language activities. These activities included the following and were conducted on a weekly basis.

  • Rhyme discrimination and production
  • Count words in sentence, voice to text match
  • Differentiating between letters, words, sentences
  • Syllable Counting
  • Syllable Blending
  • Syllable Segmenting
  • Phoneme Isolation , beginning/end/middle

This told me in an informal way whether or not my students were ready to acquire reading from the perspective of a well-developed phonological processing foundation.

After all, dyslexia research tells us that deficits in the phonological core centers of the brain will impede the acquisition of reading without early intervention measures. “Dyslexia occurs primarily at the level of the single word and involves the ability to decode printed words. This has been known for many years. Print represents speech through the alphabet and words are composed of internal units based on sound called “phonemes”. In learning to read, the child must make explicit an implicit understanding that words have internal structures linked to sounds” (Foorman, B. R.,2008)

The good news is that we can reduce the risk of impoverished phonological sense if parents engage in this fun word-play with their child even while just driving in the car! It is aural with no visual prompts required and it begins to feel as easy as singing Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

Additionally, in terms of understanding development of language comprehension, I would continuously and vigilantly assess students’ oral language processing abilities. “I CAN” statements became our mantra as we self-reflected on what our language learning goals were. We read a variety of engaging fictional and informational texts and the students would assure themselves of these truths.

  • I can ask questions about informational text. I can answer questions about text.
  • I can tell you what a text is mainly about and show details from the text.
  • I can connect ideas in a text.
  • I can ask and answer questions about words I do not know when I read.
  • I can show you the front cover, back cover, and title page of a book.
  • I can tell you the author and illustrator of a text and what they do.
  • I can match the illustration to the text.
  • I can tell you what the author thinks and why.
  • I can compare text about the same topic.
  • I can participate in group reading activities.

Mother hugging SonWe would use these statements as our framework for our choral and oral reading and parents can do this, too, as they read regularly with their children. These activities were meant to develop a solid foundation for comprehending language to establish a basis from which their reading comprehension could then naturally develop.


For more information on strategies and activities, you can feel free to contact me at hlaLiteracy Learning Logovine@literacylearningsolutons.com. Also, check out the resources available to educators at the Florida Center for Reading Research’s website and the bevy of activities offered at www.readingrockets.org.

Reference:Foorman, B. R. (2008). Prevention and Remediation of Reading and Learning Disabilities: What We Know From Research. Presentation at the Virginia Branch of the International Dyslexia Association in Richmond, Virginia. February 1, 2008.


About Learning Ally

Learning Ally is a leading nonprofit ed-tech organization delivering a comprehensive learning solution for struggling readers in elementary, middle and high schools. Our proven solution includes the most extensive library of human-read audiobooks that students want and need to read both at home and at school. This reading experience helps accelerate learning, enables a new level of access to knowledge and powerfully increases confidence and self-belief. Learning Ally empowers over 370,000 students with improved comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, and critical thinking skills. For over 70 years, we have helped transform the lives of struggling readers by bridging the gap between their reading capability and their academic potential as they confidently become lifelong learners who thrive in school and beyond.

Become a Learning Ally member today!

Read More about Teaching Literacy Through Skill Building Exercises

Girl Scouts Goes for the Gold with Assistive Technology
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October 10, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

Brother using Learning AllyCaitlynn, a high school senior and Girl Scout, has decided to focus on assistive technology as her project to earn her Girl Scouts Gold Award.  The Gold Award is the highest level of Girl Scouting and she wanted to use this opportunity to highlight and bring awareness to students who learn differently due to a difference in learning styles such as dyslexia

Inspired by her brother, who has been a Learning Ally member for over 5 years, she’s decided to work with her local library to add iPads filled with software that can help students who learn differently succeed academically.

Caitlynn noticed that ever since her brother started using assistive technology such as Learning Ally, he’s been able to complete his homework independently and has a better understanding and grasp of his eighth-grade curriculum. Seeing the progress that her brother has made and noticing how her family has also benefitted from the solution, she wanted to make sure all students have the opportunity to learn. 

Caitlynn shares,

“If struggling readers knew about the resources available to them they could ask for proper accommodations.  If a student is interested in something then they’re more inclined to learn.”

Assistive Technology Vision BoardSpringfield Public Library in New Jersey, will benefit from Caitlynn’s project.  She will load iPads with various assistive technology applications, including guides to help students get the most out of the learning tools.  She will also provide the library with a few non-digital kits of supplies, such as pencil grips, highlighted paper, slant boards, whisper phones, etc., to help students heighten their educational experience.

Caitlynn in Her Girl Scout Uniform“By creating a free assistive technology lending library, I want to put assistive technology into the hands of kids with learning disabilities. I want to raise awareness for learning disabilities and assistive technology in general. Assistive technology is not a crutch, but rather a necessity to help bridge the gap between kids with learning disabilities and their peers.”

 

Caitlynn, we commend you for shedding light on an issue and providing solutions to help students, who learn differently, succeed academically.  You are an inspiration and we wish you good luck in your effort to attain your Girl Scouts Gold Award.


About Learning Ally

Learning Ally is a leading nonprofit ed-tech organization delivering a comprehensive learning solution for struggling readers in elementary, middle and high schools. Our proven solution includes the most extensive library of human-read audiobooks that students want and need to read both at home and at school. This reading experience helps accelerate learning, enables a new level of access to knowledge and powerfully increases confidence and self-belief. Learning Ally empowers over 370,000 students with improved comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, and critical thinking skills. For over 70 years, we have helped transform the lives of struggling readers by bridging the gap between their reading capability and their academic potential as they confidently become lifelong learners who thrive in school and beyond.

Become a Learning Ally Member today!

Read More about Girl Scouts Goes for the Gold with Assistive Technology

Learning Ally's Essential Solution
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October 9, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

By guest vlogger Erin Walker, National Director of Solutions Strategy and Design for Learning Ally.


Erin Walker Headshot

The key to success in any area of growth comes from developing and maintaining a belief that success is possible. Belief has the power to inspire vision, ignite action, as well as forge strength of will and resilience. From my experience with learning about advocating for my brother who is dyslexic, and as an educator understanding the value of providing students access to complex text - especially when they haven't developed the ability to decode text for themselves- I've developed a deep-seated belief in the power of audiobooks to transform the lives of struggling readers.  

I hope this video encourages you to think about what you believe about the power of audio books and inspires you to contribute your talents and experience to help struggling readers succeed.

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The Big Five Supplemental Resources
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October 4, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

By guest blogger Lorna Wooldridge, dyslexia specialist tutor.


Student Writing in ClassroomIn a recent blog I wrote for the Orton-Gillingham Online Academy (OGOA) on “The National Reading Panel and The Big Five”, I explained what exactly “The Big Five” are, and why they are so important for reading. I plan to blog extensively about each one in the next few months, again for the OGOA, and will include resources and ideas that parents, teachers and tutors, can use with their struggling readers. I hope you will check in on those through the OGOA blog page. Today, I’m going to include five online supplementary resources which we have used in our tutoring practice, Wise owl Services, and which our students use at home to address the “Big Five.” 

1. Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

We have been using the HearBuilder program with all our students for almost a year. Since it is only practical for us to work on phonological and phonemic awareness skills for about 10 minutes during a 60-minute session, we have found it a very useful supplement. The Phonological Awareness program is the first of four that we use with our students. This program is available for individuals, tutoring practices, and schools. As an administrator, I can limit the programs available to each student, until they are ready to move into other areas. I can also set the difficulty level, and skip a student onto a higher level if they are finding the work too easy. 

To control the order in which I want the activities to be played, I make sure the parents of each student know what they should be doing to reinforce what I am teaching in our face-to-face sessions. I regularly monitor each student’s progress and keep their parents informed. 

I have found HearBuilder to be both very effective and reasonably priced, offering far more than the phonological and phonemic awareness skills. For evidence that this program is effective for developing phonological and phonemic awareness skills follow this link. 

2. Phonics

I have been part of a trial for two online phonic programs, neither of which we currently offer through our practice, mainly because of the cost of a tutoring practice subscription, though our families found them useful reinforcement exercises. A couple of these families have continued to use one of these two programs. 

Nessy is a very colorful and fun program, but generally only appeals to younger children. It is possible for an administrator to turn off certain elements (islands,) so students can only discover activities and practice the phonics they have been taught in our sessions. Personally, I found it much harder to administer than HearBuilder. 

For educational establishments, Reading Horizons offers a number of online programs for different ages. They also sell a home version, for individuals. As part of the trial, I received free training, and I was extremely impressed by both the training and the program. The difficulty using this program might be that for certain concepts, a tutor may use different methods to those used in this program. Reading Horizons, like other online tools, has a particular way of teaching syllabication, and if their teacher or tutor teaches something different, students may become confused. However, I feel this program does have lots to offer teachers, tutors, and parents, and maybe a possible option where a tutor isn’t available. To be effective in these kinds of situations, a parent needs to take the Reading Horizons training and use the online program in conjunction with the manual and other materials. 

3. Fluency

Student Using Learning Ally There are several fluency programs available on the market, but I actually prefer the audiobook services offered by Learning Ally. They offer human narrated books, and the ability for students to simultaneously follow the text with their eyes helps develop prosody. This process also encourages orthographic mapping of phonemes to letters in words on the page, and sight word recognition is developed as the student is exposed time and again to words they might struggle with if they had to decode the text. As the student isn’t having to work so hard to decode the text, they can focus on comprehension and understanding what they are “ear reading and eye following.” To quote from Learning Ally:

Exposure to human-read audiobooks can significantly enhance a struggling reader's ability to read more fluently and to make deeper contextual meaning to content.May 23rd, 2018.

Plus, students just love being able to access the books!

4. Vocabulary 

In our practice, we have been using InferCabulary for over a year now,  and we have just renewed our subscription. InferCabulary is a web-based, visual vocabulary and reasoning program that uses the Semantic Reasoning Method. Through a verbal mountain climbing challenge, it uses pictorial and audio examples that illustrate the meaning and nuance behind words such as “ascent”, “seldom”, and “cluster”. You can see a demonstration using this link. 

To discover more about the program and their subscription plans, please visit their website. The program is easy to administer, reasonably priced and allows you to track words with which a student is struggling. We incorporate these struggle words into our sessions to teach and reinforce them. InferCabulary includes words from books students are typically expected to read at each grade level, allowing the vocabulary for these to be understood ahead of reading the book. 
The visual/auditory approach also make this a useful program for building vocabulary knowledge in students who are nonverbal, or for whom English is their second language. 

5. Comprehension

Student Comprehending with AudiobooksThis is where I return to two of the programs I previously mentioned: Learning Ally and HearBuilder. Learning Ally develops comprehension by allowing a student to focus on understanding the text and gaining meaning, rather than all their energy going into decoding. It doesn’t directly teach individual comprehension strategies, such as inference skills, but it can certainly be used to develop a student’s background knowledge in a certain subject. HearBuilder’s other programs, which include Following Directions, Sequencing, and Auditory Memory, all help develop a child’s ability to comprehend a text. 

I hope you have found today’s blog helpful. I ’d love to hear from you. You can find my contact info on my website, and check out  Lorna’s Resources while you are there. If you have further suggestions for “Big Five” online supplemental resources, or questions about the ones I have suggested, share your suggestions in the comment box below. 

 


Lorna WooldridgeThis blog was previously published on the Literacy Nest. Lorna Wooldridge is a dyslexia specialist tutor with over twenty-five years of experience and qualifications in the field of learning differences, from both the UK and USA. Lorna has a unique perspective on this condition as she has dyslexia, and her passion is to serve this community in any way she can.


About Learning Ally

Learning Ally is a leading nonprofit ed-tech organization delivering a comprehensive learning solution for struggling readers in elementary, middle and high schools. Our proven solution includes the most extensive library of human-read audiobooks that students want and need to read both at home and at school. This reading experience helps accelerate learning, enables a new level of access to knowledge and powerfully increases confidence and self-belief. Learning Ally empowers over 370,000 students with improved comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, and critical thinking skills. For over 70 years, we have helped transform the lives of struggling readers by bridging the gap between their reading capability and their academic potential as they confidently become lifelong learners who thrive in school and beyond.

Become a Learning Ally Member today!
Read More about The Big Five Supplemental Resources