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 Success: Integrating Spelling and Writing
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October 2, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

By guest blogger Timmie Murphy, founder and managing member of RW&C, LLC., an online and traditional reading intervention clinic.


Reading Success: Think of Spelling and Writing as Integrated Processes

 

Students Writing in a Classroom SettingWhen students struggle with reading and literacy, it is imperative that their reading intervention go hand-in-hand with writing and explicit spelling instruction. Often, in the classroom, it is the case that spelling instruction is an after-thought and is confined to spelling drills and memorization (Birsh, 2005). However, for students who struggle with dyslexia or other reading difficulties, memorization and drills are not enough and engaging in traditional spelling activities does them a disservice. Read on to learn how spelling and writing are integrated into a Structured Literacy program and how it can help students who struggle with reading.

Throughout the years as a reading specialist, I heard teachers and parents comment that a student’s spelling, “is terrible but there is always spell check!” This message implied spelling was not an important skill to spend much time. This all too common classroom philosophy continues to prevail, that if students were immersed in print, and taught to read, they would somehow magically learn to spell (Birsch, 2005). However, research has shown to the contrary that integrating spelling into a program is crucial to reading success.

Learning Ally Voice-to-Text AppSpelling and writing are absolutely essential parts of the reading process. Students need explicit spelling and writing instruction in order to become proficient readers. In fact, research conducted by Brady and Moats in the mid to late 90’s indicated that learning to spell is a more complicated process than learning to read and requires explicit instruction (Birsch, 2005). Until students have closed the spelling gap, it is important they have access to tools to help with the writing process, such as Learning Ally's reading app.

Without direct spelling instruction, many children will struggle to spell and ultimately to write even after their reading struggle has been remediated. Written expression is a necessary skill and needs to be explicitly taught in conjunction with reading skills. Students need to be taught about language and structure in order to learn to effectively spell and read words.

When engaging in spelling activities, the teacher, parent or reading clinician must be an active participant and must be able to accurately impart knowledge about the rules of the English language. These include a deep knowledge of phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and phonics. Additionally, knowledge of orthography (conventional spelling rules and the representation of sounds as written symbols), morphology (prefixes, suffixes, and base word analysis), and vocabulary must be addressed during spelling instruction. These activities engage the student in a process that deciphers the reason for the spelling pattern rather than rote memory.

Many spelling difficulties arise when students are not able to accurately segment and blend the sounds in words. For example, if students do not understand that the word <tree> has three distinct sounds, they cannot accurately spell it. An essential component of effective spelling instruction is the explicit teaching of phonemic awareness. For the struggling student, it is important to incorporate a phonemic awareness component to every single lesson whether students are working on letter sounds or advanced reading comprehension until this skill is mastered.

By ensuring that students can hear and manipulate sounds in syllables and words, an effective reading instructor will make sure that students have and continue to develop the skills necessary to spell words correctly, increase written vocabulary and express ideas in writing.

In addition, students need to understand the relationship between the sounds in words (phonemes) and the written symbols (graphemes). All structured literacy lessons should focus on this relationship with both reading and writing, helping students learn and internalize basic spelling patterns to complicated patterns.

Equally important, there should be a focus on morphology which is a critical component of any spelling program. Understanding root words and rules for adding prefixes and suffixes helps students understand spelling patterns. For example, looking at the word <business>, many people may wonder where the <i> comes from since it is unvoiced. Understanding that the root word is <busy> and knowing that <y> changes to an <i> when adding a suffix (with the exception of a few orthographic rules) means that students will understand why the word is spelled the way it is and will help them internalize the spelling pattern.

By introducing, modeling, and practicing these skills explicitly, it helps students learn how to spell words correctly which improves and reinforces all literacy skills.

Having extensive knowledge of child development, a reading instructor will understand when to correct spelling and when to allow children to rely on inventive spelling that is based on their own internalized understanding of phonemes and graphemes. This allows the instructor to teach the skills that students are ready for and not skills that are above their developmental spelling level. Just like in reading, in spelling it is “not the age, it’s the stage.” Students should not be pushed to memorize spelling patterns they are not ready for because it will ultimately cause much frustration.

An effective program integrates a multi-sensory approach to spelling according to the Structured Literacy framework. Students are engaged in looking, listening, repeating, segmenting, naming, and writing spelling patterns. Words are also integrated into phrases, sentences, and paragraphs to promote and develop further understanding. Research has shown this to be the most effective way to teach spelling and to integrate it into reading and overall literacy development (Birsch, 2005).

Spelling and writing are integral parts of literacy instruction and must be included systematically and explicitly in all literacy programs, especially those designed for students with dyslexia and other reading difficulties. While one may think direct and explicit spelling instruction is a distraction from content writing, it actually enhances it by empowering students to use a wider and more sophisticated vocabulary to describe their story rather than choose words that are easier to spell. If your child struggles with spelling, it is not a problem that will simply fix itself and will likely lead to other literacy difficulties down the road.

The important take away is that our English language spelling system is logical, makes sense, and is critical to reading and writing. Approximately 87% of English words are reliable to read and spell (Hanna et al., 1966) once the orthographic patterns have been mastered. However, for the novice or struggling speller, in order for the system to make sense it may take a Structured Literacy expert to help your child navigate the nuances of the English language.


About the Blogger

Timmie_MurphyGuest blogger Timmie Murphy is the founder and managing member of RW&C, LLC; an online traditional reading intervention clinic specializing in Structured Literacy methodology. While Timmie realizes the limitations of helping every struggling reader; she is dedicated to helping one family at a time and can honestly say: “I made a difference to that one.”


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!
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#SRT18 Home Edition Winners
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September 25, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

Reading over the summer is crucial in ensuring that students succeed in the next school year. To avoid the summer slide we’ve established a program to help students who learn differently keep up when school is out. A very big CONGRATULATIONS to all of the students who participated in this year’s Summer Reading Together (#SRT) program.

Within a three month period over 4,600 students actively read over 2 million pages for 2.3 million minutes. On average each student participant read 1,581 pages for 1,973 minutes...that’s like reading all of the Lord of the Rings, War and Peace, or Atlas Shrugged. Kudos to all of our students!!!!

To make this reading program a bit competitive we offered prizes to our most committed readers. We had a total of 8 winners - two monthly winners and two overall winners – in two separate categories: most pages read and most 20 min. + reading days.

Here are our winners:

Overall Summer Reading Together 2018 Winners

Most Pages Read:

Photo of Timothy

Timothy
Ponchatoula, LA
21,881 pages read
90 days reading 20 min. or more

20 min. + days reading:

Photo of Ondrej

Ondrej
Belgrade, MT
9,241 pages read
91 days reading 20 min. or more


August 2018 Winners

Most Pages Read:

Photo of Joseph

Joseph
Tulepo, MS
8,803 pages read
27 days reading 20 min. or more

20 min. + days reading:

SRT Games Logo

Thomas
Marietta, GA
4,698 pages read
31 days reading 20 min. or more


July 2018 Winners

Most Pages Read:

Photo of Kiernan

Kiernan
Alameda, CA
8,944 pages read
29 days reading 20 min. or more

20 min. + days reading:

SRT Games Logo

William
Concord, MA
2,170 pages read
31 days reading 20 min. or more


June 2018 Winners

Most Pages Read:

Photo of Timothy

Timothy
Pachatoula, LA
7,935 pages read
29 days reading 20 min. or more

20 min. + days reading:

SRT Games Logo

Isaiah
Chugiak, AK
6,815 pages read
30 days reading 20 min. or more


Great job! We look forward to the next Summer Reading Together games.


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. Learn More About Becoming a Learning Ally Member.

Read More about #SRT18 Home Edition Winners

Voice Over Volunteer with Dyslexia Shares her Talents
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September 24, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

Savannah Newton Head ShotLearning Ally volunteer, professional voice-over artist, and guest blogger Savannah Newton shares her story about growing up dyslexic and finding her abilities.


For me recording my very first audiobook meant the world to me. Something a lot of you may not know is that I am dyslexic. So, when the chance arrived to work with Learning Ally and to read about one of my favorite princesses came along, I said bring it on!

Not only did I have a chance to bring Rapunzel to life in a new and conventual way but also to give back to others who struggle with learning disabilities. Rapunzel Book CoverFor me, this was a chance to combine my passion with something that is right to my heart. You see as a child I struggled greatly with things like reading and reversals (expressly fractions.. they are still a nightmare!). Without my amazing mom and companies like Learning Ally, I would not be able to be who I am today. It is because of them that I am now an honors student and have the GPA that I do.

When I was a very small toddler, my parents actually thought I was reading at a young age. However, I just was memorizing the books by heart and then pretending to read. It has been a long road to realize that dyslexia is not a disability but an ability to see things a little bit differently than others do. It took a while to get to where I would even write on a board or read in public at all. Still to this day although my reading is better, I still struggle with spelling and reversing letters on words. People are not always the kindness people. Even today I still struggle with people who don’t always understand my challenges. For example, when I was making a card not too long ago, another student (in front of everyone) called the person who made the card "stupid." The explained how the drawing was great, but everyone would think the group was "stupid" too because of the miss spelling of the word pumpkin on my card. I have learned that people like that just don’t know and that’s ok because I know that because of my dyslexia I am strong, I am smart, and I am me. Dyslexia places me among a group of people who have been innovators of the world through their out of the box thinking such as Walt Disney, Sir Isaac Newton, and Steven Spielberg. By no means "stupid" people.

For dyslexics everywhere, please know there is nothing wrong with you. You are not stupid. You have an ability to see the world a little differently than most people. You think out of the box and be proud of that. If people say anything else, it is just because they don’t have the ability to see life that way and you have the power to make a difference just like past dyslexic influential trailblazers. It is because of their dyslexia that they accomplished the impossible. People told them otherwise, but they found that they were stronger than that and that they would change the world.

I am Savannah Newton.
I am Dyslexic; and,…
I have the ability to see the world a little differently…
and to make a change.
As Walt Disney once said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
And that is exactly what I want to do.


Are you ready to do the impossible?

I hope that you enjoy the journey with Rapunzel, Prince Benjamin and the friends they meet along the way that just might surprise that you take you on in this fun twist on a classic Rapunzel The One with All the Hair by Wendy Mass.

Until Next Time Stay Amazing,

Savannah (& Rapunzel)


Learning Ally is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that offers volunteer opportunities. Our volunteer nation has provided narration to our library of over 80,000 audiobooks and has helped students with a financial need, access services that help them succeed in school and in life by making a financial donation. Join the volunteer nation today!

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#GreatReadPBS and Audiobooks
Book cover image: Moby Dick

September 18, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is an eight-part series, hosted by PBS, that celebrates the power of reading. Luckily, our print-disabled friends can participate in the Great American Read using their Learning Ally membership and downloading these books to their account.

We have compiled a short-list of books that have been highlighted by The Great American Read and get you and/or your child to join in on the fun and be a part of a National event.  Add these books to your bookshelf and check out the Great American Read specific book's web page to learn more about the author and find out how these beloved books have become part of our American culture and way of life.


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Synopsis
Sparkling with mischief, jumping with youthful adventure, Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer is one of the most splendid re-creations of childhood in all of literature. It is a lighthearted romp, full of humor and warmth. It shares with its sequel, Huckleberry Finn, not only a set of unforgettable characters--Tom, Huck, Aunt Polly and others--but a profound understanding of humanity as well. The Great American Read - Tom Sawyer


Don Quixoteby Miguel de Cervantes

Synopsis
What begins as a middle-aged country gentleman absorbed with novels of chivalry deliberately evolves into a tale of purely imaginative knight-errantry in this highly influential work of the Spanish Golden Age. This first of modern novels was written in the experimental episodic form, allowing Don Quixote and his 'squire' Sancho Panza to go on quests that just as often as not land them in trouble or earn them the incredulity of those fully engaged in reality.  The Great American Read - Don Quixote


Anne of Green Gablesby L. M. Montgomery

Synopsis
A new edition of L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables in honor of the hundredth-year anniversary of the enduring classic. In addition to publishing Before Green Gables, we are issuing a special collectible edition of Anne of Green Gables, which will be a facsimile of the 1908 version and will feature the original cover art. Old and new fans alike will revel in this elegant keepsake of the timeless classic. The Great American Read - Anne of Green Gables


The Book Thiefby Markus Zusak

Synopsis
It's just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . . Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist-books. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul. The Great American Read - The Book Thief


Charlotte's Webby E.B. White

Synopsis
Charlotte's Web is the story of a little girl named Fern who loved a little pig named Wilbur—and of Wilbur's dear friend Charlotte A. Cavatica, a beautiful large grey spider who lived with Wilbur in the barn. With the help of Templeton, the rat who never did anything for anybody unless there was something in it for him, and by a wonderfully clever plan of her own, Charlotte saved the life of Wilbur, who by this time had grown up to quite a pig. How all this comes about is Mr. White's story. It is a story of the magic of childhood on the farm.  The Great American Read - Charlotte's Web


The Hunger Games ; 1by Suzanne Collins

Synopsis
A chilling tale of survival from the New York Times bestselling author. In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the other districts in line by forcing them to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight-to-the-death on live TV. One boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and sixteen are selected by lottery to play. The winner brings riches and favor tohis or her district. But that is nothing compared to what the Capitol wins: one more year of fearful compliance with its rule. The Great American Read - Hunger Games


To Kill a Mockingbirdby Harper Lee

Synopsis
The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic. Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos.  The Great American Read - To Kill a Mocking Bird


Little Womenby Louisa May Alcott

Synopsis
One of the most popular books ever written about childhood charmingly recounts the homelife of four sisters: literary-minded Jo March; Meg, the older sister who marries a young tutor; fashionable and artistic Amy; and gentle, musically inclined Beth. An unforgettable depiction of mid-19th century New England life. Abridged.  The Great American Read - Little Women


Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Synopsis
The book is sailor Ishmael's narrative of the obsessive quest of Ahab, captain of the whaling ship Pequod, for revenge on Moby Dick, the white whale that on the ship's previous voyage bit off Ahab's leg at the knee. A contribution to the literature of the American Renaissance, the work's genre classifications range from late Romantic to early Symbolist. Moby-Dick was published to mixed reviews, was a commercial failure, and was out of print at the time of the author's death in 1891.  The Great American Read - Moby Dick


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stoneby J.K. Rowling

Synopsis
For use in schools and libraries only. After 10 miserable years with his aunt and uncle, Harry Potter is invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Each book follows another year in Harry's education while more of his frightening destiny is revealed. The Great American Read - Harry Potter


A Game Of Thronesby George R. R. Martin

Synopsis
Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.  The Great American Read - Game of Thrones


Visit The Great Read website to see the full list of recommended books and to participate in the various activities they have planned for the fall.


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 374,000 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 #GreatReadPBS and Audiobooks

Why We Advocate for our Children with Dyslexia
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September 7, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

Excerpts from DyslexiaLand: A Field Guide for Parents of Children with Dyslexia by author Cheri Rae


DyslexiaLand Book CoverEach of us arrives in DyslexiaLand with a different set of experiences, different perspectives on politics, religion, and child-rearing but there is one overriding issue that unites us above all else: the desire and determination to do our best to help our children with dyslexia.

Once you know about dyslexia, it’s almost impossible to keep quiet about it! We who work so hard to help our dyslexic children get through school have such a strong sense of connection with others who do the same; we can strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger—who immediately feels like a friend—and talk for hours about it. Oh, how it helps to tell our stories and listen to others tell theirs, knowing we are not alone, and neither are our children.

We share our triumphs and compare our troubles, seeking safety, justice and a sense of peace that we’re on the right path as we make the long journey through DyslexiaLand. Along the way, no matter what our actual professions or areas of expertise, we develop new skills as we are called on to become advocates, assistive technology experts, behavioral professionals; book buyers, cheerleaders, community leaders, correspondents, counselors, curriculum specialists, detectives, diplomats, document and systems analysts, educational consultants, fact-checkers, financial managers, fund-raisers, grant-writers, homework helpers, legal-eagles, lobbyists, negotiators, peacemakers, persuasive speakers, political commentators, record-keepers, researchers, schedulers, social media mavens, socio-emotional assessors, teachers, test evaluators; tutors—and sometimes we’re magicians, motivators and miracle workers.

Parent Dyslexia HereosAll the while doing our best to keep clear heads, kind hearts, cheerful spirits and a sense of serenity as we raise happy, healthy families; maintain relationships outside the home and in the community, and hold onto our sanity and our jobs—even when we have to take too much time off to advocate for our children during school hours. Even when we have to keep our emotions in check and our opinions to ourselves—at least until we get home and let it all out in our safe place.

We take on these roles, develop our skills and work tirelessly to benefit the most precious people in our lives—our children, who depend on us to provide and care for them. Keep this purpose in mind at all times to prevent getting lost in DyslexiaLand. It’s not about us; it’s about creating more dyslexia-friendly experiences in our schools and communities and beyond.

And it’s about the 1 in 5 children who have an extraordinarily different way of learning, thinking and embracing this big, beautiful world just waiting for them to reach their full potential so they can make their mark on it.


Not a member yet? Become a member today and realize the difference that Learning Ally has on your child!

As a member your child will not only gain direct benefits from our Learning Ally Reading App, Link, parents are also a part of a supportive community of people who are invested in supporting students who struggle to learn. Together we can transform the lives of the over 10.4 million students who learn differently.

Our Learning Ally Reading App provides a multitude of ways for your struggling reader to spend more time comprehending the subjects they're reading, relieve them of having to decode printed words allowing them to become independent and successful students. Learning Ally also provides parents with resources, webinars, and peer mentoring providing support to the whole family.

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