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.


#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.

Read More about Why We Advocate for our Children with Dyslexia

Parent Empowerment Zone: Advocacy is Essential
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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 CoverChildren with dyslexia who attend most public schools are square pegs forced into round holes. A one-size-fits-all, standardized approach doesn’t work for them. It wastes potential and ruins lives in the futile process of forcing them to conform to a public education system that hasn’t been built for the way they think, learn, and express themselves.

Longtime dyslexia advocates agree: School officials are not likely to tell parents what they need to know in order to help their dyslexic children. Therefore parents must adopt a strategy to get optimal assistance and learn to advocate to acquire these services.

When parents become educated about dyslexia, they are more likely to speak up, and to seek out and acquire the specialized help their children need. Unfortunately, far too often that parental education takes place after months, or more likely, years of false hopes and empty reassurances that everything will be fine—when clearly it is not.

No easy options are available for parents in search of a quality education for their child with dyslexia. A lucky few have access to public schools with enlightened leadership that have programs in place to teach students with dyslexia in the way they learn. An increasing number are turning to a variety of home-school methods and programs. Parents able to afford the high tuition can send their children to private schools designed for students with dyslexia. More affordable, but still costly, options for parents are intensive programs and both short-term and long-term specialized tutoring.

Unless parents opt for private school or home-schooling, they need to commit to hands-on management of their child’s public school education. In order to do so, parents must learn to become effective advocates. For those who may have learning differences or language barriers of their own, advocacy may not come easily.

Best advice for parents who advocate for their child is the same advice offered students:

Parent Dyslexia HereosGo to school: Learn what you don’t know.
Stay in school: Learn what you need to know.
Do your homework: Research, do the busywork, turn your papers in on time,
Work together: Figure out who you need to know, and how to work with them; develop a network of support.
Timing is everything: Know the school calendar, learn who you need to meet when for what reason.
Know the law: Research and understand the legal requirements that schools must follow to address the needs of dyslexic students.

 


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.

Read More about Parent Empowerment Zone: Advocacy is Essential

Back to School Ready! Learning Ally Reading App, Link
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August 27, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

Child Enjoying AudiobookWe can help your child read better and get through their homework independently with access to the books they want and need to read. Learning Ally transforms the lives of over 375,000 struggling learners annually with our educational solution.  With a Learning Ally membership, you and your family can access our educational tools and a library of over 80,000 human-narrated audiobooks (literature and text-books) year-round for the low price of $135.

Learning Ally's reading app, Link, delivers an unparalleled educational experience that will have your child reading independently, actively participating in the classroom, and understanding the content they are reading.  With your membership, you will also be part of a community of parents - just like you - to help you manage the challenges of a learning difference. 

Learning Ally's Reading App, Link supports students success in multiple ways


Voice to Text FeatureVoice-To-Text

 

Our human-read audiobooks support struggling readers by making a story come to life.  As your student reads along our educational solution highlights the words on a page supporting students ability to recognize words in the future, aids in comprehension of the material and allows them to better absorb the content that they're reading.
 


 

AnnotationsAnnotation

Highlight a section of a book on a specific page, adding & saving notes. You can view and compile all or your notes to help recall important dates, characters, historical references, quotes, and other notable text in a novel or textbook.  Annotating can help your child when doing a book report and providing study notes for that important upcoming test.
 

 
 

In App DictionaryLink's In-App Dictionary

 

Difficult words are now defined right in the app while your child is reading. They can tap on a word and the definition of the word will be revealed allowing them to save time and provide a continuous reading experience. Your child can also create a vocabulary list of words to review before a big test. 
 


 

Sharing

In App DictionaryWith our sharing functionality, your child can compile all of their notes, quotes, and vocabulary lists and share them with a family member, teacher, and or friend. Your child can participate and work in a more collaborative setting with their peers and bring value to any project by sharing their findings within a novel or textbook. That vocabulary list of difficult or sight words your child annotated can now be shared and printed to create flashcards or a study sheet.  Using the Learning Ally reading app can truly transform the lives of a student.

 

 


Customization and Preferences

Customization and PreferencesNow your child has the power to increase or decrease the size of the font, the spacing between the letter and lines, or the text color - just to name a few options - maximizing your child's reading experience.

Change the highlight color to help motivate your child to read more. Adjust the spacing and sizes of the typography to support your child's reading stamina and slowing down the narration speed can support your child while they decode to get through to completing a lengthy novel - something we all enjoy celebrating.
 


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.

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

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. 
 

Read More about Back to School Ready! Learning Ally Reading App, Link

Great Start Audiobooks Grades 9-12
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August 23, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

Our volunteers, who are subject matter experts and voice-over artist, spend hours recording our audiobooks to secure the right for all students to learn and out of their love for reading and education. It's the human-narration of our audiobooks that provides an added advantage to our members. Here at Learning Ally we use terms like prosody and fluency to discuss a struggling reader's need to hear tone, pitch, stress, and timing to support content absorption and ensure that your child is not just reading but also learning. 

Here's a list of audiobooks that we recommend for 9-12 grade level readers to help you get started with your Learning Ally membership have been newly recorded and added to our library.  Enjoy!

 

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

Lexile Level: 750L

Synopsis
No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he's got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends—true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. But not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is beating up on “greasers” like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect—until the night someone takes things too far.


 


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Lexile:870L

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.


 

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Lexile: 1170L
Synopsis
George Orwell's timeless and timely allegorical novel--a scathing satire on a downtrodden society's blind march towards totalitarianism. "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned--a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.


 

Divergent Trilogy ; Book 1 by Veronica Roth

Lexile: HL700L
Synopsis
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue-Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is - she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are - and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves... or it might destroy her. Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series - dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.


 

1984 : A Novel by George Orwell

Lexile Level: 950L
Synopsis
Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, his dystopian vision of a government that will do anything to control the narrative is timelier than ever... “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” Winston Smith toes the Party line, rewriting history to satisfy the demands of the Ministry of Truth. With each lie he writes, Winston grows to hate the Party that seeks power for its own sake and persecutes those who dare to commit thoughtcrimes. But as he starts to think for himself, Winston can’t escape the fact that Big Brother is always watching... A startling and haunting vision of the world, 1984 is so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the influence of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions—a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.


 

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Lexile: 830L
Synopsis
The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.


 

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

Lexile: 870L

Synopsis
An historic literary event: the publication of a newly discovered novel, the earliest known work from Harper Lee, the beloved, bestselling author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014. Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch—Scout—struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.


 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Lexile: 1010L
Synopsis
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.


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 240,000 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 Great Start Audiobooks Grades 9-12