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.


Terrie's Tips: Structured Literacy and Audiobooks

November 18, 2019 by Jhara Navalo

Terrie Noland

Terrie Noland, C.A.L.P, VP of Education Leadership and Learning, introduces Terrie's Tips, a monthly blog to help reading specialist and tutors support students with a reading deficit. This tip provides insight into how audiobooks fits into the schematic of a structured literacy program.

I get asked this question so often, "So tell me the number, tell me the percentage of time should be spent on structured literacy and the percentage of time on audio books?" What reading specialist, tutors, and educators need to think about is what is the goal you are trying to accomplish? 

In this video, Terrie shares her tips on finding the right balance between structured literacy and audiobooks.


About Learning Ally

LEARNING ALLY is a leading education solutions organization dedicated to transforming the lives of struggling learners. The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a proven multi-sensory reading accommodation for students with a reading deficit composed of high quality, human-read audiobooks, student-centric features and a suite of teacher resources to monitor and support student success. Used in more than 17,500 schools, empowering over 375,000 struggling readers annually, this essential solution bridges the gap between a student’s reading ability and their cognitive capability, empowering them to become engaged learners and reach their academic potential.

Learn More About Becoming a Learning Ally Member

Read More about Terrie's Tips: Structured Literacy and Audiobooks

Reading Champion: Dr. Richard Selznick
Dr. Selznick Head Shot

November 18, 2019 by Jhara Navalo

Every month, Learning Ally features one of our amazing Reading Champions - highlighting their efforts in supporting students who have a reading-based learning difference such as dyslexia. This month, we caught up with the Director of the Cooper Learning Center and author, Dr. Richard Selznick, who has referred over 300 students to use Learning Ally's Audiobook Solution, enabling them to read independently,  access grade-level content, and learn to their ability. 

Watch the video below to gain insight into why Dr. Selznick participates in the Reading Champion program!

 


About Dr. Selznick

Dr. Selznick is a licensed psychologist, nationally certified school psychologist, and the author of four books: What To Do About Dyslexia? 25 Essential Points for Parents; The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child; School Struggles: A Guide To Your Shut-Down Learner’s Success; and Dyslexia Screening: Essential Concepts for Schools & Parents. He consults with parents and act as a guide to help them navigate their child's educational landscape and make appropriate recommendations that will holistically satisfy the child's educational needs.

Dr. Selznick is one of Learning Ally's trusted partners, producing blogs for us to share with parents. In addition, he's been a featured speaker at our annual Spotlight on Dyslexia virtual conference. Please check out his blog "What to do about dyslexia? Maintain two column mindset" and website shutdownlearners.com or send him an email at rselznick615@gmail.com for more information.


About Learning Ally

LEARNING ALLY is a leading education solutions organization dedicated to transforming the lives of struggling learners. The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a proven multi-sensory reading accommodation for students with a reading deficit composed of high quality, human-read audiobooks, student-centric features and a suite of teacher resources to monitor and support student success. Used in more than 17,500 schools, empowering over 375,000 struggling readers annually, this essential solution bridges the gap between a student’s reading ability and their cognitive capability, empowering them to become engaged learners and reach their academic potential.

Learn More About Becoming a Learning Ally Member

Read More about Reading Champion: Dr. Richard Selznick

10 Authors Who Are Dyslexic
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October 24, 2019 by Jhara Navalo

Reading and writing for children who are dyslexic can be difficult but not impossible. Here are 10 dyslexic authors who managed to turn their learning difference into a gift, providing hope and the joy of reading for children just like them.

 

How Dyslexic Benny Becam a Star

About Author


Dog Man

About Author
The well-loved author of the Captain Underpants and Dog Man series doesn’t shy away from talking about his learning and attention issues. At school visits and book readings, Dav Pilkey is open about his own struggles with dyslexia and ADHD. He says that even when it was difficult for him, reading gave him superpowers. “I got the power of laughter, I got to travel to crazy new worlds where anything could happen, and my imagination—which is the greatest superpower of all—grew by leaps and bounds,” he says. “But one of the superpowers I am most grateful for receiving is the power of inspiration. These comics and illustrated stories inspired me to make my own comics and stories.”


Hank Zipzer

About Author
“Books terrified me,” Henry Winkler recalls of his entire school experience. “They made me nervous. Now I know you can travel to the bottom of the ocean or to outer space or anywhere in between without leaving your armchair and I'm so, so sorry I couldn't read when I was younger.” Diagnosed with dyslexia at age 31, Winkler started off as a successful actor. He became famous for playing “The Fonz” on Happy Days. He then went on to write the smash-hit series about Hank Zipzer, a boy with dyslexia, with coauthor Lin Oliver. To his readers—and to all kids with dyslexia—Winkler says, “Your grades do not define how brilliant you are. Good thinking and a good thought is why you are smart.”


Ninja Detectives

About Author
You may be surprised to hear that Octavia Spencer, who’s better known for being an Oscar-winning actress, is an author, too. She also has dyslexia. She published the first of two books in a series for middle-schoolers a few years ago. The Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective series is a set of mysteries. “I’m reading today because of Encyclopedia Brown,” Spencer says of the popular mystery books. Spencer remembers how scared she was in the first or second grade when she had to read aloud in class. “I was paralyzed with fear because I kept inverting words and dropping words. I didn’t want to be made to feel that I was not as smart as the other kids—because I know that I am a smart person.”


Cows for America

About Author
Carmen Agra Deedy fled Cuba as a child refugee in the 1960s and settled in a small town in Georgia with her family. As she learned to speak English, she struggled with reading and phonics. School soon became a painful experience. Growing up, she recalls, “I never wondered why I understood some people more clearly than others, why some words were more distinct—no more than I wondered what a revolution was.” She wouldn’t be diagnosed with dyslexia until nearly 30 years later. But by then she had fallen in love with the language of Shakespeare, thanks to her high school English teacher. Her love of children’s picture books came next, after the many visits she and her young kids made to the library.


The Red Necklace

About Author
This award-winning author of more than a dozen children’s books wasn’t always called Sally. She changed her name to Sally because her dyslexia made it hard for her to spell her name. Born Sarah, Gardner struggled with the “h” in her name. “My mother had a friend who was an actress called Sally who said, ‘Look, darling, the best thing to do is Sally because the s is like a snake, you have a little a and two long lines and a y to catch it all.’ And I thought, I can do that.” She did, and now her name is well-known for her incredible novels and fairy tales.


My Name is Brain Brian

About Author
It wasn’t until she was in her 40s that Jeanne Betancourt learned the name of the condition, dyslexia, that made spelling and reading so difficult for her as a child. Betancourt says having dyslexia helped her to become the author of more than 75 children’s books. “When I read or write, I hear every word in my head and I see things three-dimensionally. Hopefully, when people read my work, they pick up the rhythm of my writing and find it appealing—especially dyslexics, since I particularly want to make a connection with them.”


Chicken Sunday

About Author
Children’s author and illustrator Patricia Barber Polacco is a prolific writer, although she didn’t start her first book until the age of 41. She didn’t do well in school, and wasn’t able to read until the age of 14. Patricia suffered from undiagnosed dyslexia until a teacher recognized her disability. She recognized this great teacher in the book Thank You, Mr. Falker, which shares the story of what happened when he discovered her dyslexia.


Great Gatsby

About Author
As one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century, F. Scott Fitzgerald is best known for his novel, The Great Gatsby, as well as many short stories. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, F. Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have had a learning disability which was mostly likely dyslexia. It’s reported that he was kicked out of school at the age of 12 for not focusing or finishing his work, and he had a very hard time spelling, but he succeeded as a writer despite his disability.


Avi

Crispin

About Author
Avi is beloved for his middle grade reader historical fiction novels. With a half-century writing career, 50 books, two Newbery Honors, and a Newbery Medal, he has had a major impact on the world of fiction. But Avi’s writing hasn’t always been easy to deal with: his teachers complained of messy and careless writing. His sloppy work was due to dyslexia, and Avi had to take on special tutoring sessions after failing out of his first high school. It was during these tutoring sessions that Avi was inspired to become a writer, and he developed a love of reading and writing voraciously.


About Learning Ally

LEARNING ALLY is a leading education solutions organization dedicated to transforming the lives of struggling learners. The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a proven multi-sensory reading accommodation for students with a reading deficit composed of high quality, human-read audiobooks, student-centric features and a suite of teacher resources to monitor and support student success. Used in more than 17,500 schools, empowering over 375,000 struggling readers annually, this essential solution bridges the gap between a student’s reading ability and their cognitive capability, empowering them to become engaged learners and reach their academic potential.

Learn More About Becoming a Learning Ally Member

Read More about 10 Authors Who Are Dyslexic

Learning Ally Audiobooks Nominated for 2019 SOVAS Award
Sovas award

October 16, 2019 by Jhara Navalo

Sovas AwardWhere can you find some of the best voiceover artists? (Learning Ally! Learning Ally!) You’ve got that right! Learning Ally is thrilled to announce that two of our audiobooks have been nominated by the The Society of Voice Arts and Sciences (SOVAS) for Best Voice Over Audiobook Narration! Our volunteer-narrated-books, Unbound and March Book Three from the March Trilogy, have received this prestigious honor and we are grateful to our amazingly talented voiceover community for their hard work and dedication. 

Drum roll please...

Unbound Voice Over Narrator Clyla DestinyIn the category of Best Voiceover Audiobook Narration- Teens, Learning Ally volunteer Clyla Destiny has been nominated for her powerful work on Unbound by Ann E. Burg. Clyla showcases her background in spoken-word poetry in this unforgettable story of escaped enslaved people fighting for survival. And wait for it....it’s her first audiobook! Way to go Clyla!

Voice Over Professional Dave Fennoy MarchIn the category of Best Voiceover Audiobook Narration- History, Learning Ally volunteer Dave Fennoy has been nominated for his work on March Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. Dave is a well-known industry powerhouse, with extensive experience in commercials, documentaries, and especially video games. His vast talent is put to work on this amazing project, as he brings Lewis's searing memoir of the fight for Civil Rights to life in an extraordinarily vivid way. We are excited to have this celebrity in our volunteer voiceover community at Learning Ally.

Not only would we like to congratulate Clyla & Dave on their amazing nominations, but we would also like to congratulate our entire Learning Ally Production team! Thank you to our volunteers Susan Smith and John Arnott, as well as staff members Michael Kinsey, Alexis Bourbeau, and Kevin Ziegler! Go team!

Award winners will be announced on Sunday, November 17th during the Voice Arts® Awards Gala at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, CA. Get out your fancy dresses, Learning Ally will see you on the red carpet!


About Learning Ally

LEARNING ALLY is a leading education solutions organization dedicated to transforming the lives of struggling learners. The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a proven multi-sensory reading accommodation for students with a reading deficit composed of high quality, human-read audiobooks, student-centric features and a suite of teacher resources to monitor and support student success. Used in more than 17,500 schools, empowering over 375,000 struggling readers annually, this essential solution bridges the gap between a student’s reading ability and their cognitive capability, empowering them to become engaged learners and reach their academic potential.

Learn More About Becoming a Learning Ally Member

Read More about Learning Ally Audiobooks Nominated for 2019 SOVAS Award

10 Books Featuring Characters with Dyslexia or a Learning Difference
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

October 10, 2019 by Jhara Navalo

Fostering a love of reading with students who have a learning difference like dyslexia is difficult for parents and teachers. It's important for students to have books where they can identify with the characters so they can fully engage with the reading material and more easily comprehend the book’s main ideas, plots, setting, conflicts, and resolutions. The most compelling characters in a book are often the ones that remind us of ourselves; we can share and empathize with their weaknesses and setbacks, as well as celebrating and cheering on the character’s gains and achievements. Help your student develop a love for reading by offering them these titles (appropriate for all grade levels) and discussing the various elements of the books to see your students blossom!

 


The Curious Incident

Synopsis
Narrated by a 15-year-old autistic savant obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, this dazzling novel weaves together an old-fashioned mystery, a contemporary coming-of-age story, and a fascinating excursion into a mind incapable of processing emotions.


Fish in a Tree

Synopsis
The author of the beloved One for the Murphys gives readers an emotionally-charged, uplifting novel that will speak to anyone who’s ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn’t fit in. “Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.” Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions. She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.


The Lightning Thief

Synopsis
Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse-Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy's mom finds out, she knows it's time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he'll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends -- one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena -- Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.


Out of my mind

Synopsis
Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her, and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom—the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it…somehow. In this breakthrough story from multiple Coretta Scott King Award-winner Sharon Draper—reminiscent of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly—readers will come to meet a brilliant mind and a brave spirit, and remember that every voice is important.


House Rules

Synopsis
The astonishing novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult about a young boy with autism falsely accused of murder. When your son can't look you in the eye...does that mean he's guilty? Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger's syndrome. He's hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject--forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he's always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he's usually right. But when Jacob's small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob's behaviors are hallmark Asperger's, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob's mother, Emma, it's a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it's another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob. And over this small family, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?


London Eye Mystery

Synopsis
Ted and Kat watched their cousin Salim board the London Eye. But after half an hour it landed and everyone trooped off–except Salim. Where could he have gone? How on earth could he have disappeared into thin air? Ted and his older sister, Kat, become sleuthing partners, since the police are having no luck. Despite their prickly relationship, they overcome their differences to follow a trail of clues across London in a desperate bid to find their cousin. And ultimately it comes down to Ted, whose brain works in its own very unique way, to find the key to the mystery. This is an unput-downable spine-tingling thriller–a race against time.


Counting to D

Synopsis
The kids at Sam's school never knew if they should make fun of her for being too smart or too dumb. That's what it means to be dyslexic, smart, and illiterate. Sam is sick of it. So when her mom gets a job in a faraway city, Sam decides not to tell anyone about her little illiteracy problem. Without her paradox of a reputation, she falls in with a new group of highly competitive friends who call themselves the Brain Trust. When she meets Nate, her charming valedictorian lab partner, she declares her new reality perfect. But in order to keep it that way, she has to keep her learning disability a secret. The books are stacked against her and so are the lies. Sam's got to get the grades, get the guy, and get it straight-without being able to read.


Whittington

Synopsis
Whittington is a roughneck Tom who arrives one day at a barn full of rescued animals and asks for a place there. He spins for the animals-- as well as for Ben and Abby, the kids whose grandfather does the rescuing-- a yarn about his ancestor, the nameless cat who brought Dick Whittington to the heights of wealth and power in 16th-century England. This is an unforgettable tale about the healing, transcendent power of storytelling, and how learning to read saves one little boy.


Six of Crows

Synopsis
A #1 New York Times bestseller Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price--and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone... A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction--if they don't kill each other first.


May B.

Synopsis
May is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead-just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May's memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she's determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose's fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.


Niagara Falls or Does it

Synopsis
For Hank, fourth grade does not start out on the right foot. First of all, he gets called to the principal's office on the very first day of school. Then the first assignment his teacher gives him is to write five paragraphs on \"What You Did This Summer.\" Hank is terrified-writing one good sentence is hard for him, so how in the world is he going to write five whole paragraphs? Hank comes up with a plan: instead of writing what he did on vacation, he'll show what he did. But when Hank's \"living essay\" becomes a living disaster, he finds himself in detention. Strangely enough, however, detention ends up becoming a turning point in his life.


Gone

Synopsis
In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. Gone.
Everyone except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not a single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Gone, too, are the phones, internet, and television. There is no way to get help. Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents - unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers that grow stronger by the day. It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen and war is imminent. The first in a breathtaking saga about teens battling each other and their darkest selves, gone is a page-turning thriller that will make you look at the world in a whole new way.


The Lost Hero

Synopsis
Rick Riordan, the best-selling author of the Percy Jackson series, pumps up the action and suspense in The Lost Hero, the first book in The Heroes of Olympus series. Fans of demi-gods, prophesies, and quests will be left breathless--and panting for Book Two.


About Learning Ally

LEARNING ALLY is a leading education solutions organization dedicated to transforming the lives of struggling learners. The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a proven multi-sensory reading accommodation for students with a reading deficit composed of high quality, human-read audiobooks, student-centric features and a suite of teacher resources to monitor and support student success. Used in more than 17,500 schools, empowering over 375,000 struggling readers annually, this essential solution bridges the gap between a student’s reading ability and their cognitive capability, empowering them to become engaged learners and reach their academic potential.

Learn More About Becoming a Learning Ally Member

 
Read More about 10 Books Featuring Characters with Dyslexia or a Learning Difference