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.


Celebrating Black History
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February 1, 2023 by Learning Ally

Black history, and the accomplishments and contributions of black pioneers, authors, and key historical figures, play an important role in our society, to American culture, and to civil rights and social justice. As your schools, families and communities celebrate Black History Month, we’re highlighting compelling titles in the Learning Ally audiobook library that will engage every reader and interest.  For each grade span, click to find a .pdf list of suggested book titles on black history and social justice. 

ElementaryA screenshot of Learning Ally's website and recommendations for audiobooks on black history

Middle

High School 

Social Justice 

Learn about new people, places and events that make a difference in our lives. Read popular novels to enrich your cultural heritage. Find titles to broaden perspectives.

Share your favorite black author, story, or suggest a title in the comments section below. We’ll share them with the schools and teachers that rely on Learning Ally’s awesome audiobook library for learning and growing knowledge.   

Not a member of Learning Ally yet?

It’s easy to become a member of Learning Ally, and gain access to tens of thousands of audiobooks. An annual household membership will provide a family of up to four qualified students unlimited access to our library and app specifically designed for students who learn differently. Pay $99 with promo code HOME99. This is a $36 discount with access to our dyslexia screener tool.

 

 

 

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Learning About The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
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January 15, 2023 by Learning Ally

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a remarkable, inspiring minister and leader who positively changed the course of history in our nation. In the second half of the 20th century, racial tensions rose in the United States as African Americans began to challenge unjust laws that supported discrimination and segregation. Under Dr. King's leadership and activism, he led a nonviolent movement that resulted in the expansion of social justice in our nation. His teachings have had a lasting impact on people around the world to embrace citizenship and acts of service to improve our communities, neighborhoods, schools, children, education, and human endeavors for equality.  

At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.

To read more about Dr. King and his legacy, the Learning Ally audiobook library has a nice selection of titles for all ages. Read about his famous speech, his childhood, and the activities he did to raise civil rights and inspire all of us. 

 

Martin's Big Words : The Life Of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport 

Ages 0-4

Brings his life and the profound nature of his message to young children through his own words. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most influential and gifted speakers of all time.

 

 

 

 

Book Cover with Face of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - a Place to LandA Place To Land: Martin Luther King Jr. And The Speech That Inspired A Nation
by Barry Wittenstein and Jerry Pinkney

Ages 2-5

Much has been written about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 1963 March on Washington. But there's little on his legendary speech and how he came to write it. 

 

 

 

 

Book Cover of Dr. Martin Luther King with his face standing in Washington DC Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr., Illustrated by Bonnie Bader, Elizabeth Wolf, and Nancy Harrison 

Ages 3-7

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was only 25 when he helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott and was soon organizing black people across the country in support of the right to vote, desegregation, and other basic civil rights. Maintaining nonviolent and peaceful tactics even when his life was threatened, King was also an advocate for the poor and spoke out against racial and economic injustice.

 

 

 

 

A Picture Book of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Picture Book of MLK, Jr. by David A. Adler and Robert Casilla (Illustrator) 

The story of the civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Ages 4-8

  

 

 

Book Cover of MLK March on Washington with Dr. King smiling and holding out his hand wavingMartin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington

On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 people came to the nation's capital. They came by plane, by bus, by car--even on roller-skates--to speak out against segregation and to demand equal rights for everyone. 

Ages 6-8








How can you ensure your child is a comprehensive reader? Fuel their passions!

There’s never a better time to make reading a priority in your home. Start a family literacy night. Read to each other. Create a reader’s theater. Celebrate the joy of reading every day!  It’s easy to become a member of Learning Ally, and browse tens of thousands of audiobooks by title or personal interests, ISB number, author, grade, Lexile level, or subject. There are titles for all ages. 

Check out all of Learning Ally’s audiobook library for “Good Read” selections. 

An annual membership can provide your family with up to four qualified students unlimited access to our library and app specially designed for students who learn differently.

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Celebrating Fourth Graders…Making Sure Reading Comprehension Is In Their Backpack
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January 9, 2023 by Learning Ally

January 9th is National Fourth Graders Day in America. 

Why do we celebrate fourth graders? Because these kiddos are about to embark on a very different learning journey. A school day filled with practicum in math, reading, writing, social studies, science, art, music, language, and fitness. That’s a lot of information to absorb. There are new schedules to follow, various teachers to work with, and new friends, foes, and activities. 

Fourth grade is a critical junction for early learners, especially for those who have been identified with learning disabilities, like dyslexia. Students begin to study more complex materials, and learn higher vocabulary words. They must keep the academic pace of learning going to build a growth mindset. 

Students with reading deficits may be given an IEP or 504 plan that enables them to receive extra support and resources, like audiobooks, to ensure equitable access to curriculum, popular titles, and culturally-relevant books they can identify with. You can learn more about eligibility and signs of dyslexia with Learning Ally’s Dyslexia Screening Tool. 

As their learning environment changes, so does their self-awareness. Children begin to recognize who they are as learners, how they behave in social situations, and who their teachers are. They have higher communication skills – more questions, opinions, and passions. They carry likes and dislikes, emotions, and feelings. They have developed their imaginations, creativity, and personal interests. They carry diversity, cultures, traditions, and self-identities

Ideally, they have been equipped with the essential early learning reading skills necessary to be a good learner. Comprehension is the key to the gateway of all future learning. With the right PreK-3 evidence-based reading preparation, grounded in the science of reading and brain-based learning, and with solid skills in phonemic awareness, decoding, vocabulary, background knowledge that has been intertwined with rich language-based literacy experiences, these fourth graders are “energizer bunnies” ready to tackle fourth grade. 

How can you ensure your child is a comprehensive reader? Fuel their passions!

There’s never a better time to make reading a priority in your home. Start a family literacy night. Read to each other. Create a reader’s theater. Celebrate the joy of reading every day! It’s easy to become a member of Learning Ally, and browse tens of thousands of audiobooks by title or personal interests, ISB number, author, grade, Lexile level, or subject. There’s titles for all ages, and check out Learning Ally’s audiobook library for “Good Read” selections. An annual membership can provide your family with up to four qualified students unlimited access to our library and app specially designed for students who learn differently.

Additional Resources 

Edutopia has listed the 25 Essential Middle School Reads from the last decade. 

You can also preview winners of the 2022 “Every Child a Reader” program by the Children’s Book Council

A good foundation in early reading skills and whole child literacy is critical for fourth graders. Keep on reading!

Book Cover of Unspeakable - The Tulsa Race Massacre

 

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre, by Carole Boston Weatherford; illus. by Floyd Cooper, (Lerner Publishing) 








Book Cover - Hank Zipzer

Niagara Falls Or Does It? By Hank Zipzer: Book 1 and by Henry Winkler

 


 

 

 

 

George's Marvelous Medicine by Ronald Dahl Image for George's Marvelous Medicine

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 Book Dover Image for Stone Fox - wolves running in the forest

Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner

 

 

 
 
 
 
 Image for Flat Stanley : His Original Adventures

Flat Stanley: His Original Adventures - Flat Stanley Series; Book 1 by Jeff Brown

 

 

 

 
 
P.S. On our K-12 blog, read Dr. Peggy Semingson’s article, “The Fourth Grade Slump, Understanding the Big Picture About the Science of Teaching Reading.” 
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Strategies to Boost Your Child's Reading Fluency
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December 1, 2022 by Learning Ally

By: Guest Author: Andrea Gibbs

Parents reading to their childReading fluency is essential for learning. Fluency in reading allows children to approach text with open minds and understand what they are reading. For some children, learning to read fluently will take the form of being able to read quietly on their own. For others, reading fluency must be developed using various tools and interventions. To boost your child's reading fluency, here are a few strategies that can engage your child in a variety of activities.

Model Good Fluency In Reading

Show them how to read with fluency. Set aside time each day to practice reading out loud to your child. It will not only give them insight into how fluent readers read, but it will give them opportunities to see what fluent reading looks like. This type of modeling is one of the most powerful ways to begin building fluency in your child, and since they probably see it as fun and engaging, they will be more likely to continue working on their reading skills on their own.

Guide Your Child To Track Words

When learning a language, it can be hard to understand where one word ends and the next word starts when listening to a fluent conversation. It can be especially true for children trying to follow along during story time. Tracking or running your finger under words as you read them can be helpful in this situation. You can track while reading to your child or ask them to track when they are reading aloud. When little ones are first learning to read, it is crucial for them to touch each word in order to understand the correspondence between spoken and written language. It is a strategy to help them improve. With time, they will be able to read bigger phrases without having to read each word separately. Equip your little one with plastic “figure fingers,” like small puppets to make tracking words more fun!

Emphasize Sight Words

You may notice that your little one struggles with words like “house” or “walk.” These are sight words. Sight words are common words that are not decodable by sounding them out phonetically. They often overlap with high-frequency words, which are those that frequently appear in children's text. If your child memorizes what these words look like and can recognize them instantly, they won't have to waste reading time trying to sound them out. You can turn teaching sight words into a fun game: Spell the sight words out with magnetic letters, write them on a piece of paper, or get a little crazy and splat the right word with a feather duster or fly swatter when you say it. It helps practice memorizing and gives a sense of accomplishment.

Bring In A Friendly Audience

Have your child read aloud to a favorite stuffed animal or a family member. It will encourage them to read fluently without fearing the consequences of making mistakes. You can also have them read their favorite story to pictures hanging on the wall or buy them a light-up book (for reading at bedtime). This way, they not only get familiar with reading aloud, but they will also be less inhibited. It is a wonderful way for your little one to develop self-confidence and get used to speaking and reading out loud, which is important for independent and effective communication in the future.

Enroll Children In Preschools

While beginning reading fluency is first nurtured at home, it is also fostered at school. It can be helpful for children to have a more formal education. There are many preschools that cater to developing literacy of young minds by providing specialized one-on-one attention and different activities geared toward specific literacy goals. Look for preschools that use products that supplement literacy curriculum, like Learning Ally's PreK-2 reading program, Excite Reading, which helps instructors and/or teachers who work in preschools and other early childhood education facilities to teach preschoolers and young readers to read more fluently, and comprehend what they read.

About Author  

Andrea Gibbs is a blog contributor at Montessori Academy. She is dedicated to helping parents with the ins and outs of parenting children within the Montessori tradition. When she isn't writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and dog, Max.

About Learning Ally   

Learning Ally is a leading education nonprofit dedicated to equipping educators with proven solutions that help new and struggling learners reach their potential. Our range of literacy-focused offerings for students in Pre-K to 12th grade and catalog of professional learning allows us to support more than two million students across the United States.

Learning Ally’s Audiobook Solution now serves more than 450,000 students in Grades 3-12. 

The nonprofit hosts two thriving educator and parent communities. 

We invite you to join us in our mission to ensure literacy for all children.  

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Top 10 Tips for Parents of Students with #Dyslexia
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August 8, 2022 by Learning Ally

As a mother of two, Allison Peck has worn many hats. When her oldest child was diagnosed with dyslexia, her career path took a sharp turn. Now, Peck is a licensed dyslexia specialist in the state of Texas, a certified academic language therapist, and a structured literacy dyslexia specialist.

As both a parent and a specialist, Peck brings a uniquely personal perspective to her field. This year, she shared her experience with the Learning Ally community at our digital conference “Spotlight on Dyslexia” (#SPOD22). “My goal is to share insights and resources that I found invaluable in my journey as an educator and a mom”.

Here are the top 10 tips she shared with us:
 

  1. Look For Early Indicators

    It’s a common misconception that dyslexia cannot be diagnosed until students reach higher levels of primary education. In reality, indicators of dyslexia can be identified in students as young as pre-school age.

    Peck recounts speaking to her son's preschool teacher. The teacher told her that her son was having noticeable difficulty learning and recalling the letter sounds.

    Identifying these signs as early as possible can help save students from significant frustration as they get older. You can check out the 2021 Texas Dyslexia Handbook for age-appropriate indicators of dyslexia.
  2. Explore Your Family History

    Dyslexia is a neurological disability. It’s something a student is born with. But many people don’t realize that dyslexia is also genetic.

    Peck demonstrated this in her presentation by sharing her family tree. Going as far back as her husband's grandfather, she showed how dyslexia had likely been present in the family for generations. If there is a history of dyslexia in your family, it is important to consider that as you watch your child’s progress.

    “Maybe they don’t have a name for it” she adds. “But if you ask questions… actually there was an uncle who struggled with reading”.
  3. Do Your Research

    If your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia, it’s important to do research so you can best understand their experience. You’ll want to become your child’s biggest advocate, so “become the resident expert in your community” says Peck.

    Dr. Sally Shaywitz’s book “Overcoming Dyslexia” is a great place to start, Peck recommends. You can also equip yourself with fact sheets from the International Dyslexia Association.

    “But be warned of quick fixes” Peck cautions. More specifically, she warns against any intervention that claims to treat dyslexia in the absence of print. This means things like special fonts or colored lenses. “You have to arm yourself with good information,” says Peck.
  4. Seek out Testing and Diagnosis

    Getting a dyslexia diagnosis can feel like a big “to do”. There are many different types of assessments. Peck even refers to it as a “labyrinth of testing”.

    But running assessments is an important way to understand the unique challenges of your student. “Testing is a roadmap that shows your child’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Peck. Having this information can help you prioritize what to work on.
  5. Recognize Good Remediation

    There are many ways to approach dyslexia remediation. If your school system is able to provide services for your student, that’s great news. But it’s important to make sure your child is receiving quality instruction.

    When analyzing the quality of your child's program, it’s important to ask:
    • Is it evidence-based?
    • Is it taught by an appropriately trained instructor?
    • Is the instruction implemented with fidelity?
    • Are the instructors monitoring your child’s progress?
    • Is it systemic and cumulative


    Most importantly, the instruction should be multi-sensory. For students who are struggling with reading, engaging their other senses will help them connect better to the material. What’s more, multi-sensory instruction will help to reduce frustration and make learning more enjoyable.
     
  6. Focus On The Present

    The needs of each student as well as the resources available to them may vary greatly from case to case. It’s important to dispel any regret or guilt when advocating for your child. You will always think of what more you could’ve done. But “don’t look back; keep looking forward” says Peck, encouragingly.

    “Dyslexia is a disability of privilege” she acknowledges. “Private therapists are expensive. That’s why I ended up becoming a therapist. I went and took the classes cause it was cheaper than me paying a therapist to work with my child”.

    But don’t worry. You don’t have to become a therapist to best serve your child. Just focus on what resources are available to you and re-assess what’s working every semester. If you can, become an advocate in your school system so you can help build a community of support.
  7. Know Your Accommodations

    When it comes to additional accommodations for students with dyslexia, there is an overwhelming amount of creative solutions to try with your child. Peck recommends trying a few different accommodations every semester to evaluate what works.

    “Prioritize two or three,” she says. “And teach your student to advocate for themselves”. Peck highlights that while you are there for your child, it’s equally important that they know what accommodations they are owed. Help your child to feel comfortable speaking up for themselves in the classroom.
  8. Use Technology Appropriately

    Lots of accommodations for dyslexia come in the form of new technologies. Learning Ally is a great example of a tech-based solution for students who struggle with reading. The audiobooks and highlighted text on Learning Ally makes for a great reading experience.

    Peck also recommends programs like Dragon Speech, a speech-to-text software, and grammarly, which can be useful for dyslexic students when writing essays. The key, according to Peck, is to give your students time to practice these technologies. “My child really liked dragon speech… but in order to make it effective, he probably spent about a month practicing it”.
  9. Talk About strengths and Weaknesses

    “Remind your student that it’s okay to have weaknesses,” says Peck. Everyone has them. And everyone has strengths as well. When working with dyslexic students, Peck finds that “they’re all very cognizant that reading is a weakness”, so it’s important not to sweep that feeling under the rug.

    We have to normalize weakness, she explains. We all have different things we’re good at, “but our students with dyslexia need to be reminded” says Peck.

    Which leads to her final tip:
  10. Allow Space for Students to Pursue Other Passions

    “You have to think of your child as a whole child” reminds Peck. Students with dyslexia spend all day in school struggling. It’s important for them to experience things they can excel at. It’s important to build their confidence. School is a long day, and it’s not fun for dyslexic students. “Don’t take them out of hockey because they’re taking too long on their homework”. The best thing you can do is empower your child.

For more resources, as well as our full catalog of digital books, become a member and your child will access the only app specifically designed for students who struggle with reading.

By Michael Manzi

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