Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement


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.

Holiday Season Audiobook Recommendations

November 17, 2021 by Jhara Navalo

With over 80,000 human narrated audiobooks on the only app specifically designed for struggling readers, you can easily find the books you need and want to read. We hope you take some time during the holidays to read with someone you love! If you’re looking for inspiration, here are a few audiobook recommendations and book trailers from our audiobook library. Please note full access to the audiobook library is reserved for Learning Ally members. Learn more about membership at LearningAlly.org/join.


Roald Dahl
Grades 6-8 


George Washington

Watch Book Trailer

What Was The First Thanksgiving

by Joan Holub
Grades 5-7


Spy School Secret Service

Watch Book Trailer

Frozen Storybook Collection

by Disney Book Group
Grades 0-3

Malice Toward None


The Frozen Storybook Collection, featuring eighteen stories is a must-have for any Frozen fan. This is a great compilation that includes stories from some of our favorite characters: little Elsa and Anna, Bulda the troll, Kristof, Olaf, Marshmallow, Oaken, etc.

Browse our Audiobooks and search for great audiobook selections.

About Learning Ally

Learning Ally's reading accommodation and audiobooks will help you level the learning field for students with reading deficits. Use the library to ensure that all students receive equitable access to grade-level text on their intellectual level, as well as to popular books and genres that interest them. Learn more about membership or if you are a school representative sign up for a demo to experience the satisfaction of seeing your emerging and early learners, as well as older students, improve their foundational reading skills, learning confidence, and academic potential.

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#Dyslexia Awareness Father & Daughter Tik Tok Fundraiser
Tik Tok Neurodivergent

October 20, 2021 by Jhara Navalo

Tik Tok Neurodivergent

11 year old Jaedyn is an avid user of Learning Ally, KC Johnston, her father states, “[Learning Ally] has been such a blessing and helps her manage her dyslexia.” KC is a professional audiobook narrator and dyslexic who recently produced a tik tok video with his daughter explaining to parents the beauty of having a neuro divergent child. They recorded the video in a way that compares her dyslexia to imperfect dice for dungeons and dragons.

Through the magic of social media, their video reached a custom dice maker that offered to make a set of dice for Jaedyn for free! She quickly responded that she recently purchased a new set of dice but is willing to have the new custom set sold and donate any proceeds to a charity that helps kids with dyslexia. This idea morphed into a Dyslexia Awareness Month fundraiser in support of educating, bringing awareness to and raising funds for students who learn differently.

Jaedyn selects Learning Ally as the beneficiary of her Dyslexia Awareness Month fundraiser!

So far KC Johnston and Jaedyn have partnered with 35+ dice makers who are donating their wares in support of building awareness for students who learn differently. KC Johnston and one of the dice makers are going to match the donations/auction proceeds of up to $500.00 each and he is paying for auction item shipping costs.

Tik Tok Chsarity Learning Ally

Auction Items

To bid or to donate please visit: https://go.rallyup.com/oddportal-learningally-auction

Learning Ally is a 501©(3) non profit organization that provides educational services to support students who struggle to read, educators, schools and communities. We are grateful to both KC and Jaedyn for their great idea and fundraising spirit. Our most vulnerable families will benefit from their efforts and your support - this is a great way to celebrate neuro divergence and dyslexia.

On behalf of KC Johnston and Jaedyn, we want to sign off,

Read to you next time!

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Understanding Learning Styles and Learning Differences
Different Learning Styles

October 20, 2021 by Jhara Navalo

According to the VARK system, developed by Fleming & Mills, there are four types of learning styles—visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing. The VARK model of learning styles suggests that there are four main types of learners: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. Visual learners are the most common type of learner, making up 65% of the student population. Visual learners respond best to written information, notes, diagrams, and pictures. In an effort to educate the majority of the population our educational system has accommodated a more visual learning style providing students information via the printed word and diagrams.

Kinesthetic or tactile learners make up about 5% of the student population and these learners respond best to a hands-on approach. Learning through touch, movement, imitating and practice. You might see this type of learner trying to reenact what they’ve just learned, roleplay, or use manipulatives to help them accurately absorb the information.

Auditory learners make up approx. 30% of the student population. Learning through listening first is a major component of their learning style. These students prefer to listen to a lecture, use story-telling to get their point across, or students require print to be read aloud. A large portion of our population is just not receiving instruction or their school’s curriculum in the manner that works best for their learning style. Employing a multi-sensory instructional approach is best suited to support all learners. Learning Ally Audiobook Solution supports a more diverse student body.

Do you know your child’s preferred learning style? If your child struggles to read it could be because they are not visual learners and could thrive in school by introducing an auditory learning style. The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution app is specifically designed to support students who learn differently and is aligned to your child’s school curriculum.

As a Learning Ally member, your child and a family of up to four children, can gain unlimited access to 80,000 + human narrated audiobooks and textbooks. Watch your child transform into a more engaged and productive student using tools that best work with their individual learning style. Our app includes five features to support your child with reading and completing tasks on time.

In App features include:

  • Voice to-text - student sees highlighted words while our app reads the print aloud, allowing them the ability to recognize words in the future.
  • Annotation - highlight a section of a book on a specific page and save them to a note pad, allowing your child to compile and easily recall important dates, facts, and figures. This feature can help your child create study guides.
  • In App Dictionary - difficult words are now defined right in the app while your child is reading allowing for a more consistent and productive reading experience.
  • Sharing – share notes, vocabulary lists, and other annotated text with teachers, other students, and family members allowing your child to participate in collaborative projects.
  • Customizations and Preferences - maximizing your child's reading experience and allow them to customize their interface.

Learning Ally Audiobook Solution provides a multi-sensory learning experience in a mobile app allowing your child to read and learn anywhere. Students can use the app at home, in school, between extracurricular activities, during long drives and family outings – meeting your child’s learning needs so they can achieve in school and thrive in life. Using code HOME99 first-time members can enjoy 30% off the $135 annual membership fee and get your child to start reading today. With a library of over 80K audiobooks and textbooks your child can access the books they need for school and the books they want to read. Join now!

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Audiobooks Aren’t Cheating. Let's Talk Equality vs. Equity and Bust This Myth!

September 10, 2021 by Learning Ally

By Dr. Terrie Noland, Ph.D., CALP, Vice President of Educator Initiatives at Learning Ally


“I hate school!" These are the words of a 4th grader who walked into my office for tutoring recently. My heart sank. I never like to hear those words, and more kids are saying it.  I asked his mom. "Is your son’s school providing reading support, like audiobooks?” Her response was "No, everyone says audiobooks are cheating." 

That’s another phrase I’ve heard a lot and wish I had not, because this statement is just not true! We’ve got to bust the myth that providing struggling readers with audiobooks is cheating. It is not. This is a myth. 

Cheating implies taking someone else's work and claiming it for yours. Providing audiobooks to support a struggling reader is like putting on glasses to see  clearly. I’m writing this blog, so more of us can better understand this concept, “education equality vs. education equity.” 

Education Equality Isn't the Same as Education Equity 

Education equality is an overarching attempt to treat every student the same, but lots of students learn differently. To reach the ultimate goal of education equality, each student must receive the strategies and tools they need to address their individual challenges...in other words equity. 

Let me reiterate this difference.  

-- Education equality is an attempt to treat every student the same.

-- Education equity is addressing each student's individual needs. 

While the evolution to strive for educational equity is a vigilant goal, millions of students are still not able to read on grade-level. Take Brooklyn’s learning journey for example. 

Brooklyn's Story

Brooklyn is an eighth grader who loves to bake, cook, and connect to her Mexican American heritage, but there is one major difference between her and other eighth-graders. Booklyn’s reading scores are very low. Her word identification and comprehension level are 5.4, about a fifth grade level. Her independent reading level is 2.3, about a second grade level.

As an eighth grader, Brooklyn wants her independence. She doesn’t want to be read to by a teacher or reading specialist. She wants to read on her own. She wants to read books that her friends are reading. Brooklyn needs equitable access to educational content that is on her grade and intellectual level -- preferably human-read audiobooks -- that will increase her skills in vocabulary, comprehension, decoding, phonics, fluency and critical thinking. Brooklyn may have a 504 plan or IEP, and she may receive some "Response to Intervention" (RTI) services. Whatever her legal or procedural classification is - it doesn't matter, because Brooklyn spends the majority of her day, up to 80%, sitting in a grade level class. 

Having the Conversation About Audiobooks

I like to advise parents to have an open conversation about their child’s needs with teachers. If your child is struggling to read print, then request access to reading materials via the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution. You may hear these concerns and will want to have replies. 

That’s not fair. 

Your response: There is a difference between equal and equitable. Audiobooks provide equity to grade level content - we are not trying to make things equal. You can send them a link to this blog and my podcasts.

They can’t understand higher level books. 

Your Response: Cognitive ability has no correlation to decoding ability. Research shows that students' ability to listen and comprehend outweighs their ability to decode up until the middle grades. 

They should be reading. 

Your Response: The term reading has many meanings. It is important for parents and educators to understand what the learning goal is. If the goal is practicing the skill of decoding, then a student needs decodable or leveled books. If the goal is comprehension, then an audiobook will enable a student to read at grade level and participate in class. 

I’ll curve their points. 

Your Response: Please don’t! Give struggling readers access to content using audiobooks and there is no need to curve their points.

Word Drought

Another term I’d like us to learn more about is “word drought,” coined by literacy expert, Dr. Maryanne Wolf. Students who are not meeting reading proficiency levels may not be reading at all because of a deficit in vocabulary - thus “word drought.” In her talks, Dr. Wolf discusses the importance of word exposure and access to words. Human-read audiobooks provide the reader a ‘word feast,’ with words that are accurately pronounced, not like computers.    

Addressing the Educational Divide

Working with U.S. schools and districts, Learning Ally has research about students who use audiobooks. In a large school system in Denver, students doubled their reading growth on the STAR assessment (standardized test) of reading in just a single year. This is an outcome every teacher wants. Request the case study

Please bust the myth that reading with audiobooks is cheating. Far from it. Audiobooks are a simple and scalable solution to address an individual student's needs. By providing equitable access to audiobooks, you can close the achievement gap for students who are not meeting reading proficiency, and reach the ultimate goal -- education equality for all. 

Thousands of educators today have chosen to provide equitable access to educational books via audiobooks. These are the literacy champions making a difference for students like Brooklyn. Busting this cheating myth will take us one step closer to having more educators become literacy leaders in their schools and more students on a much better learning track. 

Please share this blog, and join my podcast. Thanks!

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Announcing The 2021 National Achievement Award Student Winners

May 30, 2021 by Learning Ally

Learning Ally's 2021 National Achievement Award (NAA) student award recipients have been selected for The Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Award and the Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Award.

For over 60 years, our organization has offered the two endowed scholarship awards to students in high school and college with print and learning disabilities. These outstanding learners have overcome great obstacles to achieve extraordinary goals in school and beyond. As an organization, we can take pride in this beneficial program that acknowledges underserved students who rise above all expectations.

About the NAA Student Awards

The Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Award (LTL) is granted to student members who are high school seniors with learning disabilities in recognition of their academic achievement, leadership, and service to others.  

The Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Award (SAA) is given to college students who are blind or visually impaired, who are also high achievers and stellar individuals. 

This year's award recipients are exemplary role models and an inspiration to all students who are challenged in ways many of us can never imagine.  The top three winners from each category (LTL and SAA) receive a $6000 scholarship award. Students who receive special honors receive between $2,000 and $3000 monetary awards.  

Please join us in congratulating all winners and participants! You can learn more about each of our students by clicking on their names. These individuals can be immensely proud of their outstanding academic prowess and personal achievements. They are stellar role models for students who learn differently and who demonstrate the highest standards of performance and commitment in their classes and communities.

Winners of the LTL Awards

Samantha Widdison, Winner - Belmont, MA

Carragon Olles, Winner - DePere, WI

Pauline Simonson, Winner - Salt Lake City, Utah

Nicholas Talik, Special Honors - Houston, TX

John Andrew, Special Honors - Gloucester, MA

Benjamin Payson, Special Honors - Cape Elizabeth, ME


Winners of the SAA Awards

Katherine Barba, Winner - New Rochelle, NY

Qusay Hussein, Winner - Austin, TX

Jonathan Zobek, Winner - Kenilworth, NJ

Yolanda Keahey, Special Honors - Jersey City, NJ

Debra Whitt, Special Honors - Springfield, MO

Jennifer Ratliff, Special Honors - Oklahoma City, OK 

You can learn more about our application process and our award programs at LearningAlly.org/NAA and view the video submissions of our 2021 winners. 

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