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.


Learning Ally forges partnerships with Denver school systems and expands initiatives to help students overcome learning disabilities
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More than 5,500 struggling readers are supported in Denver Public Schools DENVER –  Learning Ally, a national nonprofit organization that supports students who read and learn differently due to dyslexia, blindness and other disabilities, announced that thousands of students with reading-based disabilities are now benefiting from its audiobook learning programs and other initiatives in Denver. Class reading 2Learning Ally’s library of 80,000 human-narrated textbooks and literature titles is accessible to students (and their parents and teachers) using personal computers, Chromebooks, and an array of Apple or Android mobile devices and tablets. In addition to its audiobook technology, Learning Ally is providing teachers with personalized training and professional development, and driving a special youth-driven leadership and advocacy program for students. Since 2013 in the Denver Public Schools (DPS) system, the Learning Ally program has grown from supporting 200 students in 40 DPS schools, to over 5,500 students in 161 schools - 87% of all schools across the DPS – one of the largest school districts in the U.S. Originally launched with help from a donor through the Denver Foundation, the DPS program has grown rapidly based its demonstrated impact and improvement in students’ ability to read using the Learning Ally technology. According to teachers in the district, enrolled students who struggled to read just a few weeks prior are now having an entirely different experience with books. “For students with learning disabilities, being able to download multiple books onto their personal devices – with ability to access the text at the same time as the audio – is revolutionary,” said Amy Kalinchuk, Special Education Department Chair at Hamilton Middle School. “Textbooks and novels of all different levels are available; children’s books, middle-school age, young adult novels and adult books are there. It opens up a world of opportunities for teachers to work successfully with students who learn differently.” In addition to the demonstrated and sustained success of its program in Denver Public Schools, Learning Ally announced the following news and expansion of its services for Denver-area students in the 2015-2016 school year and beyond:
  • The Archdiocese of Denver has begun to implement the audiobook technology program across six of its schools. Learning Ally’s program in the Archdiocese - which includes audiobooks, professional development for teachers, student advocacy efforts, and other key initiatives - is made possible thanks to support from the Zarlengo Foundation.  Since the program began this past summer; teachers have received training and significant improvements are being seen among students who struggle with reading. The program will eventually roll out to serve all 36 schools of the Archdiocese. "Reading was just really hard for me," said Giselle, a 6th grader at Guardian Angels School. "Now with Learning Ally it is not hard to read at all. I was so excited to be able to read that I stayed up after my homework and read 'Matilda' until bedtime. I am not afraid to raise my hand in class now."
  • The Denver Public Library has announced that Learning Ally’s audiobook technology is now available to any enrolled student, using their assigned school login credentials, at any of the Library’s 26 branches across the city. Learning Ally is also providing free “Keys to Success” community workshops at the Denver Public Library. Conducted by students, parents, teachers and a variety of special presenters, the workshops are designed to increase awareness of learning disabilities in school, and help students become strong self-advocates and successful throughout their journey.
  • Learning Ally’s youth-driven services are expanding in Colorado. Its YES! (Youth Examples of Self-Advocacy) program is a unique student-to-student initiative, pairing younger students with learning differences with older students who are trained to guide them. Each student is assigned a Youth Ambassador who monitors progress, acts as a mentor and resource and helps members advocate for themselves in school. The Colorado YES! Ambassadors recently shared their knowledge and presentations to 375 educators from the Colorado Board of Education in a special event marking Dyslexia Awareness Month in October.
ABOUT LEARNING ALLY: Founded in 1948, Learning Ally supports K-12, college and graduate students, veterans and lifelong learners – all of whom read and learn differently due to dyslexia, blindness or visual impairment, and other disabilities. Through its extensive community events and support programs, Learning Ally enables parents, teachers and specialists to help students thrive and succeed. The organization hosts live and virtual events for families and teachers; provides instructive webinars led by experts as well as peer-to-peer sessions led by students; personal consultations for parents; and professional development workshops for educators. Learning Ally’s collection of 80,000 human-narrated audio textbooks and literature titles can be downloaded by students using their smartphones and tablets, and is the largest of its kind in the world. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Learning Ally is partially funded by grants from state and local education programs, and the generous contributions of individuals, foundations and corporations. In Denver, Learning Ally’s programs and initiatives are made possible through donations, made by members of the Denver Community:
  • The Learning Ally program in Denver Public Schools –  which includes audiobooks, professional development for teachers, student advocacy efforts, and other initiatives – has been made possible through a donation administered by the Denver Foundation.
  • Learning Ally’s program in the Denver Archdiocese - which includes audiobooks, professional development for teachers, student advocacy efforts, and other key initiatives - is made possible through the Zarlengo Foundation.
Contact:   Doug Sprei, National Director of Communications




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