Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement

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Audiobooks help children learn to read
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This article by Diane D'Amico appeared on PressofAtlanticCity.com in NJ on November 28, 2014. It features coverage of the Sovereign Avenue School’s use of Learning Ally audiobooks and classroom technology to help students with reading disabilities.  Sovereign Avenue School student using Learning Ally audiobooks.Viviana Cortez, 11, admits she sometimes has a hard time reading.
“I lose my place in books,” the sixth-grader at Sovereign Avenue School in Atlantic City said as she booted up a tablet and scrolled to Chapter 4 of “Dinosaurs Before Dark.”
“This helps me keep my place.”
Sovereign Avenue School is one of more than 300 schools in New Jersey, including ones in Ocean City and the Lower Cape May Regional district, that are using audiobooks to help students with vision or reading disorders. Unlike audiobooks that are just on tape, the books used in the schools typically have synchronized text and audio so students can follow along with the print while they listen to the audio.
Sovereign Avenue School student using Learning Ally audiobooks.Teacher Karissa Ksiazek, who works with Cortez and three other students in the class, said the audiobooks are not used every day, but are a supplemental lesson and a treat for the students.
“It’s hard to find books on their reading level that interest them,” she said. “Some students may read on a second-grade level, but they don’t want to read second-grade books.”
Sovereign Avenue School student using Learning Ally audiobooks.The day’s lesson begins with a review of some new vocabulary words in the chapter, including “crest” and “mutant.” Students listen to the chapter, then Ksiazek asks them questions to gauge their comprehension. Students can enlarge the type on the tablet, slow the speed of the audiobook reader and scroll through the text to find information.
The district program is provided by Learning Ally, which used to be called Recording for the Blind and Sovereign Avenue School student using Learning Ally audiobooks.Dyslexic. Founded in 1948 to help soldiers who had been blinded in World War II, it also still offers audiobook services to the general public.
Paul Edelblut, vice president of education solutions at Princeton-based Learning Ally, said it has about 80,000 audiobooks in its library, with about 3,000 that have the synchronized text and audio. The collection includes classroom textbooks, such as math and chemistry, as well as popular Sovereign Avenue School student using Learning Ally audiobooks.books such as the “Hunger Games” novels. He said about 10,000 schools nationwide access the audiobooks.
Edelblut said the audiobooks allow students to participate more fully in their class and on their grade level. Just listening to books exposes students to more vocabulary.
“It’s still a book, just in a different form,” he said. Sovereign Avenue School student using Learning Ally audiobooks.“And there is a social aspect as well, if a student can now read the same books as their peers.”
Learning Ally has received a $270,000 grant from the Governor’s Literacy Initiative, and there is $1.4 million in the state budget to generate and share more audiobooks. Volunteers read the books; teachers or experts in the fields read textbooks, Edelblut said.
546fb6733e7a2.imageThis is the second year that Sovereign Avenue School is using the audiobooks. Learning Ally trainer Sakeenah Daniels recently spent an hour at the school showing teachers how to register their students and track their reading progress.
Atlantic City was eligible for a grant to cover the cost of licensing the program for the school, and more than 75 students are registered to use it. School case manager Evelyn Perez said students must have a diagnosed reading disability to participate, though Daniels said a book could be shared as part of a classroom lesson.
Perez said it is hard to teach content if a student does not read well, so the audiobooks are an asset. Students can also download the books onto personal tablets so they can read at home. But, she said, they are not used so much that they become a crutch or replace the reading lesson.
“It’s a gateway,” she said. “It’s just a different way of learning.”
After reading their chapter, Ksiazek teaches a lesson on tenses and word endings and reminds students there will be a quiz on chapters two through four of their book. The students also keep a writing journal.
“They are still responsible for the whole group lessons,” Ksiazek said. “This is an extra lesson. And they are always excited to use technology.” Read the article in its entirety at PressofAtlanticCity.com. Photos by Michael Ein. 
Contact Diane D’Amico:
609-272-7241
@ACPressDamico on Twitter



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