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.

Strategies to Boost Your Child's Reading Fluency

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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Prevent Summer Learning Loss... Join Our Summer Reading Together Program
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July 18, 2022 by Learning Ally

Learning isn't just for the classroom. 

For many kids, after the summer bell rings, learning doesn’t happen at all.Young girl reading on her phone with headphones in summer outdoor swing 

Summer reading loss is steep -- especially for marginalized children and adolescents. Studies show that children lose significant knowledge in reading and math during summer break — approximately two months of reading skills and 2.6 months of math computational skills — which tends to have a snowball effect as they experience subsequent skill loss each year, leading to decreased reading and math proficiency. 

Teachers also lose precious instruction time reteaching information students have already learned. Research shows that teachers may take an average of six weeks each year in the fall to reteach material that was forgotten over the summer.

Turn summer skills slide into summer reading pride

As a member of Learning Ally, students can participate in our Summer Reading Together programWe are in alignment with the Collaborative Summer Library Program and libraries across the country. We’ve pulled together some of our favorite stories to align with the 2022 Oceans of Possibilities summer reading theme. Check out these titles for Elementary School, Middle School, and High School.

 It's easy to participate!

Teachers can assign audiobooks for students and students can select their own. There are downloadables and printables to make participation easy and to motivate students to read. You can use a template letter to describe the program to parents. There are certificates for reading, sample lesson plans, progress tracking calendars, and prizes! 

This year, participants have fun art projects and you-tube videos inspired by the books and Ocean of Possibilities. 


Recognition and Prizes

Each month, four winners are selected to win prizes. At the end of the summer, four overall winners will win big ($100 gift cards) for reading the most audiobooks across all three summer months, and for the most days they spent reading. 

East Orange NJ District Summer Reading Program teachersWe get so excited to learn about the clever ways teachers and parents are motivating children to read, while building skills, and having fun! 

Want to learn what other schools and districts are doing? Check out this awesome summer reading program of the East Orange School District in New Jersey. 

Learn more about Learning Ally’s Summer Reading Together program!

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Student Recipients of The 2022 National Achievement Awards - Scholarships Recognize Students with Learning Disabilities and Blind and Visual Impairments Who Demonstrate Exemplary Academic Progress, Self-Advocacy, and Community Service

June 9, 2022 by Learning Ally

For Immediate Release

June 9, 2022 - Princeton, NJ – Learning Ally, a national nonprofit with a mission of “literacy for all” in U.S. schools, has announced the student winners of its 2022 National Achievement Awards

The National Achievement Awards is a component of the organization’s Whole Child Literacy approach to ensure more students with reading deficits achieve mastery of critical literacy skills informed by the science of reading, cognitive and environmental factors, and social and emotional learning, with the support of Learning Ally’s seven-time award-winning Audiobook Solution. Each student recipient receives a $3,000 to $6,000 endowed scholarship named for two longtime advocates of the organization – Marion Huber and Mary P. Oenslager. 

For more than 60 years, their families continue their legacy to provide financial support. The program rewards students in high school and higher education who overcame great obstacles to achieve extraordinary academic progress, promote self-advocacy, and provide community service to others.    

Dr. Terrie Noland, Vice President of Learning Ally said, "Each year, we feel especially proud to honor these exemplary students, and to carry on the mission of the two women who saw a great need for education equity in schools long ago. Students selected for the National Achievement Awards are exceptional role models. They clearly demonstrate extraordinary achievements given the right skills, resources, and emotional fortitude. They lift us up, and reshape our expectations of what students with learning challenges can and will achieve.”


RecipiLearning Ally Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Award 2022 ents of the 2022 Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Award (LTL): 

Thomas J. Rayburn, Madison, AL 

Ella Doerr, Avon, NC

Samantha Bachofen, Waterford, WI 

May Hopkins, Oakland, CA


Award Logo for Mary P. Oenslager

Recipient of the 2022 Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Award (SAA):

 Tatiana Clautaire, Spring Valley, NY



Winners of this award are selected by an esteemed National Selection Committee who are champions of student success. To learn more about each winner, visit learningally.org/naa

Educators and parents working with high school students with blindness or visual impairments or learning disabilities who graduate in the years of 2021-2023 and first-year college students can review the application process for student members who meet eligibility criteria. 

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 1.6 million students and 260,000 educators through our solutions and community, across the United States.

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Look Up in the Sky and Get Ready for a Lunar Eclipse

May 13, 2022 by Learning Ally


On Sunday, May 15 and Monday, May 16, a lunar eclipse will occur. This astronomical phenomenon occursImage result for what is a lunar eclipse when the sun, Earth, and moon line up properly for the moon to pass into the Earth's shadow. Roughly three times a year, the moon passes through at least part of the Earth's shadow. 

Because our moon's orbit is tilted, lunar eclipses do not occur every time the moon makes its monthly trek around our planet. It can only happen during a full moon, so we are likely to experience it just twice a year. 

To catch a glimpse of the lunar eclipse and "blood moon," you'll have to stay awake late into the night and early morning. The term "blood moon" is used by many astronomy experts and writers to describe the rusty orange or reddish color glow the moon becomes from the light reflecting from the sun.

Learning Ally has many enjoyable and informative audiobooks about the sky, the sun, astronomy, and our universe. Search on a specific category or use keywords to find titles that will interest learners of any age in our Browse Audiobooks section. 

For additional resources, PBS has excellent videos to demonstrate the mechanics of lunar eclipses to view and engage students with visualizations that show the alignment of the Moon, the Sun, and Earth from multiple perspectives.

Happy sky watching!

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