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Welcome to Learning Ally’s blog. You've come to the right place if you are an innovative teacher who wants to transform more struggling readers into grade-level achievers.


Learning Ally Announces Student Winners of the 2021 National Achievement Awards
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June 22, 2021 by Learning Ally

For Immediate Release:

June 22, 2021 - Princeton, NJ – Learning Ally, a national nonprofit working with U.S. educators and parents to help solve the literacy crisis, has announced the student winners of its 2021 National Achievement Awards (NAA). This unique awards program is an annual component of the Learning Ally Whole Child Literacy approach, recognizing student development of literacy skills informed by the best practices of the science of reading, cognitive and environmental factors, through the use of the award winning Learning Ally Audiobook Solution.

For over 60 years, Learning Ally has offered two endowed scholarship (NAA) awards for the purpose of recognizing and rewarding students in high school and college who struggle to read, have a learning disability, or visual impairments and who have demonstrated exemplary academic performance and outstanding commitment in their classrooms and communities.

The two awards are respectfully named for longtime advocates for education equity and who were generous donors to the organization:

  • The Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Award (LTL) is given 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 high achievers and have overcome great obstacles in their schooling and beyond.

The top three winners from each category receive a $6000 scholarship award. Students who receive special honors receive between $2,000 and $3000 monetary awards.

Andrew Friedman, CEO of Learning Ally said, "We sincerely congratulate all winners and participants. These individuals have excelled academically, socially, emotionally, and professionally in all endeavors. They are exemplary role models and an inspiration to us all, and to all students who are challenged in ways many of us can never imagine." 

Winners and Special Honorees of the Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Award

  • 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 and Special Honorees of the Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Award

  • 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 

To learn about the accomplishments of winners and honorees visit learningally.org/naa.

Educators and parents working with high school and college students with visual impairments and/or learning disabilities can learn about the NAA at learningally.org/naa.

To review the application process for student members who meet eligibility criteria visit learningally.org/NAA/Application.

Learning Ally is also proud to host the Winslow Coyne Reitnouer Excellence in Teaching Award to recognize exemplary educators who demonstrate leadership and innovative efforts in classroom instruction to improve education equity for students who struggle to read because of learning differences and visual disabilities.

About Learning Ally                                                

Learning Ally is a leading nonprofit education solutions organization 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 1.5 million students and 200,000 educators through our solutions and community, across the United States. Visit: www.learningally.org.

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Audiobooks Celebrating Juneteenth
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June 15, 2021 by Learning Ally

In honor of this very important and lesser known U.S holiday, Juneteenth, we wanted to help our community to learn more about the holiday itself and the larger issues of racism and social justice through reading, our audiobooks and others. And we even threw in a video which can be shared with students, family members and friends.

Ralph Ellison Juneteenth

If you didn’t know, Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, marks the day when Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of the Civil War and slavery. It was June 19, 1865 and although the Emancipation Proclamation had freed slaves more than two years earlier there was minimal enforcement in Texas due to a lack of Union troops. Each year, Juneteenth is a day for Black people to celebrate freedom. This year Juneteenth carries deeper meaning in the tragic wake of Black lives lost to police brutality in the last year.

Juneteenth has not previously been well recognized in various educational and cultural arenas and we are looking to help change that. So, we’d like to share with you some audiobooks from our solution that can help you talk to your students, children and friends about social justice. We’ve covered books for all grade bands.

Enjoy our Learning Ally Audiobook Solution Juneteenth Reading List..

And here is a very engaging and informative video on Juneteenth which may also facilitate your discussions.

Please watch our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for more content on Juneteenth. Please view, engage, comment! We look forward to hearing from you!

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Introducing New Jersey’s Equity in Education Initiative Learning Ally Partners with the State of New Jersey to Support Literacy for All
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May 25, 2021 by Learning Ally

For Immediate Release

Princeton, NJ – Learning Ally is proud to partner with Assemblyman Dan Benson (NJ) to sponsor Assembly Bill 5601. This bill, which was introduced on May 5, 2021, directs the New Jersey Commissioner of Education to establish the New Jersey Equity in Education Initiative in an important step towards the mission of providing all students with equal and equitable access to education.

The New Jersey Equity and Literacy Initiative strives to enhance the statewide support system for county offices of education, school districts, and charter schools to connect students with specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, to innovative, university-based, early intervention services. According to Benson, "This legislation will help to improve literacy outcomes for students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, and provide educators and schools with the resources to meet student learning needs.”

Assemblymember Benson demonstrates his commitment to dismantling barriers that prevent children from learning to read through championing this bill. “Students who struggle with reading and other forms of specific learning disabilities often go undiagnosed until they are failing in school. Some are never diagnosed nor receive services. Early identification and intervention with students showing signs of dyslexia are critical for improving their outcomes”.

Patrick Brennan, Learning Ally’s Vice President of Government Relations, explains, “By improving literacy outcomes for New Jersey’s early learners, we can empower, equip, and support our teaching force to ensure struggling learners become proficient readers.”

The most effective treatment for students who struggle with reading and related language problems is early diagnosis and skilled teaching. It is critical that educators receive evidence-based practices and strategies informed by research to reduce the impact on long-term educational outcomes. Assembly Bill 5601 aims to provide the necessary support and training to effectively equip teachers to help all students, regardless of background or disability. 

Assemblymember Benson acknowledges the positive impact the Equity in Education Initiative could have on the state. “I look forward to seeing the investment this legislation will make in building capacity in New Jersey’s educational system to enhance all students’ reading and writing outcomes come to fruition.”

About Learning Ally 

Learning Ally is a leading nonprofit education solutions organization dedicated to equipping educators with proven solutions that help struggling learners reach their potential. Our range of literacy-focused offerings for students Pre-K to 12th grade and catalog of professional learning allow us to support more than 1.5 million students and 200,000 educators across the US. The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is our cornerstone award-winning reading accommodation used in more than 18,500 schools to help students with reading deficits succeed. Composed of high quality, human-read audiobooks and a suite of teacher resources to monitor and support student progress, it is designed to turn struggling readers into engaged learners. For more information, visit www.LearningAlly.org.

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Learning Ally Appoints David Aycan Chief Solutions Officer Tapping Innovation and Design Culture to Solve America’s Literacy Crisis
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May 21, 2021 by Learning Ally

For Immediate Release:

May 21, 2021 - Princeton, NJ - Learning Ally, a leading non-profit education solutions provider has appointed David Aycan, previously of IDEO, a design company known for its human-centered, interdisciplinary approach, to Chief Solutions Officer. 

In this newly created role, Aycan will guide the development of educator and student focused solutions and is charged with launching Learning Ally’s Whole Child Literacy System™, which is designed to improve America’s existing and growing literacy crisis. This groundbreaking approach strives to meet the needs of the whole child in learning to read, while supporting the educator with training and coaching, to drive improved outcomes in literacy.

Previously, Aycan was Managing Director at IDEO, focused on creative problem solving to build more innovative organizations and to develop products that helped companies lead through market changes. His career spans roles as both entrepreneur and intrapreneur, including leadership positions where he brought customer-focused thinking to organizations including MasterClass and Square. A thought leader and influencer, Aycan has been published numerous times for his content regarding innovation and creativity as applied to business, and has spoken at convergence conferences and festivals including SXSW. He holds an MBA from Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, where he graduated with highest honors, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the same university.

“David’s appointment reflects our strategy to focus on transformation both inside and out,” said Andrew Friedman, CEO, Learning Ally. “The goal to deliver equity in education requires an approach that puts our nation’s students and educators at the center of everything we do.  David’s expertise in bringing entrepreneurial thinking and culture to organizations, and in designing products to solve important problems, will promote the kind of inventive work in literacy that we are aiming to deliver.”

“Students are slipping through the cracks. Literacy is a critical part of the foundation to support students along their journey to achieve success in school and in life,” said David Aycan, newly appointed Chief Solutions Officer. “I am truly honored to join Learning Ally and am dedicated to this big mission, looking to draw from research and apply design innovation and agile adaptive methodologies to bring solutions in PreK-12 to scale across the country to support educators and students.”

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About Learning Ally

Learning Ally is a leading nonprofit education solutions organization dedicated to equipping educators with proven solutions that help struggling learners reach their potential. Our range of literacy-focused offerings for students Pre-K to 12th grade and catalog of professional learning allow us to support more than 1.5 million students and 200,000 educators across the US. The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is our cornerstone award-winning reading accommodation used in more than 18,500 schools to help students with reading deficits succeed. Composed of high quality, human-read audiobooks and a suite of teacher resources to monitor and support student progress, it is designed to turn struggling readers into engaged learners. 

For more information, visit www.LearningAlly.org.

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"Perseverance, Passion and Purpose: Finding My Way" Andrew Lewis, Olympian, Keynotes 2021 Spotlight on Dyslexia
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May 14, 2021 by Learning Ally

I am a two-time Olympian champion and Founder of the AL Sailing Foundation. Although I have been successful in life, I haven't excelled at everything.  My reading and writing skills have always been a challenge for me because I have dyslexia. Today, my life's journey is to inspire children, like me, to excel in their learning process and to understand that they can thrive. I also want to encourage educators who work with children with learning disabilities to look beyond the obvious struggle of many students and to help them find their strengths.  

Encouragement is key

Throughout my early childhood, I knew I was not a good reader. I had fears of being "swallowed up" by my disorder. I didn't learn like other kids. With the help and understanding of my teachers, I eventually recognized my abilities and passion. I came to embrace my learning differences and found my niche. 

At that time, technology was in its infancy. We didn't have it in school, and we relied on our teachers for everything. Thankfully, my teachers built up my confidence. They gave me strategies to cope with my learning struggle. They helped me sharpen my skills. They gave me fortitude to keep moving ahead, like we do in sailing competitions.   

What would I wish for students with dyslexia?

Technology, like a quality reading accommodation with audiobooks, can give a child with a reading deficit an opportunity to learn just as fast as someone who can read a printed book well. If a child doesn't read or write well, it doesn't mean they have a low IQ. 

I wish more educators were trained to understand the truth about dyslexia and the research on brain-based learning disabilities. Dyslexics don't learn as fast as others, but we do have the ability to succeed.  

I would like to see more schools have independent programs to address learning differences, and I admire the work of Dr. Tim Conway at the Morris Center in Alabama. Dr. Conway is a neuropsychologist (with remediated Dyslexia.) He has spent a lifespan studying neuropsychology, neurorehabilitation, neuroimaging (SPECT, fMRI and DTI) and neurodevelopmental issues. His transdisciplinary team work with children, teenagers, and adults with neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Conway has published a series of academic papers to help to diagnose/identify and improve the learning skills of children with dyslexia, including academic, language, motor, and memory.  

Celebrate our differences

Children with difficulty reading or writing should never be defined as a poor learner. We all need to acknowledge this and structure our teaching in different ways. Some children need more time on tasks. Others need accommodations. Others might need a learning space that is quiet. Whatever works for the child. My teachers did that for me, and helped me become who I am today - a confident human being who happens to love sailing and learning. 

Andrew Lewis will keynote at Learning Ally's 2021 Spotlight on Dyslexia virtual conference on Friday, June 4, 2021.

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