When we restrict content for struggling readers due to low decoding ability, we fail to consider their personal and cultural interests, as well as their academic potential. Being singled out from a rich reading experience impacts not only a child’s learning potential, but often their social and emotional psyche, leaving a feeling of inferiority that will last well beyond their K-12 years.
Setting the Scene
You walk inside your school library. The librarian leads you to a small, dedicated cart. You think, these are the books that someone decided is within my ability to read. The cart is small, the books are few, and the covers don't catch your eye. Around you the library is buzzing with other students. Vibrant book covers stare at you but are out of reach. Other learners are bustling to select books, pulling them off the shelf, thumbing through pages, inspecting book covers. Their “book finding mission” repeats until they find the title that suits their interest, curiosity or class requirement. You look at the limited cart of books selected for you. It makes you sad. This is what it's like for struggling readers relegated to books that might not interest them, but are within their ability to decode. They see others carrying off grade-level books to engage with their peers or friends. They know they will be stuck reading low-level books and will not be able to engage.
The Magic of Human-Narrated Audiobooks
Now imagine that you look up from your small, restricted book cart and find yourself sitting at a computer connected to Learning Ally’s audiobook library. You quickly search for topics that interest you. You find the required curriculum you need for school. You can hear books narrated by award-winning voice professionals like Dave Fennoy and Grant Patrizio. Hearing a book read by authentic authors is eye-opening. Professional voice artists are among a thousand volunteers, authors and subject experts who provide voice narration to Learning Ally. Each title is carefully, culturally cast by a narrator best suited to bring a story or curriculum to life.
Access to New Worlds
Enabling unlimited access to a world of words, thoughts, academic ingenuity, and imagination through authentic and captivating voices is the magic of human-read audiobooks. This experience can have an amazing effect on students who have been restricted to uninteresting, and uninviting book sections.
Dr. Maryanne Wolf, author of ‘Proust, and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain,” says, “While reading, we can leave our own consciousness, and pass over into the consciousness of another person, another age, another culture. "Passing over," a term used by the theologian John Dunne, describes the process through which reading enables us to try on, identify with, and ultimately enter for a brief time the wholly different perspective of another person's consciousness. When we pass over into how a knight thinks, how a slave feels, how a heroine behaves, and how an evildoer can regret or deny wrongdoing, we never come back quite the same; sometimes we're inspired, sometimes saddened, but we are always enriched. Through this exposure we learn both the commonality and the uniqueness of our own thoughts -- that we are individuals, but not alone.” This listening experience can happen with human read audiobooks!
Schools Gives Unlimited Access
Patricia Verrilli, MLIS, Ed.D, Media and Information Technology Specialist, Lexington KY, says, “Learning Ally affords our students the ability to browse and find books of cultural interests, and our teachers the ability to assign, tens of thousand books by category, genre, curriculum, title, ISBN, or author. Our school's media center cannot begin to provide such a vast array of reading materials that cater to all students’ interests and reading levels. I am thankful my district encourages the use of Learning Ally because it is equity-driven.” In 2020, her district began providing Chromebooks, as well as hot spots, to students in homes with limited to no internet service. The school media center was still tethered to the traditional "check-out" and "pick-up" systems and needed a way to provide a library of books through a seamless, digital experience for struggling readers. They did it through Learning Ally. This school’s commitment to net neutrality helped bolster student access to quality online resources regardless of their socio-economic status.
Access Can Be Liberating
Human-narrated audiobooks grab readers’ attention no matter the reading level or grade-level. They augment students’ decoding processes and allow cognitive capacity to take over. They help students think critically, comprehend deeply, understand, imagine, and be free to thrive in new journeys and learning experiences, especially those on grade-level. No matter the learning environment – virtual, hybrid, or in-person – students can access textbooks and novels with Learning Ally. They can read at their grade and cognitive level and gain access to a high-quality educational experience. When students are given the freedom to choose books, read what their friends are reading and feel prepared for the day's lesson, academic, and social-emotional gains are inevitable.
There is a time and a place for struggling readers to read within their decoding ability – when working on explicit skill building in a one-to-one or small group setting. All other times, when students need to read for grade-level assignments and participate in classwork or self-select titles for pleasure reading, they need access at their grade-level or cognitive level. Learning Ally can make this happen for your students. A Denver case study confirms this finding. When students read with fidelity with Learning Ally, their rate of reading growth doubled.
Start unlocking the library for your struggling readers now.