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.

Real Parent Examples: How to Build Literacy At-Home
Literacy Tips for Parents and Caregivers

July 10, 2024 by Learning Ally

Literacy development isn't confined to the classroom; it's a collaborative effort that extends to the home, with parents and caregivers playing a crucial role.

Engaging students at home and on the go in daily literacy activities can create a more enriching learning environment and significantly impact your child's reading and writing skills. That’s why Learning Ally has put together some practical tips to help you support your child’s reading journey best.

Before we dive in, let’s get clear on why literacy is so important.

Understanding the Importance of Literacy

Literacy is the foundation of a child's education. It opens doors to knowledge, critical thinking, and opportunities. Strong literacy skills lead to better academic performance, improved communication skills, and increased confidence. By nurturing these skills early, you set your child up for lifelong success.

As an ed-tech nonprofit organization, we know parents play an important role in a child’s learning and development. That’s why as a part of our solutions, Learning Ally works closely with community partners, government officials, schools, and educators to ensure parents are equipped with the right knowledge and resources to be a piece of their child’s education puzzle.

Supporting literacy at home doesn't have to be a daunting task. With practical tips, parents and caregivers can make learning outside the classroom fun at any age.

Daily Activities to Promote Literacy

1. Read Aloud Daily: Make reading a daily habit. Choose a variety of books that interest your child and read aloud together. This not only improves their listening skills but also introduces them to new vocabulary and concepts.

2. Create a Reading-Friendly Environment: Have a dedicated reading space at home filled with books, magazines, and other reading materials. Make it cozy and inviting to encourage your child to spend time there.

3. Engage in Conversations: Talk with your child about their day, their interests, and the books they're reading. Ask open-ended questions to stimulate critical thinking and enhance their verbal skills.

4. Incorporate Literacy into Daily Activities: Turn everyday tasks into learning opportunities. For instance, ask your child to help write a grocery list, read recipes while cooking, or follow instructions for a DIY project.

5. Use Technology to Help: Leverage educational apps and e-books, like Learning Ally’s Audiobook Solution and Excite Reading, to make reading interactive and fun.

Through frequent exposure to activities like this, students can build stronger vocabulary, background knowledge, writing, and speaking skills. This knowledge may also extend to achieving a greater sense of independence, confidence, and ability to express thoughts and feelings.

Tips from Parents and Caregivers:

In a recent Family Literacy Night Event hosted in partnership with a California-based school district, Learning Ally asked parents and caregivers to share what activities they engage in outside the classroom to support literacy with their child.

Here’s what they said:

Families shared that they engage in a variety of activities to promote literacy, such as:

  • Reading Together: Many families make it a habit to read together, whether it’s bedtime stories or shared reading of books and articles. Some families even shared they enjoy using podcasts, reading the transcripts as they listen.
  • Library Visits: Regular trips to the library allow families to explore new books and participate in community reading programs.
  • Educational Games: Board games, puzzles, and educational apps that focus on vocabulary and comprehension are popular.
  • Storytelling: Creating and telling stories are common practices that help children develop their narrative skills.
  • Writing Activities: Families often engage in writing letters, keeping journals, and creating stories together.

We also asked our volunteers and staff to get involved and share real-life examples of how they’ve connected family time with literacy-building activities.

Sheree, a longtime volunteer with Learning Ally, shared:

“Our literacy activity began by chance. My daughter and I lived 1,100 miles apart from my sister and her son. Both my daughter and her son had trouble focusing on printed material, but both loved to create and tell stories. My daughter wrote a clever, short piece called The Story of Kimberlee and I happened to send it to my sister because it got a very positive response from my daughter’s teacher. My sister read the story to my nephew. Within a few weeks, we received a new episode, which my daughter could not wait to read. The back and forth went on for over a year, with the story getting more complex as they tried to up each other’s game. The strategy was not planned, I did not study results for either child, but both had fun reading and writing while they built a relationship with each other. From my perspective, engaging in this process left us all excited to read and write.”

Paula, Director of Volunteer and Corporate Partnerships here at Learning Ally, shared that her daughter was practicing words in Spanish when she was just one and a half years old, which she learned by reciting words back to her father after he spoke them to her.

Watch the video here.

Opportunities to read and learn together are all around us. Engaging with your child in literacy activities outside of the classroom can be beneficial at any stage of their education, whether in elementary, middle, or high school.

We want to know, what are some ways you’re building literacy at home with your family?

Tell us in the comments below!

Author: Maria Lelie, Program Manager, Community Services

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Students Recognized For Outstanding Achievements Receive Learning Ally’s ‘Learning Through Listening’ National Achievement Award

May 1, 2024 by Learning Ally

April 30, 2024 – Princeton, NJ - Learning Ally, a national nonprofit working with U.S. schools to strengthen reading outcomes for students with learning differences has announced the winners of its 2024 National Achievement Awards.

The annual Awards program recognizes the outstanding academic and personal achievements of high school and college-age students who have triumphed in the face of persistent challenges due to a learning difference such as dyslexia, a vision impairment, or blindness.

Andrew Friedman, CEO of Learning Ally, said, “These students are role models who have demonstrated the highest standards of performance and commitment in their classrooms and communities. When young people with reading and learning challenges succeed, we celebrate their accomplishments with a great sense of pride. This year’s students have shown amazing fortitude and strength. We thank all the educators who serve these bright and talented individuals.”

For over 60 years, Learning Ally has recognized students who demonstrate exceptional academic progress using our technological solution. Judging the Awards program is a national selection committee of esteemed champions of literacy who evaluate submissions. The 2024 Award winners are:Student Scholarship Winners

  • Elizabeth Cappelli, CT
  • Rebecca Cavanagh, IL
  • Tauren DelRio, MI
  • Micah Deyo, PA
  • Cooper Howard - WA
  • Eva Rayas-Gribben - NY
  • Bhavya Shah - NJ

Each year, through generous donors, Learning Ally offers three endowed scholarship awards for students with print and learning differences, and the educators who ensure they receive accessible curriculum that is equitable, culturally-relevant, aligned to grade-level requirements, and support students’ personal interests. The three awards are:

  • Marion Huber Learning Through Listening® (LTL) Award - Awarded to high school seniors who have a learning difference.
  • Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Award (SAA) - Awarded to college seniors and graduate students who are blind or visually impaired.
  • Winslow Coyne Reitnouer Excellence in Teaching Award - Awarded to educators who consistently use equitable accessible books to support struggling readers.

Learn more about this year’s award winners and their accomplishments, and about the National Achievement Awards from Learning Ally.

About Learning Ally

Learning Ally is a leading nonprofit education organization dedicated to equipping educators with proven solutions that help early and struggling learners reach their potential. Our range of literacy-focused offerings for students Pre-K to 12th grade, including our award winning reading resource, the Learning Ally Audiobook SolutionTM, allow us to support more than 2.5 million students and over 615,000 educators across the US.

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Run for PADMA-Desi Dash
Run Walk Ride

February 16, 2024 by Learning Ally

Run Walk RIde-Desi Dash

PADMA stands for Positive Actions to Develop and Mentor Adolescents, an organization dedicated to helping kids believe in life’s possibilities. PADMA believes that young people face traumatic experiences and challenging circumstances which make their formative years incredibly difficult to manage. Many do not believe what they are capable of due to lack of mentorship and support systems.

Their mission is to ensure all children have the opportunity to build a strong foundation for their future. Through local races, PADMA supports organizations that provide mentorship, skill-building opportunities, and other services that help youth navigate the many challenges of today’s society.

Through the Run for PADMA events, both funds and awareness are raised in support of the meaningful work of nonprofit partner organizations that help youth develop the confidence, courage, and optimism to realize their full potential. Desi Dash 5K, their fall walk/run in New Jersey, raised $5,000 for Learning Ally, bringing awareness to the struggles students have with reading due to a learning difference such as a visual impairment or dyslexia.

Learning Ally proudly attended the event, where local community leaders, corporate partners and their employees, came together to enjoy an outdoor event and compete for medals and bragging rights. The Desi Dashers added a hint of culture, sharing samosas, chai tea and other delicious Indian treats. Friends and family members of all ages cheered each other on to the finish line. A truly wonderful way to spend time with one another, while we immerse ourselves in the beautiful lush greenery at Duke Island Park in Bridgewater, New Jersey. For more information, visit: https://www.runforpadma.org/

If you would like to create a fundraiser or name Learning Ally as a beneficiary of an event or fundraiser, send an email request to allkidscanread@LearningAlly.org

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In the Season of Giving…Give the Gift of “Literacy For All”
75th Anniversary logo

December 5, 2023 by User

For Immediate Release:

December 5, 2023  - Princeton, NJ – Learning Ally, a national nonprofit working with U.S. schools and families to improve reading proficiency for the nation’s most vulnerable students, is appealing for donor support in its mission to provide literacy for all learners. 

The organization is celebrating 75 years in service to students in PreK-12th grades and college-age who struggle to read and require accessible educational books to keep academic pace with peers, including students with dyslexia and vision impairments.

Today, Learning Ally serves over 2.3 million students in 23,000 schools, and works with 615,000 U.S. educators. The nonprofit is solely supported by literacy-minded foundations, corporations and individuals who donate both time and dollars to students with learning differences to receive equitable access to educational audiobooks. 

In the United States, an estimated 65% of all 4th graders read below proficiency. Factor in students who are Black and Hispanic, and this percentage jumps to 77%, and with detrimental consequences. These students are 400% more likely to drop out of high school and will struggle to find employment, get health insurance or keep a roof over their heads.  

“Equitable access to grade-level audiobooks enables more struggling students to become independent, proficient readers and learners, regardless of their economic status or learning difference,” said Andrew Friedman, CEO of Learning Ally.

Every dollar donated to Learning Ally’s philanthropic mission is matched up to $25,000. Donations improve the organization’s ability to provide eligible students with access to a digital library offering more than 80,000 audiobooks aligned to school curriculum, and to popular titles their friends are reading. 

The organization also offers an annual National Achievement Awards scholarship program which benefits both educators and students who are making outstanding contributions to literacy improvement.

In addition to the Audiobook Library, Learning Ally publishes an early literacy Excite Reading™ program, and a suite of professional learning courseware to ensure educators are up-to-date in their knowledge and application of the science of reading. 

New volunteers are also welcomed as every Learning Ally audiobook is uniquely narrated by authentic voices to engage and enhance a child’s reading experience of any text, literature, or subject area.  

To join Learning Ally’s “Literacy For All” movement and to donate, visit www.learningally.org or call 1-800-221-1098 for information.  

About Learning Ally                                          

Learning Ally is a leading education nonprofit dedicated to empowering 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 2.3 million students and 615,000 educators across the United States. 


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National Family Literacy Month. What Can Early Literacy Look Like At Home?

November 3, 2023 by User

Reading is such an awesome pastime, but how do we keep children turning the pages? Host a family literacy night! Learning Ally held its first virtual Family Literacy Advocacy Night with a large school district in the northeast. It was such a wonderful success that we wanted to share the takeaways with you. 

“I Promise” by LeBron James

Our family literacy event brought teachers, parents, and children together to hear a story read aloud by Michael Burgess, a Learning Ally professional narrator, who read LeBron James’ book, “I Promise.” Michael narrated the story with incredible expression and depth to demonstrate how reading aloud with authenticity can engage and inspire children. Word Cloud with I Promise title and boxes that suggest ways to advocate for literacy.

Attendees talked about the story. We laughed; we shared reasons why literacy is important in school and at home. We discussed the myriad ways that literacy surrounds us, what activities work best for reading engagement, the impact culturally-relevant books and diverse literature can have, and creative ways to find joy in reading every day. Pictorial literacy was discussed, and we experienced how to read a book through storytelling using relevant text-based words. The live read-aloud demonstrated the powerful benefits of read-alouds. We discovered COUNTLESS opportunities to interject literacy in the home environment to strengthen skills in vocabulary, comprehension, critical thinking, and background knowledge. We made a fantastic Word Cloud about literacy activities in the home.

Give Children a Voice 

Everyone agreed that reading should always be engaging and never a punishment, and gave suggestions for practicing literacy at home. For example, reading a recipe, reading street signs, reading on the playground, bath time, bedtime, morning, noon, and nighttime. Any time is a good time to read! 

Attendees promised to show up for our children and advocate for literacy, and to aid children in discovering who they are as people and their personal interests. We agreed to help teachers understand “who our child is,” their strengths, and interests. We promised to model literacy advocacy in our own lives. 

Creating a Culture of Readers

Looking for good ideas to advocate for literacy? Here are some ideas from our family literacy night event:  

  • Visit your local library and get a library card.

  • Identify a topic that truly interests your child and read about it together.

  • Use comic books, graphic novels, and any text that will jolt curiosity.

  • Help children identify themselves through authentic literature

  • Create cozy spaces to read. Who doesn’t like a cushy bean bag chair!

  • Volunteer at your local school to read to children.

  • Donate books and participate in community activities.

  • Utilize IEP and parent meetings to discuss your child’s progress and individuality.

  • Model reading enjoyment. 

  • Encourage children to read above their grade level.

  • Listen to audiobooks.

  • Ask questions about what words mean.

  • Sing songs and learn lyrics.

  • Advocate for multilingual literacy resources in your school and libraries.

  • Write and read poetry.

  • Find resources that support your child’s learning differences, like human-read audiobooks.

  • Support collective sharing on the science of reading.

  • Learn what brain-based research says about how we learn.

Literacy is about reading, speaking, writing, and listening. It’s about learning and engagement, sharing and caring, synergy, and reciprocity to learn from each other. It’s about education equality, access, equity and social justice. Literacy can happen anywhere, at any time, and takes a village. 

Let’s cross our pinkies and make a promise to read, and to advocate for #literacyforall. 

Valerie Chernek writes about educational best practices through the use of technology and the science of reading in support of teachers, children, and adolescents who struggle with learning differences. 

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