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.

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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October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month Learning and Sharing What Works for Children with Dyslexia
debunk screen shot.png

September 28, 2023 by User

illustration of a person who is surrounded by stars and uncertaintyThe most difficult problem for children with dyslexia is learning to read.

Learning Ally remains vigilant working with educators and families to improve the lives and learning outcomes of children, adolescents, and college students with dyslexia.

Research suggests that if all children were taught to read using approaches that work for students with dyslexia, like providing access to multiple modalities of reading instruction, reading achievement would improve overall. 

How do we know what works with students with dyslexia? 

  • What resources and tools, strategies and instructional approaches are most effective? 

  • What does the latest research say about how our brains learn to read? 

  • What approaches do literacy experts recommend to prepare struggling readers for school, and for support at home?   

  • What can you do to build collective intelligence about this learning disability that affects one in five students?

We want to invite all parents and families to take advantage of our 2023 Spotlight on Dyslexia on-demand virtual conference. 

These sessions are geared toward improving reading outcomes in schools, but you can also benefit with a clear understanding of how to support your child, and advocate for more children with dyslexia. 

Register now to hear from more than a dozen literacy experts in early education, reading and literacy instruction, brain-based research, and the science of reading. 

Use code: SPOD23Parent. For just $69 you will take part in a growing movement of movers and shakers leading the way for all children to become successful readers.  

  • Strengthen your knowledge on the latest brain-based research.

  • Learn proven instructional strategies that ensure your child gets the support they need to become solid readers.

  • View an actual video simulation of how dyslexia affects our brain’s processing functions in the act of reading.   

Build Collective Intelligence

Thank you for sharing this video play list from literacy thought leaders about dyslexia with your social network and local community to build up our collective intelligence with everyone you meet! 

Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a proven resource and accommodation in breaking down reading barriers for students with dyslexia. 

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Audiobook Solution for Kids Who Struggle with Reading

September 11, 2023 by User

Is your child struggling to read?

Reading is the key to learning success, but many children struggle to learn how to read during their younger years. Printed text can create obstacles for children with learning differences, like dyslexia, who find it challenging to learn how to decode words and comprehend meaning. This leads to falling behind in class, and a cycle of academic failure at a very young age.

Today 30 million students struggle to read, and one in five students has a learning disability. These children are often persistently slow in their rate of response to instruction, and struggle to read independently. In the fourth grade students are no longer learning to read, but are expected to have mastered the skill of reading. If reading deficits go unnoticed by fourth grade, over 65% of children will read below proficiency, unable to absorb complex texts.

What the science says about how the brain learns to read

A growing body of evidence suggests that developmental dyslexia might arise from impaired information processing, which is based on disruptive neural responses. Psychologist and Cognitive Neuroscientist, Stanislas Dehaene, PhD, is the Chair of Experimental Cognitive Psychology at the Collége de France in Paris, and directs the NeuroSpin center foremost in advanced brain imaging. Dehaene’s research investigates the neural bases of human cognitive functions such as reading, and language, with particular interest on the impact brain-based learning has in education.

Learning to read consists of recognizing letters and how they combine into written words, and then connecting them to the brain systems for coding of speech sounds and for meaning. According to Dr. Dehaene, reading starts in our brains like any other visual stimulation in the general visual areas of the brain, but quickly moves into an area of the brain that concerns the recognition of the written word. He calls this area the brain's "letter box" because it stores our knowledge of letters. From there, an explosion of activity happens in at least two important brain networks; one that concerns the meaning of words, and one that concerns the pronunciation and articulation of words. Dr. Dehaene says, “The beginning reader’s brain acts as a “super-computer” that needs to be fed with structured inputs, a well-designed curriculum, and explicit teaching of phonics and spelling.”

Breaking down barriers to reading

Learning Ally’s human-read audiobook solution is proven to double the rate of reading growth in just 50 days. It is a supplemental reading tool that empowers children and adolescents to become confident readers, effective communicators, and empathetic individuals. Access to books in digital format can reduce the stress and anxiety many struggling readers endure, especially those with dyslexia. Learning Ally has a dyslexia screening tool that will aid you in determining if your child has early reading difficulties. Your child may already qualify for Learning Ally if they have an Individual Education Plan.

The organization's digital audiobook library is filled with K-12 textbooks and culturally rich, age-appropriate, stories to assist children in reading about, and identifying with, their heritage, unique interests, and personal aspirations. Instead of frustration and angst for your child, this audiobook solution can pique their curiosity, imagination, and enthusiasm for a new world of learning, driven by their innate desire for knowledge, exploration, and self-awareness. As children enjoy best-sellers and receive the textbooks they need for school, they can improve their academic potential and social connections with classmates, teachers, and family. They feel part of their school community of good readers and participate in class.

Benefits of human-read audiobooks in support of struggling readers

Research tells us that children who listen to audiobooks can recall information more readily. Listening to audiobooks improves speaking accuracy and fluency, and access to anytime and anywhere reading independently.

Using the Learning Ally app, students have access to interactive learning tools geared to help them succeed in school, including:

  • highlighted text synced with audio narration
  • speed control
  • in-app dictionary
  • bookmarking, highlighting, and annotating features.

As children simultaneously see the words and hear text spoken with human-narration, their brains can better connect words to vocabulary, speech, and context. With human narration, a child can notice correct pronunciation, recognize and learn new words, get a flow of reading rate, pauses, stresses, and intonations – all skills crucial to ensure meaningful comprehension, and command over any language.

Becoming a member of Learning Ally will give you access to many important resources about dyslexia, the science of reading, and brain-based learning, while ensuring children discover the joy of reading, and receive equitable access to literature and textbooks, and popular titles.

First-time members pay just $99 a year. This is $36 less than the original subscription price of $135. Use this code: HOME99

Incorporating Learning Ally’s culturally relevant human-read audiobooks into literacy instruction improves reading outcomes, speaking accuracy, and critical thinking. You will be helping your child improve essential early language skills through better comprehension, while building social and emotional well-being and pride in their learning potential.

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