Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement

rss

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.


Audiobook Recommendations for Elementary School Children
Book Cover: A boy Called Bat

September 19, 2019 by Jhara Navalo

You might be interested to know that there is a science behind human-read audiobooks. We learned that if a child reads 20 or more times he/she is able to increase reading level!!! It doesn’t matter how many pages are turned. It’s just important that reading with audiobooks is repeated daily. In fact we have developed a new term for this and it is called reading with frequency. Our goal is for all our members to Read with Frequency!And we have great recommended books for your child’s grade level and interests, all aligned to school curriculum. Check them out today and happy reading!


A Boy Called Bat

Synopsis
From acclaimed author Elana K. Arnold and with illustrations by Charles Santoso, A Boy Called Bat is the first book in a funny, heartfelt, and irresistible young middle grade series starring an unforgettable young boy on the autism spectrum. For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises--some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat's mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter. But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he's got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.


The Push

Synopsis
When Marcus moved next door to John, they knew instantly they'd be friends. Now John and Marcus do almost everything together. They go on lots of adventures, with Marcus pushing John's wheelchair and John fueling their escapades with jokes. Through their friendship, the boys discover that their unique gifts make them stronger together.Based on the friendship of real-life best friends Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck, The Push teaches kids that people of all abilities have important roles to play and that we're all better together than we are on our own.


A Computer Called Katherine

Synopsis
The inspiring true story of mathematician Katherine Johnson--made famous by the award-winning film Hidden Figures --who counted and computed her way to NASA and helped put a man on the moon! Katherine knew it was wrong that African Americans didn't have the same rights as others--as wrong as 5+5=12. She knew it was wrong that people thought women could only be teachers or nurses--as wrong as 10-5=3. And she proved everyone wrong by zooming ahead of her classmates, starting college at fifteen, and eventually joining NASA, where her calculations helped pioneer America's first manned flight into space, its first manned orbit of Earth, and the world's first trip to the moon! Award-winning author Suzanne Slade and debut artist Veronica Miller Jamison tell the story of a NASA \"computer\" in this smartly written, charmingly illustrated biography.


The Day You Begin

Synopsis
Jacqueline Woodson is the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpr Illustrator Award winner Rafael L pez have teamed up to create a poignant, yet heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone. There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you. There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it's how you look or talk, or where you're from; maybe it's what you eat, or something just as random. It's not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it. Jacqueline Woodson's lyrical text and Rafael L pez's dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.


After the Fall

Synopsis
Jacqueline Woodson is the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpr Illustrator Award winner Rafael L pez have teamed up to create a poignant, yet heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone. There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you. There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it's how you look or talk, or where you're from; maybe it's what you eat, or something just as random. It's not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it. Jacqueline Woodson's lyrical text and Rafael L pez's dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.


About Learning Ally

LEARNING ALLY is a leading education solutions organization dedicated to transforming the lives of struggling learners. The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a proven multi-sensory reading accommodation for students with a reading deficit composed of high quality, human-read audiobooks, student-centric features and a suite of teacher resources to monitor and support student success. Used in more than 17,000 schools, empowering over 375,000 struggling readers annually, this essential solution bridges the gap between a student’s reading ability and their cognitive capability, empowering them to become engaged learners and reach their academic potential.

Learning Ally empowers over 374,000 students with improved comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, and critical thinking skills. For over 70 years, we have helped transform the lives of struggling readers by bridging the gap between their reading capability and their academic potential as they confidently become lifelong learners who thrive in school and beyond.

Learn More About Becoming a Learning Ally Member

 
Read More about Audiobook Recommendations for Elementary School Children

Five Back to School Tips for Parents of Struggling Readers
20 Minutes Daily Reading Performance Chart

August 1, 2019 by Jhara Navalo

Starting off the school year right for students with learning differences like dyslexia is very important to ensure their success throughout the year. Relieving the stress parents can face during this very busy time is key in creating balance while a child is transitioning from school to home. At Learning Ally, we know what you're going through, from IEPs to locker combinations, school supplies, food drives and extracurricular activities ... the list goes on. 

Back to school season can be chaotic, so we've put together a list of five ways our audiobook solution can get you and your child on track for a better school year.

#1 - 20 minutes a day keeps the tears away and increases test scores

20 Minutes Daily Reading Performance Chart

Research shows that reading 20 minutes each day can raise students' performance on assessment testing. Try blocking off regular times for your child to ear read independently. Here is a list of 23 books your child would love to read. The great thing about Learning Ally audiobooks is you can take them anywhere and read on the go. Squeeze in reading time during car rides or while waiting on long lines at the grocery store.

In short, more time reading = more words read = better reading performance.

#2 - Make homework easier

Struggling reader turns away from books

Did you know Learning Ally has textbooks? Browse through our books by subject and see if you find audio versions of your child's school books. Make homework easier and less frustrating while giving yourself back some much needed personal time. With only 24 hours in a day, Learning Ally can help keep the tears away.

#3 - Create a comfortable spot for your child to read

SRT Winner of reading in most creative space

Struggling readers are inherently less comfortable with the act of reading than their more fluent peers. What better way to ease some of their discomforts than with a plush reading space, easy natural lighting and an inviting background? Creating a comfortable, dedicated reading space in your home invites your child to relax and read or listen to an audio book. Sometimes all it takes are some brightly-colored pillows in a quiet corner or a cardboard box converted into a fort.

#4 - Network with other parents

Are you part of Learning Ally's Parent Chat group? It's a closed Facebook group where thousands of parents share their challenges, strengths, and triumphs. The group is full of rich, valuable discussion; and it's moderated by parents and educators who provide resources and help answer questions you may have regarding your child's learning differences.

Meet our Parent Chat moderators

Nikki S. -- Stay-at-home mom of three awesome kids and member of Learning Ally since June 2016.
Nikki S. Learning Ally Parent Chat Moderator

"When my 10-year-old son was identified as dyslexic, I found the Learning Ally Parent Chat group to be an amazing resource for all the questions I had. When they asked for moderators, I jumped at the chance to help. I have learned so much and want to continue learning and sharing resources with all the parents in our group. I am also a former 2nd and 3rd-grade teacher, so I look forward to using all of my new knowledge about dyslexia when I return to the classroom."

Renee W.-- Learning Ally member and mother.
Renee W. Learning Ally Parent Chat Moderator

"My daughter, Sydney, is 10 years old and in 5th grade. We have been members for three years. I am a meteorologist with the National Weather Service by trade, but I'm also pursuing a Masters in Education concentrating in Reading Science with Mount St. Joseph University. I am Orton-Gillingham trained through them and will be graduating this December. When my 10-year-old son was identified as dyslexic, I found the Learning Ally Parent Chat group to be an amazing resource for all the questions I had. When they asked for moderators, I jumped at the chance to help. I have learned so much and want to continue learning and sharing resources with all the parents in our group. I am also a former 2nd and 3rd-grade teacher, so I look forward to using all of my new knowledge about dyslexia when I return to the classroom."

#5 - Let Kids "Catch" You Reading

Learning Ally Mom and Son reading

It's important that your child sees you reading. Adults who read are positive role models, reinforcing reading habits learned in school and inspiring children to read on their own. Pair up and encourage reading aloud and audio book usage. You can take turns with your child reading along aloud with audi obooks.


About Learning Ally

LEARNING ALLY is a leading non-profit education solutions organization dedicated to transforming the lives of struggling learners. The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a proven multi-sensory reading accommodation for students with a reading deficit composed of high quality, human-read audiobooks, student-centric features and a suite of teacher resources to monitor and support student success. Used in more than 17,000 schools, this essential solution bridges the gap between a student’s reading ability and their cognitive capability, empowering them to become engaged learners and reach their academic potential.

Read More about Five Back to School Tips for Parents of Struggling Readers

Read it first! Audiobooks that are now movies
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark audiobook

July 16, 2019 by Jhara Navalo

Read it before you see it!, We all know that that the book is always better than the movie and with so many book-based movies coming out this summer we want to make sure your child reads the book first. Here are a list of books that are now movies that you can both read and watch with your child.


Coming Soon to Theaters: Scary stories to tell in the dark

Scary stories to tell in the dark

Synopsis
This spooky addition to Alvin Schwartz's popular books on American folklore is filled with tales of eerie horror and dark revenge that will make you jump with fright. There is a story here for everyone -- skeletons with torn and tangled flesh who roam the earth; a ghost who takes revenge on her murderer; and a haunted house where every night a bloody head falls down the chimney. Stephen Gammell's splendidly creepy drawings perfectly capture the mood of more than two dozen scary stories -- and even scary songs -- all just right for reading alone or for telling aloud in the dark. If You Dare!


Aladdin and Arabian Nights

Synopsis
The ragamuffin Aladdin finds an old lamp which makes his fortune; a prince disappears on a flying horse; A falcon proves wiser than a king...These tales of kings and princes, magicians, and talking beasts, which were daily entertainment in India, Persia and Arabia over a thousand years ago, are retold especially for children in this vivid, fresh collection.


The Outsiders

Synopsis
S. E. Hinton's classic story of a boy who finds himself on the outskirts of regular society remains as powerful today as it was the day it was first published.


Lord of the Flies

Synopsis
At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate. This far from civilization they can do anything they want. Anything. But as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far removed from reality as the hope of being rescued.


More audio books that are now movies:

Lone Survivor

Divergent

The Fault In Our Stars

The Hate You Give

The Giver

The Maze Runner

Gone Girl

Alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day

Hunger Games 3: Mockingjay

Paddington

The Hobbit or there and back again

Unbroken : A World War II Story of Survival Resilience and Redemption


About Learning Ally

LEARNING ALLY is a leading education solutions organization dedicated to transforming the lives of struggling learners. The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a proven multi-sensory reading accommodation for students with a reading deficit composed of high quality, human-read audiobooks, student-centric features and a suite of teacher resources to monitor and support student success. Used in more than 17,000 schools, empowering over 375,000 struggling readers annually, this essential solution bridges the gap between a student’s reading ability and their cognitive capability, empowering them to become engaged learners and reach their academic potential.

Learning Ally empowers over 374,000 students with improved comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, and critical thinking skills. For over 70 years, we have helped transform the lives of struggling readers by bridging the gap between their reading capability and their academic potential as they confidently become lifelong learners who thrive in school and beyond.

Learn More About Becoming a Learning Ally Member

 
Read More about Read it first! Audiobooks that are now movies

Morphology: A Critical Component In Reading Development
Headshot of Becky Welsch

May 6, 2019 by Jhara Navalo

Guest blogger Becky Welsch, has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. Becky’s certifications include the CEERI Tier I Qualification Exam (aligned with the International Dyslexia Association’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading). She is a reading clinician at Reading Writing & Comprehension, RW&C, LLC; an online and traditional reading intervention clinic specializing in Structured Literacy methodology.


Learning to read is a complex process that requires children to perform multiple mental tasks simultaneously. When we discuss the roadblocks to learning to read and dyslexia, we often talk about phonics, phonological awareness, fluency, and comprehension. However, one critical but often overlooked component of the reading process is morphological awareness. A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of language. For example, the word "jumping" has two morphemes, "jump" and "-ing".

Understanding morphology is crucial in reading development, and morphological interventions must be included in effective reading programs. In their article “Morphological Awareness Intervention for Students Who Struggle with Language and Literacy,” Julie A. Wolter and Ginger Collins examine the connection between reading performance and morphological interventions. The authors demonstrate that for students to be able to learn to read and comprehend text, they need to have an explicit awareness of morphological processes. That is, students need to be aware of word parts like base words, prefixes, and suffixes and have direct knowledge of their meaning. There is a direct link between morphological awareness and an increased ability to read and write proficiently.

The connect between morphological understanding, and reading skills were even more apparent in students with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities. Students who received direct and explicit interventions related to morphological awareness had better reading skills and were more likely to be proficient readers. Direct morphological instruction has also been linked to an increased sight word reading speed as well as increased decoding abilities, both of which lead to increased reading fluency and comprehension.

If a child struggles to understand and manipulate morphemes, their reading will become labored, and comprehension will suffer, especially as they get older and the complexity of the texts they are reading increases. It is imperative that any intervention program has an explicit morphology component introduced in the initial lesson to help struggling readers enhance their skills.

In an effective intervention program, each and every lesson needs to include a morphology component, and parents need to practice morphological skills with their children. Wolter and Collins identified a few critical skills students need when it comes to morphology. The first key understanding each student must have is the ability to segment words into their respective morphemes. For example, when giving the word "coming", they need to be able to identify that it is composed of "come" and "-ing" to form the new word "coming".

PREFIX

ROOT OR BASE

SUFFIX

come

-ing

come + ing = coming  drop the 'e' rule

You can help your child become proficient in breaking apart words into morphemes. One method is to use a graphic organizer to help categorize the material, by asking your child to break words apart into prefixes, base words, and suffixes. Each morpheme can be color coded to help organize the information in a meaningful manner that will lead to an increase in reading skills.

A second skill the authors identify is the ability to combine base words and various prefixes and suffixes to make new words. In an effective program, students need to examine different prefixes and suffixes with a variety of base words to create new combinations with a variety of meanings. For example, using the base words "struc, struct" students can build and determine the meaning of a plethora of words like construct, construction, instruct, instructor, destruct, destruction, reconstruction and many, many, more. For the competitive child, take turns building words with the morphemes and see who has the most allowable words!

PREFIX

ROOT OR BASE

SUFFIX

con-

struc, stuct

-ing

de-

-tion

in-

-or

con + struct+ ing = constructing
de + struc + tion = destruction
in + struct + or = instructor

Finally, Wolter and Collins suggest that students must have explicit instruction in the meanings of a variety of base words and affixes. Once students know these meanings, they can use this knowledge as an anchor to learn new words. For example, knowing that "sect, sec, seg" means “to cut,” and "bi-" means “two,” students can determine that the meaning of bisect is “to cut into two.” This has a clear link to increased vocabulary skills which aid in comprehension of higher level texts and is crucial for advanced reading comprehension.

Children who struggle with reading and spelling benefit from direct, explicit morphological instruction. For instance, during an effective morpheme lesson, students could work with the prefix "inter" and learn that it means “between, among.” They would then asked to apply this knowledge to understand the meaning of words like interrupt, interstate, and interpersonal. In doing so, they have the opportunity to practice manipulating morphemes which will increase their vocabulary and their reading abilities.

Another way you could practice morphological skills with your child at home is to use index cards. Use one color to write a variety of base words. The words you choose would be dependent on your child’s skill level. For emergent readers, you would want to stick with words like "jump", "cat", and other simple words. If your child is more advanced, you could use more difficult words like "struc" or "ject". You can find a list of age-appropriate base word with a quick internet search. In another color, write affixes which can include prefixes and/or suffixes, depending on the skill level of your child. Have your child match the base words with affixes to form new words. Have them explain how the affix changes the meaning of the base word. This can be as simple as creating plurals to as complicated as adding both a prefix and a suffix.

You can also take advantage of technology to help your child with vocabulary words and morphology elements. One great app developed by Learning Ally can help your child annotate as they are reading. This allows them to find and identify unknown words and affixes. It can also help them highlight and remember other important information. It comes with a built in dictionary to help with unknown vocabulary words as well.

If your child struggles with new vocabulary words and morphological skills, it is not something they will learn on their own. They need direct, explicit instruction in morphology. Just like phonics, it is not something they will just pick up on their own. Morphological awareness is an essential part of the Structured Literacy Framework.


About Learning Ally

Learning Ally is a leading nonprofit ed-tech organization delivering a comprehensive learning solution for struggling readers in elementary, middle and high schools. Our proven solution includes the most extensive library of human-read audiobooks that students want and need to read both at home and at school. This reading experience helps accelerate learning, enables a new level of access to knowledge and powerfully increases confidence and self-belief. Learning Ally empowers over 370,000 students with improved comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, and critical thinking skills. For over 70 years, we have helped transform the lives of struggling readers by bridging the gap between their reading capability and their academic potential as they confidently become lifelong learners who thrive in school and beyond.

Become a Learning Ally member today!

Read More about Morphology: A Critical Component In Reading Development

What to do about dyslexia? Maintain two column mindset

May 6, 2019 by Jhara Navalo

Richard Selznick, PH. DRichard Selznick, PH.D, Director of the Cooper Learning Center, Department of Pediatrics, Cooper University Health System, and author shares an excerpt from his fourth book "What to do about dyslexia? 25 essential points for parents" explaining why you should have a two column mindset.


What to do about dyslexia?Parents usually want guidance in helping their child overcome their difficulties, and they also often want to rush into things and hurry it along. But as we've discussed, hurrying rarely helps.

Fortunately, there's a way you can think about your child's dyslexia that will help you reduce the urge to rush and will manage any feelings of helplessness on her behalf. When I review assessment findings with parents, I frequently find myself in front of the white board mapping out different ideas and concepts. One of my favorite things to show parents is the notion of a two-column mindset when thinking about what can be done with their dyslexic child.
 

The two columns are:
Interventions Accommodations
(or ways around the problem)

I call this a mindset rather than just a chart because I see these two columns as the things you should start thinking about once you understand the nature of your child 's learning disability. These two categories, interventions and accommodations, should always be in the back of your mind – and occasionally brought to the foreground - as she progresses in school.

If your child is on any medication, such as Adderall or Concerta, then these medications are also interventions. Mind you, I'm not saying that all dyslexic children need all of these interventions. Each child needs to be considered on an individual basis. For some kids, the only intervention, and the only item in that left-hand column of the chart above, will be tutoring, while another child may be getting half a dozen therapies.

The same goes for the right-hand side of the chart, the "accommodations" column. To fill out the "accommodations" column, write down anything that you, your child's teacher, school, or tutor may be doing to help him around the problem.

Keep in mind that some of these may be done informally and may not be drawn up in a 504 plan or an IEP. You may have started many of these accommodations a long time ago, before your child even started remediation.

Examples of accommodations include:
 

  • Previewing words with your child prior to reading.
  • Reading material that you know will be difficult out loud to your child.
  • Using Assistive Technology (AT) and having chapter books read aloud on something like Learning Ally.
  • In the classroom, making sure directions are repeated and your child receives help getting oriented to the task.
  • Providing extra time if that is helpful.
  • Offering note taking assistance.
  • Allowing children to take photos of notes rather than copying notes by hand.
  • Not penalizing for spelling.

 

In my experience, parents tend to over-focus on the Ieft hand column, the interventions, often forgetting how important it is to implement and maintain accommodations. I've observed that as the child gets older (i.e., twelve years and up), it becomes increasingly necessary to keep accommodations front and center. Accommodations and workarounds help empower your child to take increasingly greater responsibility for his own learning, given his learning style and needs.

One example of this is a boy named Mitchell, who had severe learning disabilities and whom I worked with for many years. As Mitchell entered high school, he increasingly embraced a range of AT tools that helped him feel that he was taking charge of his learning in ways that he otherwise couldn't.

As Mitchell explained to me, "At the end of class I wait for everyone to go out and then I take out my phone and take a photo of anything on the board. For any extensive reading, I see if it's on Learning Ally, and if it's not, then I have the material scanned and it's read to me through Kurzweill 3000. I also am getting better at using Dragon Naturally Speaking to dictate my ideas for writing. Nothing's perfect, but it certainly is a lot better than not using it."

Takeaway Point

Always maintain a two-column mindset when your child has been diagnosed with a learning disability such as dyslexia. As she gets older, the accommodations on the right side of the chart play an increasing role in her academic performance and everyday life.


About Learning Ally

LEARNING ALLY is a leading education solutions organization dedicated to transforming the lives of struggling learners. The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a proven multi-sensory reading accommodation for students with a reading deficit composed of high quality, human-read audiobooks, student-centric features and a suite of teacher resources to monitor and support student success. Used in more than 17,000 schools, empowering over 375,000 struggling readers annually, this essential solution bridges the gap between a student’s reading ability and their cognitive capability, empowering them to become engaged learners and reach their academic potential.

Become a Learning Ally member today!

Read More about What to do about dyslexia? Maintain two column mindset