Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement

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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 Library Suggestions (April) - Literature
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May 10, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

Human-narrated audiobooks truly make the difference in ensuring a student engages with and comprehends the books that they're reading.  Our volunteers spend hours recording these books to secure the rights for all students to learn and out of their love for reading and education. Here's a list of audiobooks that have been newly recorded and added to our library.  Enjoy!

 

Alexander Hamilton

Grade Level: 12+

Synopsis
In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, National Book Award winner Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”


 

Amelia to Zora

Lexile:AD1040L

Synopsis
From Amelia Earhart, pilot and adventurer, to Zora Neal Hurston, writer and anthropologist, readers learn about the hardships and triumphs of 26 amazing women and discover what inspired each one to change the world around her.


 

Cabin Fever

Grade 3-7
Synopsis
Greg Heffley is in big trouble. School property has been damaged, and Greg is the prime suspect. But the crazy thing is, he’s innocent. Or at least sort of. The authorities are closing in, but when a surprise blizzard hits, the Heffley family is trapped indoors. Greg knows that when the snow melts he’s going to have to face the music, but could any punishment be worse than being stuck inside with your family for the holidays?


 

Dog's Best Friend

Grade Level: 3-7
Synopsis
Releasing the same month as the MIDDLE SCHOOL movie, this next installment of James Patterson's hit series has non-stop laughs starring everyone's favorite underdog.


 

Fourth Stall

Grade Level: 3-7
Synopsis
"Diary of a Wimpy Kid" meets "The Sopranos" in this fresh, funny debut novel--an offer no tween can refuse.


 


The Giver

Grade Level: 7-12
Synopsis
Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.


 

The Education of Richard Rodriguez

Lexile: 920L
Hunger of Memory is the story of Mexican-American Richard Rodriguez, who begins his schooling in Sacramento, California, knowing just 50 words of English, and concludes his university studies in the stately quiet of the reading room of the British Museum.


 

Invisible Man

Grade Level: 12+
Synopsis
A Science Fiction Classic: From the twentieth century's first great practitioner of the novel of ideas comes a consummate masterpiece of science fiction about a man trapped in the terror of his own creation.


 

Outcast United

Synopsis
The extraordinary tale of a refugee youth soccer team and the transformation of a small American town Clarkston, Georgia, was a typical Southern town until it was designated a refugee settlement center in the 1990s, becoming the first American home for scores of families in flight from the world’s war zones—from Liberia and Sudan to Iraq and Afghanistan. 


 

Tales from the Odyssey Part 2

Grade Level: 3-6
Synopsis
Part Two includes: Book Four: "The Gray-Eyed Goddess," Book Five: "Return toIthaca," and Book Six: "The Final Battle."


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 240,000 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

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National Poetry Month: Featured Audiobook Titles
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April 23, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

National Poetry Month was started by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture. Poetry's rhythmic style and playful way of learning how to hear the syllables within words supports reading fluency. Breaking down words into smaller chunks aids in content comprehension, helping your child see the patterns within language and improve skills in ‘sounding out’ words. We hope you enjoy this list of audiobooks we put together for you to introduce poetry to your child and get them reading.

 

What A Day It Was At School

Grade Level: K-5
When your science homework eats your dog, you spend lunch dodging flying food, and your backpack weighs a thousand pounds, you know you've got a great answer to the question, “What did you do at school today?”


 

Shout! Little Poems That Roar

Grade Level: K-3
This vibrant collection of twenty-one poems celebrates the joys (snack time!) and pitfalls (2 + 2 = 23?) of childhood. Brod Bagert's often silly, always winsome poems cover everything from the seasons and the stars to finger paint and kids who quack.


 

A Poem In Your Pocket

Grade Level: K-3
Usher in National Poetry Month with Mr. Tiffin and his students, stars of the hugely popular How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? and The Apple Orchard Riddle.


 

The Raven And Other Favorite Poems

Grade Level: 9 an up
Features 41 of Poe's most memorable poems — among them "The Bells," "Ulalume," "Israfel," "To Helen," "The Conqueror Worm," "Eldorado" and "Annabel Lee" — reveal the extraordinary spectrum of Poe's personality and his virtuoso command of poetic language, rhythms and figures of speech. Alphabetic lists of titles and first lines.


 

The Charge Of The Light Brigade And Other Poems

Grade Level: 9 an up
Treasury of verse by the great Victorian poet includes the famous long narrative poem, Enoch Arden, plus "The Lady of Shalott," "The Charge of the Light Brigade," "Break, break, break," "Flower in the crannied Wall" and more. Also included are excerpts from three longer works: The Princess, "Maud" and "The Brook."


 

The Best Poems Ever

Grade Level: 7-9
Just in time for National Poetry Month, a fantastic collection of some of the best poems ever. These are some of the most amazing poems ever written, touching the heart, challenging the mind, and conjuring worlds of experience and imagination.


 

A Time To Dance

Grade Level: 7 and up
Padma Venkatraman s inspiring story of a young girl s struggle to regain her passion and find a new peace is told lyrically through verse that captures the beauty and mystery of India and the ancient bharatanatyam dance form.


 

Under The Mesquite

Grade Level: 7 and up
Lupita, a budding actor and poet in a close-knit Mexican American immigrant family, comes of age as she struggles with adult responsibilities during her mother's battle with cancer. A novel in verse.


 

Where The Sidewalk Ends

Grade Level: 4 and up
Shel Silverstein's masterful collection of poems and drawings is at once outrageously funny and profound.


 

Full Cicada Moon

Grade Level: 3-7
This historical middle-grade novel is told in poems from Mimi's perspective over the course of one year in her new town, and shows readers that positive change can start with just one person speaking up.


 

The Mouse Of Amherst

Grade Level: 3-7
Inspired, Emmaline writes her own first poem and secretly deposits it on Emily's desk. Emily answers with another poem, and a lively exchange begins. In this charming and fanciful introduction to Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Spires demonstrates the power of poetry to express our deepest feelings, while Claire A. Nivola's delicate pencil drawings capture the intricacies of life in Emily's world.


 

The President's Stuck In The Bathtub

Grade Level: 3-7
In The President's Stuck in the Bathtub, the lives of the presidents are served up as fact-filled and fanciful poems that will make you laugh, cringe, and gasp with amazement at the colorful cast of men and women who have lived in the White House.

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 240,000 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

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Subject Matter Continuity and Reading Comprehension
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April 14, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

Natalie Wexler  by guest blogger, educational author, and journalist, Natalie Wexler


Kid Struggling to readIn the fall of 2016, a new student joined Sarah Webb’s fourth-grade class in an Ohio suburb—a sweet, blond-haired boy who I’ll call him Matt. His mother took Webb aside and confessed that she was worried about his reading. Matt hadn’t been diagnosed with a disability, but he’d always been placed in the lowest reading group.

Webb had seen kids like Matt before: discouraged, struggling, seeing themselves as part of “the dumb group” year after year. Neither Webb nor Matt knew it yet, but this year would be different.

Like virtually all American kids, Matt had spent his school career in a system that limits children’s knowledge of the world largely to what they can access through their own reading. But, as research has shown, up to about the age of 13 children can absorb more sophisticated text by listening than through reading. And they need to hear that kind of text read aloud to acquire the knowledge, vocabulary, and critical thinking skills that will enable them to succeed in upper grades—and in life.

The assumption has been that if kids have trouble reading, they just need to spend more time practicing their reading skills on books that aren’t too hard for them. That makes sense for decoding skills. But reading comprehension skills like “finding the main idea” and “making inferences”—which students practice day after day, year after year--won’t turn struggling readers into proficient ones. Readers can’t use those skills to make sense of a text unless they have enough background knowledge and vocabulary to understand the text in the first place.

If you don’t know much about, say, cell biology, you’ll have a hard time understanding an abstract of an article about it. For children whose knowledge of the world is still limited, lots of texts—especially nonfiction texts—assume knowledge and vocabulary they don’t yet have, making reading a confusing and discouraging experience. Even children who seem to be doing fine in the early elementary grades, when reading simple stories, can encounter serious problems later on when they’re expected to read more complex nonfiction, both in class and on standardized tests.

When elementary teachers introduce nonfiction, they generally still focus on supposed skills—for example, identifying “text features” like captions or glossaries--on the theory that they’ll help students comprehend any nonfiction text. They may jump from a book on clouds to one on zebras to one on volcanoes. But students are much more likely to acquire new knowledge and vocabulary if they spend at least a couple of weeks focusing on a single topic.

The year Matt joined Sarah Webb’s class, she tried a different approach. Her students still had time to read books of their choice at their own reading levels. But Webb also read aloud to the whole class from books that had been chosen not for their supposed ability to develop comprehension skills—the standard approach—but for their ability to build knowledge. The books were part of a curriculum called Wit and Wisdom, which provides sets of books grouped around topics like the meaning of the phrase “a great heart,” or the American Revolution. Webb also led class discussions of the books and had her students write about what they were learning.

All of Webb’s students were enthralled by the new curriculum, eager to learn more about certain topics and read more books by the same authors. The high-achieving kids were flourishing. But so were the ones who struggled with reading—including Matt.

He was keenly interested in everything the class was learning about. And the fact that he was studying the same material as his higher-achieving peers boosted his confidence to the point that he often led class discussions. After the class learned about Clara Barton, Matt wrote an entire paragraph about her—more than he’d ever written before—and proudly read it to his parents. Matt’s mother said she had never seen him so enthusiastic about school. At the end of the year, Matt wrote Webb a thank you note, saying that reading wasn’t a struggle anymore.

Wit and Wisdom is only one of several knowledge-focused elementary literacy curricula that have become available in recent years—some of them for free. Others include Core Knowledge Language Arts, Bookworms, EL Education, and American Reading Company. More and more schools are adopting them—and seeing the same kinds of results that Webb did.

But the vast majority still use the skills-focused approach. If you teach at one of those schools, or your child attends one, you can advocate for switching to an approach designed to build knowledge and vocabulary.

Parent and Child listening to audiobooks Parents can also supplement a skills-focused curriculum by finding several books on the same general topic and reading them aloud to their children—or having them listen to audio books like those provided by Learning Ally--at home. But until all schools treat reading comprehension as an outgrowth of knowledge rather than a set of general skills, too many children like Matt are likely to languish in “the dumb group” rather than being enabled to develop their full potential.


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 240,000 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 Subject Matter Continuity and Reading Comprehension

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss! Audiobook Recommendations
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February 23, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! Dr. Seuss is considered a genius for writing content that supports early childhood reading development using word recognition through rhyme, creating a sense of fun by building on an ever-growing chaotic plot, and appealing to all audiences. Through good times and bad, his books have brought families and elementary classes many hours of fun reading. Here's a list of books (non-controversial) that we recommend you read.

 

Happy Birthday to You

Grade Level: 1-4
Lexile: NPL
Fly with the Great Birthday Bird in this fantastical commemoration of YOU And make the most of your special day, which only comes once a year.


 

Cat in the Hat

Grade Levels: Preschool - 2
Lexile: 260L
Poor Dick and Sally. It's cold and wet and they're stuck in the house with nothing to do . . . until a giant cat in a hat shows up, transforming the dull day into a madcap adventure and almost wrecking the place in the process!


 

Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories

Grade Level: K-3
Lexile:AD650L
This follow-up to The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories features familiar Seussian faces and places. this new volume of "lost" tales is a perfect gift for young readers and a must-have for Seuss collectors of all ages!


 

If I ran the circus

Grade Level: 1 - 4
Lexile: NPL
Young Morris McGurk lets his imagination run wild with his circus McGurkus. "Fun for the entire family.


Got a book list suggestion? Send your ideas to allkidscanread@learningally.org and help us get you the books you want and need to read.


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 240,000 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 Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss! Audiobook Recommendations

Audiobook Recommendations to Celebrate Multicultural Week
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February 8, 2018 by Jhara Navalo

In celebration of our nation's melting pot of cultures and storytelling, we compiled a list of authors that have brought joy and delight to students everywhere. Their books highlight their own dynamic cultures and families, sharing different perspectives on everyday life. We recommend the following audiobooks, and think that students will enjoy reading them.

Andrea Cheng

 

Andrea_Cheng

Popular Book Title: Year of the Book

Children’s book author and educator Andrea Cheng, authored books with an intercultural and intergenerational focus. Cheng was born in El Paso, Texas in 1957, the daughter of Hungarian immigrants. Cheng grew up with her two siblings and extended family living together under one roof. Inspired by her family, a young Andrea enjoyed writing her own stories throughout her years in elementary and middle school. Andrea married Jim Cheng, who was also the son of immigrants.


 

Author Meg Medina

Popular Book title: Mango, Abuela, and Me

Meg Medina is a Cuban-American writer of young adult fiction, who grew up in Queens, New York, where she met her husband Javier Menéndez. Medina's parents both emigrated from Cuba prior to her birth, her family's stories serve as the inspiration for her writing. 


 

Matt de la Pena

Popular title: Last Stop on Market Street

Matt de la Peña born in San Diego, California received his BA from University of the Pacific which he attended on a basketball scholarship. He then received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University. To date, de la Peña has written 15 books, the latest being Last Stop on Market Street which won the 2016 Newbery Medal. He currently resides in Brooklyn where he teaches creative writing courses at New York University.


 

Tracey Baptiste

Popular Book Title: Jumbies

Tracey Baptiste was born in Trinidad; she grew up on local folklore and fairy tales, and decided to be a writer at the age of three. Her debut, a young adult novel titled Angel’s Grace, was named one of the 100 best books for reading and sharing by New York City librarians. Tracey is a former teacher, textbook editor, ballerina, and amateur librarian. She is now a wife and mom and lives in New Jersey, where she writes and edits books for kids.


 

Frank Cotrell Boyce

Popular Title: Millions

Frank Cottrell Boyce was born in Liverpool and studied English at Oxford University. In 2004, he wrote a book for children based on his own screenplay - Millions - and this book won the 2004 Carnegie Medal. It was published as a play in 2010. His second children's novel, Framed, was shortlisted for both the 2005 Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year Award.


 

Shaun Tan (Illustrator)

Popular title: Trapped

Shaun Tan is an Australian artist, writer and filmmaker. He won an Academy Award for The Lost Thing, a 2011 animated film adaptation of a 2000 picture book he wrote and illustrated. In 2006, his wordless graphic novel The Arrival won the Book of the Year prize as part of the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards. The same book won the Children's Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year award in 2007.and the Western Australian Premier's Book Awards Premier's Prize in 2006.


Got a book list suggestion? Send your ideas to: allkidscanread@learningally.org and help us get you the books you want and need to read.


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 240,000 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 to Celebrate Multicultural Week