It is not a surprise that many of our speech students are poor readers and do not like to read. They may lack many of the skills that it takes to enjoy a good story. Their reading ability often keeps them in stories that have immature topics compared to their interests. It doesn’t take long before they find themselves way behind their peers. They are stumbling through basal readers when their peers have moved on to chapter books. Yet books are such a great tool to learn new vocabulary, learn story sequence, and develop the ability to make inferences.
The 5th grade classes at one of my schools compete in the Spring in a competition called the “Battle of the Books”. They are assigned books through the year, questions are derived from the stories, and then the questions are used for a type of knowledge bowl competition.
The winning team is acknowledged by the school library. A few of the 5th graders I work with are unable to read the books and grasp the material. They have a hard time including themselves in this competition.
This school year I’ve become aware of new tools to bring literacy to my students with poor reading ability. They can enjoy appropriate reading and writing content when their reading skills are low. Two such internet programs are “Bookshare.org” and StoryBird. I have added them to the blogroll. Both programs are free to classroom teachers or mentors who enroll students and are responsible for over seeing the material and content. The material is password protected but available to a core group.
Bookshare is available to students with print disabilities. As stated on the Bookshare site, ” Through an award from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), Bookshare offers free memberships to U.S. schools and qualifying U.S. students.” In this program, the mentor/teacher verifies that a student has a disability that prevents them from accessing literature without accommodations. The books would typically be copywrite protected but are available to be downloaded through this program to assigned students. The student has access to an assigned book on any computer by using an assigned password. Text is highlighted and read to them by the computer. All levels of reading ability are represented and a lot of the books are books being used in classrooms today as assigned reading.
The Storybird site is particularly helpful for students who need visual material to get the creative juices flowing. Artists have contributed beautiful art work that can be dragged and pulled to pages. The students then add text to make their own stories. The students can complete their own classroom libraries. Students can make individual books/stories or collaborate. It can maintain an interest level from low readers to the Talented and Gifted (TAG). What a great classroom project to include everyone on the same playing field.