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Accessing Print with Text-to-Speech Technology
What does the research say?

March 10, 2021

Text-to-Speech

Estimates suggest that 80% of students with learning disabilities receive services for a reading disability. As many as 8 of 10 students with learning disabilities have reading problems so significant that they cannot read and understand grade-level material (Lerner, 2003). One way to help students access grade level material is using Text-to-Speech (TTS). TTS refers to tools that are designed to change digital text to speech and allows that digital text to be read aloud. Providing text-to-speech allows students to have access to grade level materials and listening to the text allows them to broaden their vocabulary as well as gain new information. The additional capability of highlighting words as they are read aloud allows students to hear and see text at the same time.

Problems of decoding, fluency and connecting text often affects comprehension. According to Paz at LD Resources Foundation Action (LDRFA), “We recommend the tools that have the option of highlighting the sentence as each word is converted to speech, especially for students, as it gives them a multi-sensory learning experience that can improve their ability to focus, retain information and improve comprehension.” Simultaneous visual and auditory access to text allows students to experience books in a new way.

Understood.org is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving family of children who learn and think differently. In an article titled, Text-to-Speech Technology: What It Is and How It Works, the Understood Team discuss how kids seeing and hearing text when reading provides a multisensory reading experience. They suggest that the combination of seeing and hearing text when reading has several advantages including improving word recognition, increasing the ability to pay attention and remember information, allowing students to focus on comprehension instead of decoding words, among others.

In a document developed for the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials on Audio-Supported Reading and Students with Learning Disabilities, supported reading is defined as a “technology-based technique for reading in which individuals read digital text in conjunction with listening to the text in an audio format such as text-to-speech (TTS)”. Jackson and Karger (2015) discuss that listening and viewing text can serve several functions, “For example, pairing written text with speech helps to sustain engagement during the reading task. Listening while viewing text can connect students directly to the text itself while the meaning of the text can be captured through listening.”

In the article Effects of Highlighting Text on the Reading Ability of Children with Developmental Dyslexia: A Pilot Study by Ikeshita et al. (2018) the researchers observed that “children with developmental dyslexia found it easier to read along when audio was synchronized with text highlighting, particularly for the highlighting style that used a blue band for whole sentences.”

Providing students with disabilities access to the printed page via text-to-speech technology is an important way for them to be able to decode grade level text and be given the opportunity to be more independent in their learning. As discussed, using TTS with the capability of listening and following along with the words being highlighted has many benefits.

AIM-VA was created to provide educators a way to access accessible books, workbooks, reading books and other curriculum-based print materials free-of-charge. Books not currently found in the AIM-VA library, can be produced if requested by an AIM-VA Digital Rights Manager (DRM) in any Virginia public school division. These accessible files for available for use by students who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and a confirmed Print Disability. Search for existing books in the Library through the AIM-VA website.

References

Ikeshita, H., Yamaguchi, S., Morioka, T., & Yamazoe, T. (2018). Effects of highlighting text on the reading ability of children with developmental dyslexia: A pilot study. International Journal Of Emerging Technologies In Learning (IJET), 13(09), pp. 239-251. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.3991/ijet.v13i09.8736

Jackson, R.M. & Karger, J. (2015). Audio-supported reading and students with learning disabilities. Wakefield, MA: National Center on Accessible Educational Materials. Retrieved on [3/3/21] from http://aem.cast.org/about/publications/2015/audio-supported-reading-learning-disabilities-asr-ld.html

National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (2015). Audio-supported reading and students with learning disabilities. Wakefield, MA: National Center on Accessible Educational Materials. Retrieved [3/4/21] from http://aem.cast.org/about/publications/2015/audio-supported-reading-learning-disabilities-asr-ld.html

Lerner, J. (2003). Learning disabilities: Theories, diagnosis, and teaching strategies (9th ed.) Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Pax, Z. (n.d.). Text to speech technology and top reading tools for dyslexia/learning disabilities. Retrieved on [3/7/21] from https://www.ldrfa.org/text-to-speech-technology-and-top-reading-tools-for-dyslexia-learning-disabilities/

Understood.org. (n.d.). Retrieved on [3/7/21] from https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/assistive-technology/assistive-technologies-basics/text-to-speech-technology-what-it-is-and-how-it-works

Low Vision Awareness Month

February 19, 2021

Enjoy this blog written by Veronica Lewis, at Veronica With Four Eyes. It is meant to address middle school teachers at the beginning of the school year but is just as meaningful at anytime!

Click the picture below to go directly to the blog!

Dear Middle School Teacher, Ten things your new low vision student wants you to know, but might not realize

Happy New Year!
2021

January 7, 2021

AIM-VA is looking forward to a great year! We are happy to have this opportunity to start the new year off with wonderful educators who support students with diverse learning needs.

To start off the New Year, AIM-VA invites you to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was a husband, father, Baptist Minister, Civil Rights leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner. He made significant contributions to the fight for equality for people, specifically African Americans.

Dr. King was born on January 15 in Atlanta, Georgia. His father was a pastor, and his mother was a teacher. Dr. King was the second of three children. As a matter of fact, his oldest sister, Mrs. Christine King Farris (93) is still alive. Dr. King married Coretta Scott in 1953. Together, they had 4 children.

  • Here are some fun facts about Dr. Martin Luther King:
  • He was born “Michael King, Jr.” However, his father was inspired by the reformation Leader Martin Luther. Therefore, he decided to change his son’s name to Martin Luther King
  • He was admitted to college when he was on 15 years old
  • He was the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964
  • There are 730 streets in the United States of America named after Dr. King

Remember, January 18 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (National Holiday). To celebrate Dr. King and his accomplishments, explore Read Write Think’s multi-grade level (elementary, middle, and high school) activities. Be sure to check out the following books AIM-VA has available for your students to read.

Books Formats
Elementary School
What was the March on Washington? PDF:Accessible, PDF:Fully Accessible, Word, Audio
Heroes in Black History: True Stories from the Lives of Christian Heroes PDF:Accessible, PDF:Fully Accessible, Word
All the People: Book 10, 1945-1999 PDF:Accessible
Coretta Scott King
(4th grade Level Reader)
PDF:Accessible
I Have a Dream: The Story of Martin Luther King Audio, Braille
Happy Birthday Martin Luther King Audio
Martin Luther King: The Peaceful Warrior Braille
Meet Martin Luther King Braille
Middle School
Heroes in Black History: True Stories from the Lives of Christian Heroes PDF:Accessible, PDF:Fully Accessible, Word
All the People: Book 10, 1945-1999 PDF:Accessible
Martin Luther King: The Peaceful Warrior Braille
High School / Young Adult
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom PDF:Accessible, Audio
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Audio

Keep Your Students Reading Over Winter Break

December 17, 2020
By Dr. Cheryl Temple

Research has found that reading just 20 minutes a day exposes children to millions of words a year. Students have a chance to read for 14 days if they take advantage of every day over winter break. At the end of this article you will find a listing of Holiday/Winter books from AIM-VA to help. Also, here are a few ideas that may encourage your students to continue reading over this winter holiday.

  1. Challenge your students to read at least 20 minutes a day. Make sure you have books that they want to read. You can do this by going to AIM-VA, select Get Started and Search for a Book. Check out the book recommendations by title, author, or keyword.
    Screenshot of the Search For a Book page on the AIM-VA Portal
  2. Create a way for students to keep track of their reading over winter break. Consider making a chart of some type where students can record what they are reading and how long they read each day. They can turn this in after the break for extra credit or some other reward. Here’s an example: Reading Chart
    Date Title of Book Amount of Time Reading Parent Initials
    Dec. 21
    Dec. 22
    Dec. 23
    Dec. 24
    Dec. 25
    Dec. 26
    Dec. 27
    Dec. 28
    Dec. 29
    Dec. 30
    Dec. 31
    Jan. 1
    Jan. 2
    Jan. 3
    TOTALTotal # of minutes read
  3. Have students share their thoughts on a book as they are reading using Padlet https://padlet.com/, Google Jamboard or any other media that students are familiar with. With Padlet students can create walls, grids, maps, timelines, among other things. For example, this is a timeline of Huckleberry Finn created in Padlet. After winter break, students can turn this in for credit.
    Screenshot of Padlet timeline
  4. Have students create a word cloud with new words they do not know or words that explain the character or story https://www.wordclouds.com/. Here’s an example of a word cloud that describes the character of Huckleberry Finn.
    Word cloud containing the words adventurous, brave, free-willed, independent, cunning, witty, curious, selfless, thoughtful, intelligent, and outgoing
  5. Find out if your students are taking a road trip and encourage them to listen to a book in the car. This is a way to help pass the time and a way to meet a reading goal at the same time.

You can continue many of these ideas after winter break and incorporate them into your reading activities throughout the rest of the year.

Other resources for ideas to keep students reading:

7 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Read Over Winter Break

Keeping Elementary Students Reading Over Winter Break

4 Practical Tips to Keep Students Reading Over Winter Break

AIM-VA Holiday/Winter Books

Many books are already available in AIM-VA by searching the website or Ordering Portal. However, many are listed befow for your convenience.

Please note… books not currently found in the AIM-VA library, can be produced if requested by an AIM-VA DRM (Digital Rights Manager) in any Virginia public school division.

Books Formats
Early Elementary School
The Return of Santa Paws PDF:Accessible, PDF:Fully Accessible, Word, ePub
A Snowman PDF:Accessible
A Lucky New Year PDF:Accessible, Nimas, RTF, HTML, Daisy
How the Grinch Stone Christmas PDF:Accessible, Audio
Memoirs of an Elf Audio
Granite PDF:Accessible
Ned's New Old Sled Braille
Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew: Ski School Sneak PDF:Accessible
Late Elementary School
The Return of Santa Paws PDF:Accessible, PDF:Fully Accessible, Word, ePub
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe Large Print, PDF:Accessible, PDF:Fully Accessible, Word, ePub, Audio
A Christmas Carol Nimas, RTF, HTML, Braille, Audio
Little Women Large Print, RTF, Daisy, Nimas, Audio
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever PDF:Accessible, Braille, Audio
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Large Print, PDF:Accessible, Audio
How the Grinch Stone Christmas PDF:Accessible, Audio
Santa Paws on Christmas Island Audio
Granite PDF:Accessible
My Life in Dog Years PDF:Accessible, Audio
Stone Fox PDF:Accessible, PDF:Fully Accessible, Word, ePub, Audio
Children's Book of Jewish Holidays Braille
Middle School
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe Large Print, PDF:Accessible, PDF:Fully Accessible, Word, ePub, Audio
A Christmas Carol Nimas, RTF, HTML, Braille, Audio
Little Women Large Print, RTF, Daisy, Nimas, Audio
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Large Print, PDF:Accessible, Audio
Woodsong PDF:Accessible, Audio
High School / Young Adult
A Christmas Carol Nimas, RTF, HTML, Braille, Audio
Twelfth Night Large Print, Audio
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Large Print, PDF:Accessible, Audio
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler PDF:Accesible, Audio

A Reminder to be Thankful!

November 2, 2020

As we move to the close of the year, we are reminded of the people and things for which we can be thankful. We can be thankful for our families, for our teachers, our first responders, and the countless number of individuals who have to go to work every day to ensure that our lives maintain some sort of normalcy during this pandemic. Despite the changes, AIM-VA is still here to help you support your students.

AIMVA has the following books which focus on being thankful and grateful during the Thanksgiving season:

Thanksgiving on Thursday
by Mary Pope
format - PDF: Accessible

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving
by Catherine O'Neill Grace
format - PDF: Accessible

Turkey Trouble
by Wendi Silvano & Lee Harper
format - PDF: Accessible and Large Print

Make Your Home Among Strangers
by Ennine Capó Crucet
format - PDF: Accessible

Just because its digital,
doesn’t mean its Accessible!

October 15, 2020

When making the shift to the virtual learning environment, many school districts are providing students with technology such as Chromebooks, iPads, hotspots, etc. It is important that students are able to use technology in a way that is meaningful and beneficial to them. Just as important, however, is that they do so independently.

Students need access to accessible class materials and reading books when working with the technology assigned to them. The key word is accessible! Sure, you can scan or download a few worksheets for class and Voilà!, digital copies. But, is this enough for all of your students? Ask yourself:

  • Is the text in the digital copy accessible?
  • Can your students have the text read aloud?
  • Can they copy & paste words they need to do a web search, write a paper, or find the definition?
  • Will they be able to complete the assignment independently; without the help of someone else reading to them?

If the answer is yes to these questions, good for you! You happen to have gotten access to materials that will actually work for all of your students.

However, if you answered no, don’t fret… AIM-VA can help!

It’s what we do; convert the classroom materials you select for your virtual or face-to-face class, into accessible ones. It’s that easy!

Spooktacular reading with AIM-VA

October 6, 2020

There’s more to Halloween than just dressing up in costumes and filling candy bags with sweet treats. There are also Halloween books to read and AIM-VA is here to help! Teachers: encourage your students to let their imaginations run wild as they read stories filled with suspension and adventure.

Check out this Pumpkin Book Report activity. You can use it in your class and share with parents. It even includes 2 accessible worksheets for your students! We would love to see the final products if you use AIM-VA books - email pictures to aimva@gmu.edu!

So take a look at many fun and exciting Halloween books we have in our AIM-VA Portal that are already accessible for your students!

Books Formats
Elementary - Middle School
Dinosaurs Before Dark PDF:Accessible, Braille
Junie B Jones, Boo…and I mean it! PDF:Accessible
The Hardy Boys #2: The House on the Cliff PDF:Accessible
The Hardy Boys #44: The Haunted Fort PDF:Accessible
Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask II PDF:Accessible
Goosebumps: Zombie School Braille
Goosebumps: Stay Out of the Basement Large Print
Goosebumps: Welcome to Camp Nightmare Large Print
Goosebumps: Escape from Horror House Braille
Here’s Hank #5: There’s a Zombie in my Bathtub PDF:Accessible
Pleasing the Ghost PDF:Accessible, WORD, PDF:Fully Accessible, ePub
Time For Andrew: A Ghost Story PDF:Accessible, WORD, PDF:Fully Accessible, ePub
The Last Kids on Earth PDF:Accessible
Summer of the Woods: The Virginia Mysteries Book 1 PDF:Accessible
Midnight Howl PDF:Accessible
The Dollhouse Murders PDF:Accessible
Breaking Dawn Large Print
Half Bad PDF:Accessible
Haunted House Braille
The Ghost Cadet Large Print, PDF:Accessible, WORD, PDF:Fully Accessible, ePub, Braille
Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase PDF:Accessible, WORD, PDF:Fully Accessible, ePub
The Ghost in Text 19 Braille
The Witch of Blackbird Pond Braille
The Ghost's Grave PDF:Accessible
Who Knew There'd Be Ghosts? Braille
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Large Print & PDF:Accessible
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkahban Large Print & PDF:Accessible
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Large Print & PDF:Accessible
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Large Print
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Large Print
House of Dies Drear Braille
High School/Young Adult
Four Great Plays PDF:Accessible
Fever 1793 PDF:Accessible, Braille
Dracula Large Print
Dracula's Guest Large Print
Macbeth PDF:Accessible, WORD, PDF:Fully Accessible, Braille
The Round House PDF:Accessible
Slaughterhouse Five Large Print, PDF:Accessible, WORD, PDF:Fully Accessible, ePub

September 13th is Roald Dahl Day

September 14, 2020

Roald Dahl was a famous British novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter, an ace fighter pilot, and a chocolate historian. He is considered the Shakespeare of children's literature and was named one of the world's greatest storytellers of all time.

His first children’s book, The Gremlins, was published in 1943. This was a book about creatures that were a part of the Royal Air Force. This book was so interesting that Eleanor Roosevelt read the story to her grandchildren and Walt Disney commissioned it for a movie.

As a child, Dahl was an avid reader. His favorite authors were Rudyard Kipling and Charles Dickens to name a few. Due to his literary skills and awe-inspiring imagination, Dahl left a legacy of literary wonders. AIM-VA has a few of those wonders available on the AIMVA portal in various formats. Here are the Roald Dahl books and formats that are available on the AIM-VA Portal:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • PDF: Accessible
  • PDF: Fully Accessible
  • Word
  • ePub
Danny the Champion of the World
  • PDF: Accessible
Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • PDF: Accessible
  • PDF: Fully Accessible
  • Word
  • ePub
George’s Marvelous Medicine
  • Large Print
  • PDF: Accessible
  • PDF: Fully Accessible
  • Word
  • ePub
The BFG
  • Large Print
  • PDF: Accessible
The Magic Finger
  • PDF: Accessible
The Twits
  • PDF: Accessible
  • PDF: Fully Accessible
  • Word
  • ePub