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Struggling Readers? Pair Multimedia Oral Histories from StoryCorps with "Just-RIght" Accessible Books

StoryCorps is this nation's oral history project that instructs and inspires people to record each others' stories in sound. This nonprofit organization offers valuable free resources for any teacher's toolbox. 

Tools For Accessible Learning 

StoryCorps learning options include podcasts and video shorts that add diverse voices to curriculum content. When paired with accessible books from the national accessible educational materials program (AEM, in Virginia it is AIM), teachers are better able to help struggling readers keep pace with their peers and stay on grade level. Instead of over-relying on traditional books in print and worksheets, teachers choosing multimedia alternatives can better work with a student's strengths and needs by: 

  • Individualizing learning for students with disabilities (books are free for eligible students)
  • Differentiating teaching for all students
  • Personalizing instruction with choices, preferences
  • Blending learning materials
  • Optimizing a Universal Design for Learning framework

An example follows. 

 Wendell Scott: A Virginia Hero 

"Driven," the StoryCorps video embedded above, tells the story of determination by Wendell Scott. He grew up in Danville, Va. and was the first African American inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. During the 1960s and 1970s, he "poured his heart, soul, and all of his earnings into maintaining his own race car," the narrator says. Viewers can watch and listen to Scott's son Frank "remember what it took for his father to cross the finish line at racetracks throughout the South." 

Add Accessible Books

Because videos and podcasts do not take the place of reading independently, teachers can support students who struggle with traditional books by using alternatives to print. For eligible students with disabilities there are two types of audiobooks with learnng supports that tell Wendell Scott's personal story:

Audiobooks are not the only formats available. Any book in print that a school owns can be converted into any of 11 other accessible alternatives. All are available at no cost as part of a federally funded "accessible" learning materials program. Some eligible special education students, for example, request books as PDF or braille-ready files or in a large print format. See the AIM-VA formats page for more informaton. Virginians can search AIM-VA's book finder to see both textbooks and trade books that currently are converted from print. 

More Wendell Scott Resources

  • Listen to Frank and Warrick Scott’s StoryCorps interview.
  • View a behind-the-scenes video, "A StoryCorps Bonus: Behind the Scenes of Driven." Hear producer Rachel Hartman and animator Julie Zammarchi discuss the art of animated storytelling. 
  • Read Racing Against the Odds: The Story of Wendell Scott, Stock Car Racing's African-American Champion, by Carole Boston Weatherford. Kindle subscribers can read for free. The Kindle App makes the book accessible.
  • Watch "Wendell Scott", a video (4:07 min.) posted on YouTube by Visit Danville VA.
  • View "Wendell Scott: Class of 2015," a (1:27 min.) video on the website.
  • Browse  resources on the Wendell Scott foundation website including information about the "Steer Into STEM" career program held in July 2016 using simulations and hands-on motor sports learning activities.
  • Check out StoryCorps tie-ins across the curriculum. I found a story about someone who was born blind and with severe hearing loss and recorded a StoryCorps interview using a TeleBraille machine. It aired on Aug. 19 on NPR's MorningEdition program. 

Since 2003, StoryCorps has built a collection of more than 60,000 interviews conducted with over 100,000 participants from all backgrounds. Find the recordings archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Hear the stories  weekly on NPR. 


Accessible educational materials (AEM) help to create access to the curriculum for students with dyslexia, learning disabilities, vision or physical challenges, and others. A federally funded AEM program in every state assures that books in alternative formats are provided free of charge to eligible students with disabilities whose education teams take action. The AEM program operates under a legal exception to federal copyright law. Check out the AIM-VA home page to learn more about eligibility in Virginia. In other states, contact a special education teacher, a school administrator or download a list of AEM state contacts.External Link to AEM state contacts (New Window).

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