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National Book Festival 2016 Authors: Your Books In Accessible Formats Help Struggling Readers Thrive

The highly anticipated National Book Festival 2016 (NBF) in the nation's capital is days away with excitement building in and out of literacy circles.

Diverse Literacy Opportunities

Readers of all ages who attend on Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center will find diverse and entertaining literacy-related opportunities in exhibits and live on more than 12 stages thanks to the Library of Congress. Three of the stages will feature authors for children and youth. For those who cannot attend this annual event in person, online activities and free resources give a taste of the fun. Videos will follow later.

Here, we are adding our two cents to raise awareness about existing accessible book editions that are written by the invited NBF children's and teen authors. Alternatives to print are essential for some readers to thrive. Yes, there are digital books in some cases, but educators, therapists, and parents must be discerning because not all digital books are accessible. Many schools purchased inaccessible digital editions of textbooks, for example, that are no better than print for some readers.

Our book conversions are accessible, legal under copyright laws, and they are free to eligible students. See a description of all available formats on the AIM-VA website.

Strategy For Struggling Readers

The good news for struggling readers is that literacy can continue to blossom so long as an increasing number of all books used in schools are "born accessible" or converted to alternative formats when print is a barrier to learning. Special book editions are a time-tested proven strategy that makes starting and finishing books a reality. That leads to more book talking with friends or families, more completed assignments in English/Language Arts class and even a preference for particular writers!

How Many Multiple Formats Are Needed?

Students who have reading decoding, reading rate, vocabulary and comprehension difficulties cannot easily read traditional books; but they do get involved with books and best-selling authors when they have a choice of formats. "Just-right" editions include audiobooks, accessible digital editions, braille versions, and books in large print.

When educational supports for these students are also in place, such as proven explicit reading instruction with or without assistive technology, there is hope that books can become one of their passions or even a reading habit. Note that some apps and extensions are helping to make books more accessible, too. Don't be surprised if students ask to work with more that one format depending on the learning task.

Access to converted books exists in all states, but not all school districts or individual teachers take advantage of the program. If yours does not, ask "Why not?"

52 Great Reads

Readers in the Commonwealth can boast that author Wendy Shang of Northern Virginia is the deserving honoree on the list of books representing NBF 2016's literary heritage of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The LOC's Center for the Book issues this listing annually known as "52 Great Reads." Shang's newest book is The Way Home Looks Now, is a story about growing up, family, loss and learning to play baseball. Her first book is The Great Wall of Lucy Wu [AIM-VA, Sept.28, 2015]. It won the Asian-Pacific American Librarians Award for Children’s Literature and now appears on several state reading lists. 

Authors With Accessible Books

They might not know it, but a good number of NBF 2016 authors have books that are converted from print for struggling readers thanks to the "Accessible Educational Materials" program under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (originally called Accessible Instructional Materials). All below with an asterisk following their name have alternative formats for students with print disabilities available now from the AIM-VA collection, or from Bookshare, Learning Ally or other partners. All available titles and conversions come up in a search on the AIM-VA book finder. Teachers with accounts can check the AIM-VA portal

Children I: Ken BurnsDoreen CroninThomas Gonzalez Nadia HashimiBetsy LewinJuana Medina Janet Nolan Jerry PinkneyJason ReynoldsSharon RobinsonMelissa Sweet*Hervé Tullet* Also see: “A Book That Shaped Me” ContestLetters About Literature 

Children II:  Raymond Arroyo - Kate Beaton Andrea BeatyAaron Becker Sophie BlackallTonya BoldenLouise BordenCallista Gingrich Shannon HalePam Muñoz RyanCalvin Trillin Brendan Wenzel

TeensKwame Alexander* Ali BenjaminEdwidge DanticatBrendan KielyJo KnowlesLois LowryMeg MedinaHolly Robinson PeetePaul RudnickKiersten WhiteGene Luen Yang* Also see: Poetry Slam 

NBF 2016 Resources


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.

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