Today's emerging and struggling readers have access to some amazing, well-designed applications of technology. With assistive technology for reading available, struggling readers are no longer getting left by the wayside. These tools help ensure success for individuals who are learning to read or who struggle with mastering the skill.
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Here are three reasons why you should consider bringing assistive technology into your classroom to help students with reading.
1. It Adapts to Skill Level
Using assistive technology for reading in the classroom is great for teachers because it's incredibly adaptive. Teachers aren't miracle workers, and trying to teach 10-20 different levels at a time is asking a lot. Using assistive technology, which can adapt to students' abilities, allows teachers to meet the varying needs of all of their students quite easily.
For example, I had a fifth-grade student who could only read at a second-grade level, but I wanted the entire class to read the same book. After doing some research, I discovered the app Books to Grow. It allowed me to send a different version of the same book to individual students. I could then assign specific reading levels to each student or allow them to choose the level at which they felt they read the best.
Instead of teaching to the middle and hoping that every child finds value, teachers can utilize assistive technology for reading and feel confident that there's going to be a successful outcome for all of their students.
2. It Makes Reading Interactive
There's no denying that technology is fun—that's why it can be a great motivational tool for students. With so many literacy apps out on the market that are challenging as well as fun, reluctant and struggling readers are actually enjoying reading now. I saw this firsthand in my own family!
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My son developed my love of reading, so imagine my surprise when my daughter was reluctant to pick up a book. I knew I had to get creative, and I found that using technology was an extremely effective way to get her to read more. With a tablet in hand, she could follow along as different characters from the book read to her or she could watch the book come to life before her eyes. These enhanced books let her play interactive games while she read, and she could click on words to hear how they were pronounced, which helped her comprehension of the text.
One of our favorite apps is LeVar Burton Kids Skybrary. Geared toward grades K-4, this app has hundreds of books that children can read on their own or have the app read to them. Each book also comes with a few animations and an associated game. Another favorite is the site Raz-Kids. While it's not an app, we just added the site to our iPad and treat it like one. What we enjoy most is that the books are leveled, and kids earn stars for practice and achievement. This was a huge motivator for my daughter. Lastly, I suggest the app Epic. It has more than 25,000 books, videos, and quizzes and is an absolute must-have for reluctant readers.
3. It's a Readily Available Resource
Many of the assistive technologies for reading are free or inexpensive to purchase—all you really need is access to a computer or tablet. While there are still some growing concerns around students' ability to access this technology at home, more schools are getting grants for classroom sets of tablets and computers.
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Teachers can now assign emerging and struggling students reading tools that can be used on various devices. For example, a colleague who taught second grade had multiple options for her reluctant and struggling readers. Some students used audiobooks while others read on tablets or with computer software. She saw such an improvement in students' motivation, she even sent a newsletter home detailing the tech tools and apps being used in the classroom so her students could use them at home.
I'm looking forward to what else technology has to offer. If we already have tools that can help assist a variety of readers, I can't even imagine what tomorrow will bring.