Hack the System!: Tech Hacks for Struggling Readers

Posted on October 21st, 2016 by adowds in Technology, Teen Services
Tags: , , ,

While brainstorming ideas as to what to write this month, I stumbled upon an article in Time Magazine titled, 10 Tech Hacks to Help Struggling Readers. While most of my posts have focused on Tech Hacks that make life more fun and interesting, this article was a great reminder that technology can also hack some of life’s biggest obstacles.

Reading is a learned skill developed through a process of building upon cognitive, linguistic, and social skills acquired during our early years. Acquiring this skill can be quite frustrating, especially when the struggle crosses over into other aspects of a teen’s life, causing that teen to feel and get left behind.

Thankfully, technology has provided educators and students with accessible and cost-effective apps and assistive devices that can revolutionize literacy proficiency. With these tools, reading and writing may still be difficult, but it’s not impossible. How? Hack the System! There may be endless apps and gadgets available, but check out the four options below, catch up on some reading, and impress your friends with the latest Tech Hack!

vdr1. Voice Dream Reader — Voice Dream Reader is designed for people with dyslexia, visually impaired, and other learning styles. Filled with 186 voices and 30 different languages, this app can read content from almost anything and anywhere — pdfs, books, Word, websites, PDFs, and Dropbox. Readers can customize their experience by changing fonts, voice speed, highlight and take notes, or set a sleep timer. As the company’s site said, choose your instrument and turn text into speech.



2. Read2GoRead2Go is a mobile reading app that pairs with Bookshare, the world’s largest online library of read2goebooks for readers with print disabilities. By downloading Read2Go, teens can read anywhere, anytime straight from their mobile device.  Read2Go also can connect via Bluetooth to Braille readers. The customization features are similar to the Voice Dream Reader, allowing teens to experience books their own way.




3.  Audiobooks — Sometimes you just need to take a break from the printed book and let someone else do all the reading! Audiobook devices such as Playaway Bookpacks combine the easy-to-use and transportable Playaway device with the book’s printed version. Bookpacks are one of the easiest ways for struggling and emerging readers to practice and develop literacy skills. Choose from classics like The Outsiders or best-sellers such as The Book Thief. Playaways can be a bit pricey, but audiobooks are FREE at your Library!



blio-24. BlioBlio is a free app designed for iPhones and iPads. The app displays in full color, with colorful fonts, pictures, and engaging layouts. Many of the books can be read aloud by a text-to-speech voice (purchase required) or audiobook, with words highlighted as they are spoken. Blio is a joint venture between Kurzweil Technologies and the National Federation of the Blind. The expertise from these two partners has created an app that is unique in its ability to help those with reading disabilities make sense of the text through synchronized highlighting and a serial presentation view. As the company’s motto states, “Don’t just read books. Experience them.”



allyDid you know that in addition to physical books and DVDs, your library card gives you access to audiobooks through Bibliocommons, Hoopla, and Overdrive. To learn more about how to download audiobooks to a device, visit the library’s eBook & Digital Media page. To browse books on CD, search for titles and authors in the BPL catalog and select “Audiobook CD” under format. Or, ask a Librarian!

Want to create your own technology life hack? Stop by Teen Central during Open Lab time.

“Hack the System!” features examples of technology life hacks created by Ally, the Youth Technology Librarian at Teen Central. Check back on the third Friday of each month for her latest post.

Back in Time Video Game Review: Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex

Posted on October 17th, 2016 by jsnow in Teen Services

Hello! My name is Jorge, and I am your typical gamer. I grew up playing games from sports games, strategic games, shooters, open world classics, and many more. With that said, let’s talk about one of the throwbacks. And by that, I mean Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex. Hands down a classic. Now, for all you newcomers to the gaming community, don’t expect any “superb graphics” or anything of that sort. This game was released on October 29th, 2001, so it isn’t up to par (in terms of graphics) with anything on the market now. But man, was this story line on point.

It starts off with Cortex insulting his group of pawns, “Imbeciles! Nincompoops! Can’t you idiots do anything right?!” In this opening part of the game, Dr. Cortex is at a round table, infuriated that his attempted reign of evil is cut short by Crash time and time again. So, they come up with a plan to use their secret weapon of “unbelievable strength”, to defeat crash once and for all. I’m really into this part of the story line because it cuts right to the chase. There’s no backstory, no interruptions, therefore no nonsense.

I also really enjoy the fact that this game allows you to take part in many different obstacle courses, races, open world missions, submarine missions, and these missions will repeat, but the environment and the difficulty will change in order to keep that from being a problem. Oh yeah, there are LOTS of cut scenes.

But anyways, this game is one that I would really recommend (if you still own a PS2). Trust me, it is really fun and will have you starting at your TV for hours. 



img_0752Jorge is one of the Teen Gaming Specialists in Teen Central. Stay tuned for more posts from the Teen Gaming Specialists on video game reviews and gaming programs they will be running in Teen Central.








Cooking with Caren: Personal Pizzas

Posted on October 14th, 2016 by crosales in Recipes, Teen Services


Step 1: Gather your ingredients!


Step 2:  Spray the pan with cooking spray so your pizza will not stick to the bottom of the pan.  Place your pita bread crust on the pan.

img_2195  img_2196

Step 3: Add your sauce!  You can use any sauce you like.  Today we we used Classico Tomato and Basil  pasta sauce.

img_2203  img_2197

Step 4:  Add cheese and spices!!  We used shredded mozzarella, garlic powder, basil, and oregano.

img_2202  img_2201

Step 5: Bake at 425 degrees until cheese is melted.

img_2207  img_2211

Now go forth and create your own personalized pizzas! Make it your own and have fun!

img_2205  img_2209


icon of carenAre you still looking for more recipes? The Boston Public Library has a huge collection of cookbooks that you can browse, check out and take home.

Need a library card? Wondering how long you can borrow a book? Borrowing and Circulation information can be found here.


*”Cooking with Caren” features recipe posts by Caren, the Teen Librarian at the Mattapan Branch, on the second Friday of every month.

Reading Backwards, Watching in Japanese: Mob Psycho 100, the Manga!

Posted on October 11th, 2016 by jkenney in Books, Resources, Reviews - Staff, Technology, Teen Services


Happy Fall Otaku! I hope you all got to see Mob Psycho 100 on a streaming site. The first season is now over! So that was fast, but it did actually start in July. At this point I wondered, “what about the manga?” Well it doesn’t seem to be widely available  in the US. I won’t be able to order copies for the BPL, but it is online! Go and read on MangaFreak here. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually read right to left (kuso!) but the browser is pretty nice. Go ahead and pop out the larger version. You can also find it here on MangaReader, but be wary of non-teen ads. It does work with AdBlock so you can try that too.


Looking at the manga, you can see the basic art style in the story panels. Drawing is simplified line work with some more advanced light and shadow. More detail is given to the creepy spirit characters and psychic power effects.



The online manga sites scan entire and partial softcover foldouts as you can see here below:


So there you have it. The complete run of the manga is available on these online sties. The browsers work well and have high quality scans. The thumbnails were a little blurry for this post but don’t let that disappoint you. Click the images for full resolution. Go online and read Mob Psycho 100 backwards. The pages may flip left to right but the panels on each page are still right to left. Enjoy!


john250-150x150Did you know that in addition to physical books and DVDs, your library card gives you access to anime and graphic novels online? The BPL subscribes toHoopla, a streaming service that allows you to check out and enjoy the media you love on your computer, tablet or smartphone. You can learn more about the BPL’s digital media collections here.

Want company while you’re watching anime? The Hyde Park Teen Anime Club meets on Thursdays at 2:30 p.m.

*”Reading Backwards, Watching in Japanese” features reviews of anime and manga by John, the Teen Librarian at the Hyde Park Branch, on the second Tuesday of every month.

Curl Up & Read: Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little

Posted on October 7th, 2016 by vkovenmatasy in Reviews - Teens, Teen Services


Title: Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little

Read by: Josh, Dudley Branch

Summary: This book follows a girl named Jayden, expected to live up to her parents’ wishes as well as restore her father’s honor by marrying into a more powerful family. After an attack by an enemy tribe, her father loses most of the family’s camels, and their survival depends on her arranged marriage to Horeb, the future leader of the tribe. The responsibility weighs heavily on her and eventually she loses much support following the death of her mother and the betrayal of her sister. After she witnesses Horeb murdering the current leader of the tribe, Jayden is forced to flee the safety of her home with Kadesh, a young man who has been taken in by her family, and takes up the search to find her mother’s lost baby.

Genre/Subgenre: Fantasy

Standalone/Series: First book in a projected trilogy

Length: 389 pages

Personal Thoughts:

I thought this book brought a unique perspective to the heroine’s coming of age and making realistic decisions. Whenever Jayden made a move, it didn’t seem smart but it didn’t seem dumb, either, because the outcome was often affected by outside forces beyond her control. Jayden is learning about the gray areas of life; she discovers that the answer is often neither yes nor no, but maybe. Forming and breaking ties as more and more she sees that standing on her own two feet means abandoning a lot of what she knows: her tradition, family, and ultimately her ignorance of the world beyond. This story challenges the basis of control and belief that ties characters to what they are and how they react to hardliner decisions for their survival and for their needs. Often Jayden sought out the advice of the women in her camp, until one day she saw that respect and face aren’t always a reflection of character. Horeb proved lacking in chivalry and hid a craven, often twisted outlook for others, but ended up commanding his people’s trust and their love. As it were his blunders freed her to do what she had to do, commit herself to a love that was mutual.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this one before. I give Forbidden a solid 8.5 out of ten and I would recommend it to fans of the Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima.



josh-iconLooking to borrow a book mentioned in this post? These links will take you to our catalog:

Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little

The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima

Need a library card? Wondering how long you can borrow these books? Borrowing and Circulation information can be found here.


* “Curl Up & Read” posts book reviews by librarians and teens like you on the first Friday of every month. If you’re a teen and you’re interested in having a book review posted on the Teen Blog, please email vkovenmatasy (at) bpl (dot) org and pitch your idea. We might even be able to hook you up with an Advance Reader’s Copy of something coming out soon, so you can really be ahead of the crowd!