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!
1. 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. Read2Go — Read2Go is a mobile reading app that pairs with Bookshare, the world’s largest online library of ebooks 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!
4. Blio — Blio 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.”
Did 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.