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Free Assistive Technology for Reading

Assistive technology can be a useful way to help children with reading issues. There are so many tools available, it can be hard to know where to start, so I thought it would be useful to show some free apps that in one way or another support reading. They are useful apps for all readers but are particularly beneficial for dyslexic learners. 

With the use of iPads, teachers and parents soon discovered that many dyslexic learners found print more readable when it was enlarged on an iPad screen. This was likely to be linked to a reduction in tracking issues, with ability to focus on a few words at a time rather than a whole page. Print accessibility includes font styles, line spaces, colour, background colour as well as font size. Here are some tips on how to improve print accessibility for dyslexia.

The following are all apps that I use and are free to download. I hope that you and your children enjoy them!

Newsela

Newsela has up-to-date news articles presented in 5 different reading levels to allow children to access current affairs. Assessments are included with the articles to help readers engage with the content. As pupils read and take quizzes, the Newsela app adjusts the reading level to keep articles challenging and pupils can keep track of their improvement over time automatically.

Beeline Reader

BeeLine Reader makes reading faster and easier by using a colour gradient that guides your eyes from the end of one line to the beginning of the next. Beeline can be used online to read websites, books, email, and PDFs and it works on several different platforms. Students can sign up for the free BeeLine Student Pa. 

Spreeder

Spreeder is an app which helps people read faster by presenting words only one at time, thereby removing clutter and tracking issues. Cut and paste content to be able to read it one word at a time – it really works!

eBooks and Audiobooks

OverDrive 

This is a library app which will give your children access to beautifully presented eBooks as well as a wide range of current audiobooks. Children can borrow and return as they wish, greatly increasing a child’s ability to discover their hook-books and get pulled into read. It is completely free. Users only need to be a member of a local library. However, not every library has subscribed to this service and so unfortunately it is not available yet for everyone. You can find out if your local library has OverDrive here

BorrowBox

I love this app! Beautiful graphics, especially the page turns. Similar to Overdrive, if BorrowBox is available through your local library you can simply login with your member details to access the library’s collection of eBooks and audiobooks. You can renew or return eBook and audiobook loans whenever you want and importantly for parents, there is automatic deletion of expired loans, so no overdue fees!

RNIB BookShare

Finding that enlarged print opened up accessibility for my pupils I wrote to the RNIB to ask if I could use their Enlarged Book services. Unfortunately at this point, unless a child had a visual impairment, the answer was sadly no. The RNIB has since opened a free online eBook service for print-disabled learners including those with dyslexia or who are blind or partially sighted. 

RNIB BookShare opens up the world of reading for learners with print disabilities, giving dyslexic and visually impaired learners the opportunity to read the same books, at the same time as their peers, giving them the same educational opportunities.The range of books is quite something, covering many of the textbooks that your child will be using in school – particularly in secondary school. Enlarging the book on your iPad screen will allow your child to focus on essential information and remove distracting visual clutter.

It is also possible to open downloaded eBooks (pdfs) into annotate apps such as iAnnotate (£9.99) where your child can then make notes, complete maths books, comprehensions and spelling schemes. 

To get access to this wonderful free service you must go through your school. Your SENCO will be able to set up a username and password for your child, who can then login and start browsing and downloading. This is a wonderful resources, so please ask at your child’s school to start using it.

Ingrid Connors is the founder of Monster Phonics, a BETT Awards nominated and DfE listed phonics programme. Having worked in education for most of her adult life, Ingrid is an advocate for educational access. Free resources for parents and schools are available at monsterphonics.com.

If you are interested in reading more from guest blogger Ingrid, then check out these tips on how you can Teach Phonics to your class.

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