Martha Garcia knows how challenging school can be for a student who struggles to read.
Her 11-year-old daughter has dyslexia, a learning disability. And it can be hard for her to find resources, like e-books that people with dyslexia can read by listening to and seeing highlighted text.
That’s why at 5:30 p.m. on a recent Monday Garcia was in a classroom with other parents to learn more about Bookshare, a nonprofit e-book library that has more than 480,000 titles designed for students who cannot read standard print.
“I want more parents to know about it,” Garcia said.
Jessica McKay, assistive technology specialist and licensed music therapist with the Ysleta Independent School District, is trying to spread the word about the resource, which is free for any students nationwide who have a qualified disability. That includes those who are blind, have low vision, a physical disability, or a learning disability, like dyslexia.
“How are they learning if everybody is reading in class and they can’t? A teacher can read the textbook to them, but most of us need to re-read things,” McKay says. “(Bookshare) builds independence and gives students control over their own learning.”
Bookshare is managed by a Silicon Valley nonprofit, Benetech, and includes everything from textbooks and technical journals to New York Times bestsellers and magazines. They come in digital audio, text and braille formats. It is utilized by all of the major school districts in the El Paso region.
The program is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.
In Texas, a state grant supports three outreach coordinators in the state who work with school districts to implement the program and conduct training.
“It makes such a difference in their lives – being able to access books,” says Jeanie Bell, an outreach coordinator who works with schools in El Paso.
Bookshare is also available to those who are not students for an annual fee.
“My dad is 89, and he uses Bookshare,” Bell says.
Email El Paso Inc. reporter Robert Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422 ext. 105. Twitter: @ReporterRobby.