Modern Tools for Reluctant Readers

Tools for Reluctant ReadersIf I were a kid in elementary school today, the most helpful thing my parents could do for me as a dyslexic student would be to take advantage of modern technology.

Here’s a list of some great ideas that could really make a difference in your child’s life if they struggle with reading. Please note that I am not a paid spokesperson for any of these products and I have not received any compensation for this article.

Imagine, if you will, a digital device that not only has the ability to read books aloud to a struggling reader, but it also provides easy access to the definition or pronunciation of an unfamiliar word. Some Kindle models (including some of the older models) offer this feature, however, not all digital books are text-to-speech enabled: Amazon identifies those that are not enabled in their product descriptions. Even so, having an easy dictionary at hand alone would make this a helpful tool for any challenged reader. And please note that while any smart phone can download a Kindle application, text-to-speech only works on Amazon Kindle devices, not on other smart phones or tablets.

I just learned that the newest Kindle Paperwhite will save the words that a reader looks up in the dictionary and then will generate flashcards with those words for later use. How helpful is that?

Additionally, Mac computers offer a reading voice feature on most of their computers that can be used on data files and digital books, while iBooks on the iPad includes easy access to word definitions in ePub files.

If you prefer the engaging option of professionally read audiobooks in MP3 format rather than a computerized voice reading to you or your child, you have some options. As mentioned, some of the well known sites may charge twenty to thirty dollars per audiobook, which can be prohibitive for most families. Happily, there are free or donation-based options that are not exclusive:

Ideally, readers will also have a print or digital version of their audiobooks in which to follow along as they listen.

For older students, help is also available in the form of voice-recognition dictation software. Dragon software works well for many people, but there are others available as well. Using a dictation app is one way to minimize the frustrations of writing and spelling challenges, and it frees a student to be more creative and add detail to their work.

Finally, an option for the classroom: software called NEO 2. This device helps dyslexic or other challenged readers and writers take notes in class, without the need for struggling with pencil and paper. It also offers text-to-speech and has math features available.

True, I had none of these advantages as a young challenged reader and student, and I survived. But how grateful we can all be for being alive in a world that offers us and the next generation of students with learning differences these wonderful tools now.

One Comment

  1. We LOVE Learning Ally. It is the best tool that we have found! We tried Dragon Speak but did not love it, but we will try it again. I think the speech to text will only get better over time. I completely agree with you that we need to utilize technology in this case. It is a valuable tool for those of us with dyslexia and dysgraphia.

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