Many schools today are finding ways to use e-readers in the classroom, using devices like the Kindle, Nook, iPad or Intel reader. Students of all ages are comfortable with the devices and use them to read for pleasure. However, students with disabilities find e-readers even more useful than other students. The advantages e-readers have over printed material make them an important part of a special ed classroom.
Students using e-readers have the ability to change font sizes, making the print easier to access, especially for visually handicapped students and students with other learning disabilities.The larger print means changing the page faster, thus giving the students the feel of reading more quickly than in a traditional print book. Sometimes the lack of printed pages keeps students from being able to flip through a book or chapter to see chapter titles and sub-headings ahead of time, but the other advantages seem to outweigh this slight problem.
Most e-readers have the ability to convert text to speech, thus providing a built-in audiobook for students. Some titles available on Kindles or Nooks do not have publisher permission to convert the text, so it’s best to always check the title before automatically assuming the title can be changed into an audio title. An Intel reader, designed by Ben Foss, the director of access technology for Intel, takes a picture of any text and almost immediately converts it to an audio file. “The really exciting thing about it is you can grab any text,” Foss says, as well as change how fast the text is read aloud. Adaptations such as these make e-readers useful for those students who prefer hearing stories in addition to reading them.
E-readers don’t show titles while students are reading so a disabled student can read a lower level title without the worry of teasing from other classmates. Older students who may need to read a title normally considered a “child’s” book can do so and enjoy the reading. No one else has to know the book is below level, and the student gets the benefits of reading without the harassment from others.
One impediment to using e-readers in special education classes is the cost. But the prices are dropping every year and through grants and funding programs, money can be found. The benefits for disabled students well outweigh the negatives. A recently released survey by Scholastic found that a third of 9- to 17-year-olds said they would read more books for fun if they had an e-reader. And since getting students to read more is one way to improve reading skills, e-readers provide help to disabled students.
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