Helping Struggling Readers

There’s a new way to help struggling students to learn.

Elizabeth Kash has become quite the avid reader.

“I just finished reading Chapter 12 on “The Outsiders” and it was awesome,” said Elizabeth Kash, student at Jefferson Junior High School.

But this might not ever have been possible without the use of audio assisted reading technology.

For Elizabeth, and other students in her class, reading doesn’t come easily. Each student has some type of print disability that prevents them from processing the words on a page.

“Students that have a learning disability in reading such as dyslexia, they often times can’t engage in text the normal way that most of us can,” said Lindsey Lipsky, Illinois Program Manager for Learning Ally. “There are various other things that go in line with dyslexia, but in general they’re not able to decode on grade level. So when that happens you have a child that might be in 8th grade but they can still read the words on a page but they can still comprehend the text.”

Looking for a way to help, Jefferson Junior High paired up with Learning Ally, a not-for-profit organization that supports people with reading disabilities by pairing them with audio assisted technology in the classroom.

Through the program, students who have a qualified print disability can listen to a story or text, while following in print, helping them decode words and improve their reading skills.

“Audio books vastly improve how much my students comprehend,” said Maribel Diaz, Learning Behavioral Specialist at Jefferson Junior High School. “If they’re reading to themselves they’ll get some of those main ideas but sometimes it’s so labored, or it takes so much time that they kind of give up, or they miss the main idea. So when they are using audiobooks it’s just like someone is telling them a story, and we tell them you need to be following along. A lot of them have the words in them but some of them don’t, so they’ll have the book in front of it, so they’re seeing it, hearing it, and it just aids their comprehension.”

“Personally I have a hard time with reading, so the problems I would run into would be saying words incorrectly, or I couldn’t read it or understand it. But with Learning Ally, it reads it to me and I can understand the text and all of that now,” said Luke Snyder, Student at Jefferson Junior High School.

District 203 has been using the audio books for several years now, but the students got an extra motivator from the Great Reading Games, a contest that awards students who read the most pages with Learning Ally.

Jefferson Junior High took ninth place in the country and was awarded $3,000 that they can use toward classroom materials.

But the gift of learning they’ve received from the program is priceless.

“The audiobooks, some of the students wouldn’t be reading without them, said Diaz. “Not only because of any difficulties that they have, but it’s too much work, or for whatever reason some of them won’t pick up a book, but a piece of technology they’ll say ‘let me get on my phone’ and it’s a lot easier for them.”

For Elizabeth that means moving onto the next picks on her list.

“Now I want to start reading “The Giver” and “Homer The Brave,” said Kash.

A new chapter in the story of her education.

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