Audio Books for learners with dyslexia


It is easy for me to recommend the use of audio books to enable learners with dyslexia to access rich text structures, vocabulary, storylines, author’s craft, etc. without the barrier of print. I do it on every report I write.

However, I am well aware that the reality is not so straightforward. There are some children who so loathe appearing to be different that they prefer to turn the pages of a book of which very little is accessible to them. There are some who find just sitting and listening far too stressful. Others don’t have the concentration to focus on the spoken word for any length of time.

And we haven’t even touched upon the difficulties inherent in locating a quiet place, or headphones, or a CD player or available computer or ….

Despite this, I am flagging up here an audio library that can be accessed at home (for free) and at school (for very little outlay).

Calibre  is a charitable organisation that distributes audio books in various formats to people with reading difficulties – whether it’s those with sight problems, dyslexia or other disabilities that prevent them reading a print book. They offer a wide choice of fiction and non-fiction (about 1400 titles) on standard cassettes, MP3 disks and USB memory sticks, for both children and adults. The service is easy to use and is absolutely FREE.

Parents only have to complete a form declaring that the child has dyslexia. No one checks as the charity works completely on trust.

Try it out.


Scotland’s Stories

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News from LT Scotland:

The strange and fantastical stories of Scotland have inspired writers, artists and poets for centuries. Scotland’s Stories website aims to inspire children and young learners to explore this rich vein of literary and cultural heritage. It provides a variety of beautifully illustrated classic Scottish tales, with background information, transcripts of all stories as well as fantastic audio and video versions of the stories as told by some of Scotland’s finest storytellers.

Browse the variety of classic tales suitable for all ages here.

The Echo Chamber


Forgive the boasting: my Luke’s book has a publishing date . It’s in the Penguin and Puffin online catalogue. It’s so exciting! It’s been a long time gestating!

The cover for the US edition is completely different. Interesting.

The Echo Chamber

Luke Williams

‘Original, brilliant, inconceivable. It gives a reader new ears’ Ali Smith

Five years ago we were sent the long opening section of a novel-in-progress by debut author Luke Williams, and were so struck by its originality and confidence that we signed it up on the spot. Half a decade later, the novel is finished and we are thrilled to be launching it in the spring. It’s like no other novel you will have read, as Ali Smith hints in her praise for it. Narrated by a woman called Evie with uncannily keen hearing (she could even hear in the womb) it is the story of a childhood in colonial Nigeria, of travels with a lover across America and of Evie’s present-day efforts to record her life and adventures before her powers of listening fade completely …

Luke Williams was born in 1977. He grew up in Fife, Scotland, and now divides his time between Edinburgh and London. The Echo Chamber is his first novel.



I want a Bronte-saurus!

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Looking forward to a good read

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E-books have enormous potential to extend access and now a report shows publishers how to maximise access to e-books.  Providing tools to enable readers to control magnification, colour change, keyboard access and text to speech can give genuine independence to people with reading disabilities

‘Print disabled’ users can for example benefit from a statement by the publisher setting out the accessibility options available to them, from how to magnify the screen to fully personalising the e-book.

The project, funded by JISC TechDis, JISC Collections and the Publishers Licensing Society investigated how to help people navigate e-book resources. Working with a group of international publishers, the project used the test results to make good practice recommendations for the publishing industry.

Key messages from the research
  • The experience of the ‘keyboard-only’ user can be significantly improved through a feature known as ‘skip links’
  • Buttons or unique ‘link text’ descriptions, which allow a user with little or no sight to be able to use the menus, can easily enhance accessibility
  • It is important to maintain a consistent layout between the main page and sub pages. This is also a feature that is welcomed by people with low literacy levels or those who don’t have English as their first language
  • A practical guide “Towards accessible e-book platforms” which highlights recommendations in the report was launched at the Publisher Lookup Awards at the London Book Fair, Earls Court on 21 April 2010.

Weapon of Mass Instruction

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Thanks to @donalynbooks on Twitter (no idea how she popped into my feed! It’s magic. Here’s her blog ) for this link to an amazing enterprise by an artist in Buenos Aires. He drives this converted van around Argentina giving out books to all and sundry. This film was shot in the capital but he aims to take these ‘weapons of mass instruction’ to people in parts of the country where many children don’t have much schooling at all.

My daughter goes to study at Buenos Aires university from July, and I’m hoping I may get to visit. I’ll look out for the Ford – and maybe take a few spare books over too!

The story that lets us laugh and cry begins our healing

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Words: they ennoble, animate and transform us, even if they cannot keep us alive for ever. We see this so clearly in the classic, ‘Charlotte’s Web‘.

Wilbur changes ‘from pork to pig’ by the power of his dear friend Charlotte’s words written in her web.

‘Some Pig’ are the spider’s first woven words – a trick that works magic. The farmer starts to describe the pig as ‘completely out of the ordinary’; then observes that he is ‘solid’ and ‘smooth’. Lurvy, the farmhand replies that Wilbur is ‘some pig’.

When Charlotte weaves ‘Terrific’ into her web, Wilbur begins to feel terrific and Zuckerman, the farmer, declares that ‘there isn’t a pig in the whole state that is as terrific as our pig’.

The word ‘radiant’ produces the same effect: Wilbur tries so hard to make himself ‘glow’ that Zuckerman proudly announces: ‘That pig is radiant’. The ‘miracle of the web’ is repeated one last time when Charlotte describes Wilbur as ‘humble’, and, once again, Wilbur rises to the challenge, while the farmer finds ‘humble’ to be ‘just the right word for Wilbur’.

Just as Charlotte is an expert in art and artifice, she is also a writer who knows how to wield her authority. She clearly understands the transformative dimension of language, knowing how to use words to accomplish things. Charlotte revitalises five words (some gathered from the dump), making them sparkle and effecting miraculous changes that not only ennoble Wilbur but also save his life. Everyone gets a little dizzy when they come across the term ‘radiant’ in ‘Charlotte’s Web’.

Charlotte knows how to spin straw into gold and make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. All writing is a ‘tissue of quotations’ (Roland Barthes) and crafted from the appropriation and citation of words learned from others. But Charlotte knows how to turn words into strings that vibrate endlessly with connections and vitality – despite the theme of death. For death is not the only topic: E. B. White said his book turned on ‘friendship, life, death, salvation’. He sends a tender signal about the ‘consolations of beauty’: ‘All I ever hope to say in books is that I love the world’. The power of the author’s words to immortalise Charlotte mirrors the power of a fellow ‘good writer’ to save Wilbur from death, even while her tool represents an instrument of death to any creature ‘careless enough to get caught in my web’.

In ‘Charlotte’s Web’ E. B. White, like Bruno Bettelheim, endorses a therapeutic model that embraces fantasy as a way of working through the complex primal emotions of childhood. Children are able to retreat into the world of the imagination where they can take charge and thereby come to terms with the frightening, sad or intense experiences they encounter. They are taught through literature how to cope when the parent is no longer there.

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