After surveying the Perspectives II students about their interests and habits, and consulting with the teachers about their independent reading levels, we hunted for reading materials that would be a good fit. Although the students can read widely on the web with the assistance of external text-to-speech (TTS) tools, authentic YA literature is often required to engage students while also meeting ELA competencies. Unfortunately, most commercially available e-books do not function with TTS due to a protective measure imposed by the publishing industry called Digital Rights Management (DRM).
We sought to find e-books that were either compatible with external TTS tools, or had built-in TTS tools. However, as reading an entire book with synthetic TTS is not ideal for reluctant readers, we were especially interested in finding series fiction and high-interest non-fiction with professional audio narration and highlighted text, a format we label “enhanced e-books” with the students.
While there is much more variety available on the market for audiences much younger than the Secondary 4 and 5 students at Perspectives, we did discover the following:
Capstone Interactive (stand alone platform), Abdo Digital Read-to-Me Books (stand-alone platform), Lerner Audisee Ebooks with Audio (accessed via OverDrive, although other suppliers are available), Saddleback Educational Publishing and Orca Book Publishers (accessed through TumbleBookCloud, although other suppliers are available).
Due to the limited availability of enhanced e-books, we also purchased digital audio titles (in MP3 or proprietary formats) from two suppliers: OneClickDigital and OverDrive. These suppliers offer digital audio from various publishers. We selected titles that are commonly used in literature circles, and popular titles from the classroom library.
In our next post, Making e-books visible we describe the mechanisms we used to provide direct access to these collections with students
(For more information about our pilot project at Perspectives II in Montreal, please refer to our other blog posts about our classroom experiences.)