Accessible Library How-to #2: Choose Good Books

Using text-to-speech (TTS) tools such as Google Read & Write and Word Q can enliven the reading of digital documents in various formats, such as PDF, EPUB and HTML.  However, these tools do not often function with commercially available e-books due to a protective measure imposed by the publishing industry called Digital Rights Management (DRM).

One of the main tasks of the ARQ project is to locate commercially available e-books that are either compatible with external TTS tools, or have 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 are many resources on the market for younger emergent readers (such as Raz Kids and EPIC), there is as yet not a wide selection of resources for older students, especially for the students at Perspectives who are in Secondary 4 and 5 (Grades 10 & 11). However, after some hunting, we identified several publishers of enhanced e-books, and proceeded to select appropriate titles based on the students’ interests (as determined via reading surveys and in-class discussion).  Publishers include:

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).

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Capstone Interactive book, Little Rock Girl 1957 by Shelley Tougas.
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Lerner Audisee book, Plan B by Charnan Simon

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.

We have developed a Selection Criteria for Accessible E-books for use when evaluating commercial e-books for purchase. (Please note that we have yet to discover a resource that meets all of this criteria!)

Your school or Board-level library staff person is your go-to resource for information on books in alternate formats.  For additional help, please contact the ARQ Project Team.

(For more information about our pilot project at Perspectives II in Montreal, please refer to the blog posts about our classroom experiences.)