By Valerie Chernek and Laura Deck

Librarians, educators and parents alike know the importance of getting the earliest of readers hooked on books!

Imagine for a moment that you cannot see the illustrations in a book you are reading, nor can anyone describe them for you. Your reading and listening experience would certainly be incomplete. Images and image descriptions in books can provide a full multi-sensory reading experience for young readers, especially children with print disabilities, such as blindness and low vision.

Did you know that Bookshare recently added to its collection the Top 100 Picture Books? The list came to us through the School Library Journal, one of the essential sources of information about children’s literature. These well-loved and treasured tales have been shared and read by grandparents, parents, teachers and children. They are all engaging stories with heartwarming illustrations to bring characters to life. And of course there are plenty of wonderful books that aren’t on this list in Bookshare, but we knew we’d have a worthwhile collection chosen by a knowledgeable group of school librarians.

Educators and parents know how important books are for the earliest readers. Getting kids “hooked on books” through the classic bedtime picture book has profound effects on lifetime literacy, both from how a child learns to read to how a child perceives themselves as being part of the world of books.

To get started, browse through the Top 100 Picture Books and search for your favorite characters such as Curious George, Frog and Toad, Harold and his purple crayon, Madeline, and Peter Rabbit. Then log in, select a book, get comfortable, and click on Read Now to enjoy one of your favorites in Bookshare Web Reader.

Bookshare and Assistive Technology Help Young Adult Pursue Dreams

Elina Hughes has athetoid cerebral palsy which makes it almost impossible for her to hold a book or pencil, yet this disability doesn’t stop her from pursing her dreams, acquiring knowledge, attending college, and creating beautiful works of art using two important resources: Bookshare and assistive technology (AT).

In 2015, Elina and her mom, Karla Hughes, created a video, “Assistive Technology Rocks My Classroom,” to submit to President Obama for the White House Student Film Festival. This amazing mother-daughter duo are on a mission to emphasize the need for more assistive technology in the classroom and to shine a spotlight on the accomplishments a person with severe disabilities can achieve. Watch the video and be inspired as Mrs. Hughes describes her daughter’s progression through elementary and high school and as Elina demonstrates how she uses technology to pursue her creative interests and lifelong dreams.

Elina’s World – Reading, Learning, and Art

At age nine, Elina’s family and teachers encouraged her to use assistive technology and conductive education therapy, an innovative teaching and learning approach to reading, writing, communication, and math. Conductive therapy is an educational system specifically developed for children and adults who have motor disorders of neurological origin such as cerebral palsy.

At this time, Mrs. Hughes also signed her daughter up for a Bookshare Individual Membership so that Elina could find accessible books for school and pursue her interest in art. By age twelve, she was proficient using technology to draw and paint. She won an “All Kids Can Create,” award by the Very Special Arts Kennedy Foundation, an international organization founded by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith.

In high school, Elina excelled in all subjects, including Spanish. Today, at age eighteen, she attends Citrus Community College in Glendora, California, and plans to study public relations. She also intends to learn to communicate in other languages using assistive technology. Both Elina and her mom are confident that Bookshare will play a continuing role in providing accessible textbooks for her post-secondary studies and artistic outlets.

Elina reads on an iPad and loves using her iPhone 6 Plus. Using an AT device to communicate, she recently told a Bookshare product manager, Ginny Grant, that she is reading Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer to get inspired for a weekend trip

We wish Elina all the success in the world and thank her and her mom for their continued advocacy on behalf of children and adults with disabilities. With the right resources, everyone can pursue their unique talents and interests and be successful in school and in life.

Bookshare Can Help You Reach Your Goals

Bookshare’s library of over 370,000 digital accessible ebooks can help to facilitate lifelong learning and better inclusion for children with qualifying print disabilities. Use the online library to enrich the reading experience and improve reading fluency and to advance academic achievement and expand knowledge. Individuals and organizations can become members of Bookshare for free.

val web shotValerie Chernek writes about educational best practices through the use of technology and digital learning to support children with learning disabilities and special needs. She is a consultant for the Bookshare Communications Team.


Laura DeckLaura Deck is a marketing communications consultant at Benetech where she writes and edits the Benetech and Bookshare blogs. She holds a Master of Science in Special Education from California State University.