Saturday, November 30, 2013

2013 Holiday Gift Guide for Challenged Readers

Happy Holidays to all of your faithful blog readers! You know that we are all about helping struggling readers. So as the 2013 Holiday Shopping Season gets well underway this weekend, we wanted to help you save some much-needed shopping time by providing a gift guide for your family members and friends who experience various challenges when reading or learning.

These readers on your holiday gift list may be children, teens or adults who have ADHD focusing issues or symptoms of dyslexia. They might also be seniors who are challenged with low vision, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or even stroke-related issues. They could even be veterans or others recovering from head or other brain injuries. For these good people on your list this year, you might want to give them a gift that just might help improve their ability to read AND their quality of life.

2013 Holiday Gift Guide for Challenged Readers

Franklin Handheld Spelling Devices-Various models from $13.00 to $70.00
These various types of handheld, battery-operated tech devices can be placed into a pocket or purse for easy access. They provide portable spell-checkers, dictionaries, thesauruses and more can be inexpensive lifesavers to those who struggle with all aspects of spelling and writing correctly.

Reading Focus Card Combo Pack---From $16.95 to $19.95 per tool set
Reading Focus Cards are effective reading tools for those who struggle to follow the lines while reading. The sensory-appealing tools come in two convenient sizes and provide a solution for struggling readers (U.S. Patent 7,565,759) of all ages. With a choice of 3 different colored filters recommended by a developmental optometric group, the customizable Reading Focus Cards block out more surrounding text than other reading tools and allow a reader to read through his or her chosen colored filter.

The shorter Reading Focus Card is best for short lines of text as in regular paperbacks, books with 2 columns of text on a page, math problems, etc. The longer size is best for longer lines of text with children's books, worksheets, larger volumes, science and math equations, documents etc. The 2 sizes of the tool can also be used with tech devices such as Kindles, Nooks, iPads, e-tablets and more.

e-Reader---Various models from $69.00 and up from
Did you know that an e-reader can be a great option for a struggling reader? This tech device can encourage readers who have dyslexia (diagnosed OR undiagnosed), because:
 Book size won’t be intimidating to the reader
 FREE reading samples can be downloaded for trials
 The font size feature can be changed to limit the number of words on the screen
 Text-to-voice feature can be very helpful---plus other features may help, too!

Laptop Computer---From $299.00 (for a very basic model) and up
If a struggling reader you know is a college student, a laptop may be the perfect gift, especially if it has a Touch Screen with a Windows 8 operating system. Many readers challenged with dyslexia also struggle with writing as well as with organizational issues. Typing is easier for these readers, AND it will also assist them with getting (and staying!) more organized. Visit the various computer company websites or their local branch stores/kiosks for various pricing and usage needs. A wireless service plan will be required.
DELL Computer- (for PCs)
Apple Computer- (for Apple OS)

e-Tablet (Regular & mini versions)---From approx. $200.00 and up (depending on where purchased)
Although this type of portable tech hardware will require a separate data plan from your phone or wireless service provider, an electronic tablet can make all the difference in the world for someone who daily struggles to read and learn. Apps can be downloaded (for FREE and/or at various pricings) to assist a challenged reader of almost ANY age with an almost infinite number of tasks and life skills.
DELL e-Tablets- (for Android & Windows)
Apple iPads- (for iOS)

Smartphone (Android or iOS)---Various prices (depending on where purchased)
It is probably no secret that a handheld device can be indispensable to a challenged reader. A device that can download all kinds of assistive applications (apps) can provide reading assistance, note-taking help, a tech “time coach”, an electronic and/or scanning dictionary, a GPS (global positioning system) and many more helpful “assistants” for a challenged reader. Visit your local phone service company (or online) for the best model and options for an individual’s usage needs. Again, a data plan is required from your phone or wireless service provider.

For information on customizable reading tools: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of: Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, November 23, 2013

MORE Android Tools & Apps for Kids Who Struggle to Read

One of our most recent articles on the blog here provided a significant number of Android apps for challenged readers (BEST Android Apps for Struggling Readers, November 2, 2013, Since that time, we have had quite a few of our readers request even more information about Android tools and apps for children who struggle to read. This week’s article has been written to address these requests in a timely manner.

The first two apps listed below (Read Me Stories and Storia) work well on most Android devices. You may know that the Android platform is gaining in popularity and use over the iOS platform in some regions, especially outside the U.S. At the same time, American users are increasing in number as well, however.

The Kindle Fire is an Android device that is definitely gaining in popularity and use. The ability for this device to provide a color display is most helpful to struggling readers, especially those who are visual learners. The Reading Rainbow app listed below here is perfect for the Kindle Fire. You might want to check it out for a challenged or reluctant young reader you know.

Finally, the last two apps in the list are for our youngest readers. Both Bookster and Tikatok StorySpark are FREE offerings that will capture a young one’s attention and retain it for the length of a reading selection. Bookster provides vocabulary skill building together with a recording option for your child to read aloud. Tikatok StorySpark not only promotes and encourages literacy, it enables a young child to write and “publish” his own creative stories.

As always, we hope that the resources included here will effectively assist parents and teachers of children who struggle to read.

More Android Apps for Kids Who Struggle to Read

Read Me Stories - for Android (also available for iOS)
This app is full of picture books with illustrations that children will love. While the narrator reads the book aloud, kids can follow along as the text lights up on the screen. There is a new book available for downloading every day.

Storia (FREE) - for Android (also available for iOS)
The perfect virtual bookshelf for families with children of all ages, Storia by Scholastic has many options for readers. Children choose books that spark their interest and are at their reading level. Audio and visual supports help struggling readers.

Reading Rainbow (FREE) - for Android
Download the Reading Rainbow app now to your Kindle Fire or other Android devices. (One of the most popular educational apps available)

Bookster (FREE with first e-book) - for Android (also available for iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch)
Young readers can find new literary favorites with helpful narration from kids their age. Your little ones will also learn new vocabulary words and can record themselves reading the books when they’ve finished!

Tikatok StorySpark (FREE – Books are $3 each) - for Android (also available for iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch)
From Barnes & Noble, Tikatok StorySpark is for your family’s pint-sized publisher. Kids write and illustrate their own books, using a catalog of art or their own photos or digital drawings for the backgrounds. When it’s ready, books are “published” under a chosen pen name and posted online at


Apps for Winter Reading---by Monica Burns (from

6 Great Reading Apps for Kids---by Dominic Umile (from Scholastic)

For information on customizable reading tools: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of: Android image from Tivix at and completed graphic designed by Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Why iPads & Kindles Are Great Tools for Struggling Readers

It’s no secret that over the past couple of years, various types of technology have changed the way we read today. We have the renowned Kindle e-readers from Amazon and the iPads from Apple. Other technological devices have also played a big part in enhancing our reading experiences.

It may not be as well known, however, that these same tech devices can be especially helpful to struggling readers. Whether the struggle to read is the result of ADHD, dyslexia, autism or another issue, these e-readers, e-tablets, smartphones and other devices can not only promote more reading success for struggling readers, but they can also make it possible for them to read in the first place.

Why are these tech devices particularly beneficial for challenged readers of any age? We’ve gathered information here to form 2 lists, one for each tech device’s advantages for challenged readers. We hope these lists help you discover which device may be best for your reading needs or that of a child or student who struggles to read.

Some of iPad’s Benefits for Challenged Readers

• Ease of Use: It’s easy to find books at the various stores available (Kindle, Nook & iBooks.)
• Screen Quality: The iPad screen is clear, bright and eminently readable.
• Access to Text: It can also be used to access formatted text like that of a PDF document and open it in GoodReader. (
• Text to Speech (TTS) Feature: This TTS feature allows students to hear the words they read. Visually-impaired students as well as other students can benefit from this as they hear the proper pronunciation of words as they “read” texts.
• VoiceOver Feature: This feature is available for all installed apps on iPads. This is a screen reader that allows the user to point to something on the iPad and hear a description of what is at that location.
• Zoom Feature: This feature allows users to enlarge any item on the screen. The iPad also allows for connection to refreshable Braille displays using a wireless Bluetooth connection.
• Customization: A teacher, parent or other adult can customize an iPad to meet the individual needs of a reader.
(Sources: The Advantages of iPads for Special Education Students-by Denise Brown &
10 things the iPad is good for…and 5 it isn’t-by John Biggs---See links to follow.)

Some of Kindle’s Benefits for Challenged Readers

• Visual Formatting: Students with visual impairments can select the appropriate text size on a Kindle to meet their needs. (Push a button to increase or decrease font size.) This has increased engagement for many students who have difficultly seeing normal font size.
• Easy Downloading: Kindle content can easily be downloaded to the computer. This feature allows for even larger text and the ability to change the color / format. The Kindle PC option provides countless opportunities for students who require more specific text features.
• Screen Quality: The Kindle screen can also help diminish glare and “visual stress” from white page backgrounds as well as from florescent lighting for some readers.
• Text to Speech: For students who require read aloud, the Kindle is able to read any Kindle text out loud. By plugging in headphones, students can listen to books and short stories. This feature can help increase reading engagement for struggling readers and also to provide more independence to these students.
• Convenience: For students whom have difficulty flipping pages or holding open books, the Kindle provides a convenient alternative. By pushing a button, students are able to flip through pages and chapters. Additionally, for students with more severe physical disabilities, there may be some potential of connecting a switch to the Kindle.
• Organization: For students with organization troubles, the Kindle helps them out by saving the page they read.
• Dictionary Feature: The Kindle provides immediate assistance for unknown vocabulary words. By using the dictionary, which is embedded within the text, students can access texts that are at challenging reading level.
(Source: Adapted from the Kindle Project---District of Columbia Public Schools Pilot Program---See link to follow.)

Additional Resources

Why and when the iPad is the best e-reader-by Joel Mathis

Kindle Technology Helps Readers-by Rob

Can e-Readers Ease Reading for Dyslexics?-by Annie Murphy Paul

iPad vs Kindle Fire / Android Tablet for Kids---by TechAgeKids

Dyslexia on the digital page-by Jillian Rose Lim
Devices like e-readers and iPads may make reading easier for students with dyslexia

E-Readers Are More Effective than Paper for Some with Dyslexia (Research article)
by Matthew H. Schneps, Jenny M. Thomson, Chen Chen, Gerhard Sonnert & Marc Pomplun

Apps for Struggling Readers

9 Great Learn-to-Read Apps for Kids---by Common Sense Media (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch; Kindle Fire apps)

8 Apps for Struggling Adolescent Readers---by Hope Mulholland (Apple and Android apps)


Kindle Project---District of Columbia Public Schools Pilot Program

The Advantages of iPads for Special Education Students-by Denise Brown, Demand Media

10 things the iPad is good for…and 5 it isn’t-by John Biggs

For information on customizable reading tools: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of: iPad or Kindle: will our wallets decide?-by Paul Miller and
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, November 2, 2013

BEST Android Apps for Struggling Readers

We’re saying “good-bye” to October and LD Awareness Month. At the same time, we’re also concluding the busiest month in our company’s history! More Reading Focus Cards were ordered by parents, teachers and catalog distributors in the past month than in any other month on record for Brennan Innovators. There is increasing evidence that many children, teens AND adults continue to struggle with reading.

For this reason, we thought we would begin this month’s articles with one that includes resources for a variety of challenged readers. Because we receive many requests for Android tech resources to help these readers, we are providing here a current and sizable list of Android apps for struggling readers of various age groups.

From the many parent phone calls, emails and orders we receive for our research-based Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759), most involve a request or concern for a young, challenged reader that is between the ages of 8 and 11 years. As stated in a previous article in this blog, prior to this age range, children are “learning to read”. From age 8 or 9, children are “reading to learn” and must utilize skills (hopefully developed earlier) to learn the content and information presented via printed media. However, if those reading skills have not been developed properly---or at all, focusing and tracking issues can be just two of the ramifications. For this reason, the first resource listed below here should be helpful to some of these readers (Apps (Android) by Bugbrained---from

The other links provided here may be helpful to other age groups. The second resource listed will provide an extensive list of some of the very best Android apps for challenged readers in various age levels, including those for adults. Many resources throughout the listing are FREE.

We hope that what is provided here will help you or someone you know who struggles daily to read with more success. Happy reading---EVERYONE!

BEST Android Apps for Struggling Readers

Apps (Android) by Bugbrained---from
Reading apps for children (up to & including the Grade 3 reading level)

100+ Top Apps for Struggling Readers (Android)---from AppCrawlr
Excellent listing of the top 100+ Android apps for challenged readers of all ages

Blackberry Playbook and BB10 Android Apps---from Good e-Reader
Good e-Reader has over 6,000 apps and games for Blackberry 10 and the Playbook. Download the latest BAR Files for Blackberry 10 and the Playbook

FREE Kindle App for Android Devices---from Amazon (NO Kindle device required!) (via + FREE e-book links!) (via Google Play Store link)

Go Read (Android)---from Bookshare
A FREE, accessible e-book reader for people with print disabilities; based on the open-source FBReader project.

For information on customizable reading tools: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of: techradar.phones at and Brennan Innovators, LLC at