Learning Tools

Virginia Extends Digital Book Reading Service

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has renewed its statewide license on the assistive software Read:OutLoud 6, which reads digital books aloud for students with print disabilities. Developed by Don Johnston Inc. and licensed through George Mason University's Accessible Instructional Materials Center (AIM-VA), the software helps approximately 170,000 students in 1,900 Virginia public schools.

"It is critical that we give Virginia schools the tools and support they need to provide access to digital formats for students with physical and reading disabilities," said Michael Behrmann, director of AIM-VA. "Through this statewide license, Virginia schools can use a quality text reader at considerable cost savings and receive in depth professional services that Don Johnston and our training team provide."

Read:OutLoud 6 offers access to e-books in all major formats, including DAISY (and DAISY 3), HTML, XML, and RTF, all without requiring conversion. The technology also opens files in NIMAS format, which can run as large as several gigabytes. In addition, the software includes extensive reading comprehension tools, a specially designed Web browser for Mac OS X and Windows, multi-colored eHighlighters, automatic outlining of highlighted text, and a function for users to create their own bibliographies.

Mike Smith, IT project leader for Henrico County Public Schools in Henrico, VA, is the digital rights manager for 67 schools. He said the software is "a solid reading tool that enables students to see and hear text read aloud. If an 8th grader can only read on a 3rd grade level, this software can enhance his confidence and improve his reading potential. This year, we want to provide [it] to an estimated 6800 eligible students."

Superintendents and digital rights managers at public school districts throughout Virginia can download Read:OutLoud 6 at no cost. Visit the AIM-VA Web site for further information.