What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any kind of technology and/or tool that can be used to enhance the functional independence of a person with a disability. Often, for people with disabilities, accomplishing daily tasks such as communicating with others, going to school or work, or participating in activities can be a challenge. Assistive Technology (AT) devices are tools to help overcome those challenges and enable people living with disabilities to enhance and have access to a quality of life, that may otherwise not be known, and lead more independent lives.

The mission of this blog is to serve as a voice of a constant researcher in the field of educational and assistive technologies so that the best products, strategies and services may be located easily, in hopes that they will then be delivered, taught and used to better the lives of people with disabilities.


Audio Book Resources

There are so many benefits of using children's audio books. Audio books can improve word recognition, the proper pronunciation of words and also develop visualization abilities.

With new advances in technology it is good to understand what resources are available and what devices you can use these with. 

There are many resources for children's books that can be read online or transferred to a portable on-the-go type system.  Audio books are great in the car, in the evening when children are going to bed, to support that book report that needs to be completed for struggling readers...   As The Story Home puts it, "you will find all the ways to bring stories to your active lifestyle, allowing you and your children to access quality listening entertainment during cross town errands, vacation trips, commutes, in waiting rooms and that very special quiet time before sleep. Whether you need a soothing journey, a magic moment, or a bit of wisdom, The Story is always just a click away."

Children can actually “read” audio books online, in many cases, at no charge. The activity helps develop listening skills and can increase comprehension and reasoning ability, not to mention increasing site word recognition when accompanied by the text. Think how powerful it could be if parents listen with their children. Parents can provide questioning to help their kids learn to predict what will happen next, review the sequence of events in the plot, and examine the reasons a character acted the way he/she did. All of these skills are valuable academic skills.

Stories are accessible online through free downloads or streaming audio. Free audio downloads can be burned to a CD and played in the car, or on personal CD players. Free MP3s can be downloaded to iPods/iDevices to be taken anywhere. Check your local library too. More and more libraries are offering a larger library of audio books. If your is not, let them know this is an interest. The more they hear this request, the more they will put their resources towards this area.

If you can afford a monthly subscription, Audible.com is an awesome service. I have belonged and have thoroughly enjoyed it. You can stop for a while and then rejoin without penalty also. 
free audio books for ipod: audible.com
It is perhaps the best-known provider of downloadable audio books. While it's primarily a subscription service (plans run from $157 to $229/year for 12-24 audio books) it does offer free audio books as part of its promotions to attract new subscribers. Audible sponsors many popular podcasts, including This American Life and other top shows, and offers free audio books through ads, so be alert when listening to those podcasts for free offers. 
Audible has a free iPhone app (Download at iTunes) that provides access to your Audible library via Wi-Fi. (Connected to Amazon.) 

Here are some places to find free audio books for kids online:
  • AOL Kids offers stories for the young that are online picture books read to the child. Words are highlighted while read.
  • Audible Kids is a website full of popular books. Some are read aloud by the actor who plays Gordon on Sesame Street, Roscoe Orman. Although many of the audio books presented by Audible Kids cost a small free, they do offer at least nine free audio stories. They also offer books for a low 99 cents for download. 
  • AudioBooksforFree.com - L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and Julius Lester’s The Tales of Uncle Remus are included here, along with dozens and dozens of others.
  • Audio Stories for Kids is an excellent source for no-cost audio books for youngsters. It is UK-based, similar to Storynory, and contains over 200 kids' audio MP3 stories, all for free. (Some of the recordings include sound effects as well.) Audio Stories has one of the most extensive lists of free children's read along books online. There are over 300 available titles along with games, coloring pages, old radio recordings and other interesting resources. The selection includes fables, classics, fairy tales and contemporary stories. 
  • BandN Storytime Online has 16 classic books read by the author of the book.
  • BookBox has downloadable Flash stories which are digitally narrated with simple animation and streaming text across the bottom - you see whole phrases, and the letters go from white to red as the words are spoken (called 'SLS' - same language subtitling).  The stories are international in flavor, and come in several languages. You can preview the stories for free, so you could see if it fits your needs. The illustrations are beautiful and the animation simple.Though BookBox stories are primarily focused on reading skills’ development and language learning for all children, they also contain several features that help children with special needs.
  • Book Pals (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools) is a national program administered by the nonprofit Screen Actors Guild Foundation. BookPALS help children learn to LOVE books by bringing the talents of performer volunteers into classrooms, hospitals, shelters, and other venues. A perfect match!
  • Book Pop is a smaller resource but has very good stories for younger readers who like bright colors and easy to read words. This is not the site to find well-known authors or classic tales.  
  • Books Should be Free offers Free Public Domain Audiobooks and eBooks.
    It's easy to find a free audio book you want to download at Books Should Be Free. You can view the audio books by the categories Top 100, Children, Fiction, Fantasy, and Mystery as well as more than a dozen other genres.Download books for iPhone, Android, Kindle and mp3 players. Be sure to check out their horror and ghost stories! It's so easy to find an audio book here thanks to the categories and large photos that I had to include in the list.
  • Candlelight Stories is an independent web site aimed at adults but older teens might appreciate this too. Subjects include literature, film, games, art, poetry, children's stories, free expression, politics, and audio. It can get hugely opinionated but it sure has fun doing it. Use your judgment and enjoy. 
  • CCProse presents classic literature in video format. It syncs human voiced audio with text. (Check out their YouTube Channel.)
  • Eduscapes is an awesome site that links to a variety of reading materials, including chapter books, interactive stories, and more. There are designated books for several ages as well. 
  • International Children’s Digital Library, "A library for the world's children," this site contains over 4,000 books in 61 languages.  So cool. Though there aren't many hard copies I could link to, perhaps some families have the books at home or would just like hearing books read in a foreign language.
  • Just Books Read Aloud books can be chosen by length, author, narrator, or category. It can be added to the iPad. There are no advertisements or other revenue generating opportunities on the site. It is compatible with the JAWS screen reader. This is a very rich site.
  • KidsAudioBooks has  over 200 audio stories in MP3 format for you to download.
  • Kids Learn Out Loud features free podcasts and audio and video resources for kids and teens to learn from. Most audio titles can be downloaded in digital formats such as MP3 and most video titles are available to stream online. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, is included in this free collection, as are Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell; Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel DeFoe; and many others.  Speeches, presidential addresses, podcasts, and more are included on this packed, resource-rich site.
  • Learn Out Loud has a collection of over 2500 free audio books and other educational audio and video files. Learn Out Loud's collection includes readings of famous literature as well as audio and video files of famous speeches and news reports. The collection is sorted into sixteen categories which can then be sorted alphabetically or by popularity.Learn Out Loud is a gigantic collection of free audio books, lectures, and educational podcasts. Here, you can find all sorts of interesting content divided into categories as diverse as Arts and Entertainment, Business, Sports, or Travel. You can also filter your search results by Audio Download, Online Audio, Most Popular, Alphabetical, Author Name, Average Member Rating, or Featured.
  • LibriVox has a huge selection of free audio books that are recordings of volunteers who have read chapters from books that are in the public domain. You can find a free audio book by searching by title, author, or status. You can also browse all the titles in the catalog or view only the most recent audio books. The free audio books can be downloaded directly from LibriVox or you can subscribe to them as podcasts.
  • Listen and Read for early learners has 54 nonfiction read-along books. Listen and Read activities tell the story through words, images, and sound. You can use these online activities in a variety of ways, from one-on-one instruction using a computer or tablet to class instruction on an interactive whiteboard.
  • Light up your brain has a small selection of approximately 20 audio books and interesting games for children to download. This site provides a text section of the story and an available audio to play in the background.The stories on this site include classics such as The Velveteen Rabbit, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Little Mermaid, The Emperor's New Clothes and Cinderella.
  • Lit 2 Go offers a large selection of fiction stories and poems available as free downloads. The total appears be at least 200 titles. The collection can be searched by author or title.
  • LoudLit.org is a good place to find free audio recordings of famous works of literature. What makes LoudLit unique and useful for teachers is the option of reading the text online while listening to the reading of the text.
  • MightyBook offers beautifully illustrated, Flash animated, with words highlight as they’re spoken or sung to make it easier for kids to follow along.
  • Mother Goose Club has a number of rhymes and songs that provide audio support for the text.
  • National Geographic Kids provides 37 non-fiction magazines for kids with audio available that will read the words to your students.
  • New Fiction has unique and fictional audio books that they term "iSoaps." You won't find these audio books any where else and they are wonderful if you are looking for something new and a little bit different. You'll need to sign up for an account, which is free, and then subscribe to their podcast where you'll get a new installment of a book delivered to you each day.
  • Online Audio Stories presents "Great Short Stories Online. Welcome to the magical kingdom of fairy tales, classic books for children and kids’ poems."
  • Open Culture provides hundreds of free audio books, mostly classics, to your MP3 player or computer. You’ll find great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. This would be best used with older students and adults. The contents of the collection is quite impressive as it includes works by, among others, Austen, Dickens, Melville, Poe, Voltaire, and Rousseau. All of the audio books can be played on your computer or mp3 player. Open Culture is a portal to the finest educational and cultural resources on the Web. They've got a very respectable collection of great audio books, mostly classics, available for free in a variety of downloadable formats from all over the Web. Books are organized alphabetically by author's last name by genre: Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry.
  • OverDrive If your local library has a subscription to OverDrive (and ours does!) then this is a great place to find free audio books of recent fiction and non-fiction books including best-sellers. You'll check out these audio books just like you would a library book and they'll be returned at the end of the loan period (usually 2 weeks). Besides free audio books, OverDrive also has free ebooks, movies, and music. (You can often sign up for libraries in other areas also instead of only your local library. Some areas offer more than others.)
  • Oxford Owl is a collection of free children’s ebooks for kids ages 3-11.  Each ebook has accompanying audio so that students can choose to read along, or read independently.  The books also have activities that focus on reading comprehension and story recall.  There are several options for filtering the ebooks so that students can find just the right story including by age, by book type, and by series.  In addition to the ebooks on the site, you can find fun activities and recommendations for each age group, games to print and play, and online games with characters from the books and site. 
  • PlayTime Books states:  Listen to 85,000 Audio Books on Your IPod, Mobile Phone, IPad, MP3 Player or Amazon Kindle Reader.
  • Podiobooks has over 70,000 free audio books over every subject you can think of and includes audio books for adults and kids.You can download the free audio books directly from the website or receive them like podcasts from an RSS feed. You don't need to register to get a free audio book but if you do, and registration is free, you'll get a custom podcast feed that will make enjoying your book a whole lot easier.
  • Project Gutenberg has audio books that are human-read and also some that are computer-generated. These are also public domain books that have been turned into audio books that are now available for free for anyone who's interested. The easiest way to find an audio book here is to browse through the authors and titles. You can also view them by languages.
  • Reading Planet lets you enjoy reading and singing along to these fun, animated stories. (You need to have a plug-in called Flash installed on your computer to view the stories.)
  • Read Print offers an online book library with over 8,000 titles that can be read using any free text reader (tested with Natural Reader).
  • Read to Me offers children's storybooks read aloud by celebrities and storytellers.  This online reading program to develop literacy in children is fun!  Watch books and download lesson plans for learning.
  • RIF Reading Planet provides read along stories and songs for young children in Flash format.
  • Rong-Chang suggests easy readers for Adult ESL Beginners (also great for older children). 200 free stories. These stories come with audio if you want to listen and read along. It does not highlight the words.
  • Smories is a video site featuring kids reading kids' stories. Many of the videos include captions. 
  • Starfall Books offers 42 themed books.
  • Stories for Kids is abundant with audio resources and links. 
  • StoryBird is artful story telling. Make, Read and Share Visual Stories.
  • StoryNory  has published a new audio story every week since November 2005. Storynory is an online treasure-trove of free audio stories. This is a large selection of fairy tales (Hans Christian Anderson, Brothers Grimm), classics (Alice in Wonderland, A Christmas Carol), education stories (Greek myths, Bible stories), original new tales(Tim The Tadpole's Exams, Bertie's Car, Sadie's Broken Heart) and stories targeting junior readers.Every week, Storynory publishes a free audio book just for kids. The audio books here include original stories, fairy tales, classic stories, educational books, and some small stories for the very little ones. The audio books here can be downloaded or streamed directly from the website.
  • Stone Soup offers a place for your students to publish their stories and read them and/or a place to listen to stories read by other students.
  • Story Home provides original and classic children’s audio stories, to delight and inspire children and their families.
  • StoryLineOnline includes full visuals of each page. The books change often so be sure to revisit this site and enjoy all that it has to offer. The stories are read by Screen Actors Guild members using flash movies to display the books as they are read. There are also fun activities and lesson ideas to go along with each book.
  • Tar Heel Reader is a collection of free, easy-to-read, and accessible books on a wide range of topics. Each book can be speech enabled and accessed using multiple interfaces, including touch screens, the IntelliKeys with custom overlays, and 1 to 3 switches.You may write your own books using pictures from the huge collection at Flickr or pictures you upload. You may also use Tar Heel Readers books into iBooks with speech support.
  • The Talking Book Store is not free but if you want very rich books, very quickly, this is the place to go. Memberships are available so you can get a book every month. 
  • Voice of America offers news stories that you can listen to and read along with. An awesome resource for the adult or older student who is learning to master reading.
  • We Give Books - Introducing books available for you to read for free, anytime, anywhere, and on any device! Many of you have asked to read on your iPad, iPhone, or mobile device. Now you can. Just choose the Editor’s Picks collection from our and start reading. All books in the Editor’s Picks collection are free for anyone to read without signing in on We Give Books.
Also, be sure to explore: 
  • Podcasts (available through iTunes) and TED Talks, both offering great audio opportunities! 
  • CAST UDL Bookbuilder is an interactive book maker and reader. Check it out!! 
  • Adapted Literature available through the Sherlock Center Resource Library. These resources are provided for teachers to help students with severe disabilities participate in the general curriculum.
Most of these sites offers public domain audio books (meaning books whose authors have been dead for, in most cases, at least 75 years). Most of its titles are drawn from Project Gutenberg and LibriVox.
  • Books Should Be Free site offers public domain audio books (meaning books whose authors have been dead for, in most cases, at least 75 years). Most of its titles are drawn from Project Gutenberg and LibriVox. The audio books here, as the site's name indicates, are completely free and can be downloaded either as a podcast or as an MP3. Titles are offered in multiple languages.
  • eMusic (free trial) is subscription-based music store has added audio book downloads in recent years. In order to get them, you must also subscribe to its music service--which runs from $6.50/month to $133.99/year. Audio book plans run $9.99-$18.99/month and come with 1 free audio book. You can sign up for a trial eMusic subscription and keep your downloads and free book if you cancel your membership before the 14-day trial expires.The audio book selection is robust and includes the latest big-name titles and authors as well as less-well-known works.
  • Free Audiobooks - 4,728 Classics Audiobook Library For Less Than A Cup Of Coffee. By Digital Press Publishing
  • NPR has a list of Children's Book Apps: A New World Of Learning.
  • Podiobooks is one of the few sites that offers truly free audio books by modern authors. While you won't find the major names here, Podiobooks is packed full of free audio books by authors in more than two dozen genres (including public domain classics). The books are supported by listener donations, with 75% of donations going to authors. Options including listening on the site, downloading MP3s, or subscribing via podcast to each new chapter as it is released.

  • The Story Home app comes with 3 stories and gives users the opportunity to own (meaning buy) over 90 of The Story Home’s acclaimed children’s audio stories. (Read how it works.)
  • Tales2Go gives educators and parents instant and unlimited access to thousands of name-brand audiobooks and stories from leading publishers and storytellers to play on iDevices in classrooms and beyond, all for one low annual price. 
MP3 players have the capacity to play audio books. Most families have MP3 technology in their home and young children are frequently able to use the devices. The MP3 platform offers the quickest access to recorded books.

They can be downloaded from the internet to your player. MP3 ready audio books may also be purchased in traditional stores and borrowed from the library.

Many accessories are available to make the listening process even easier, adding to the benefits of audio books for children. Headphones attach to all three types of players and lessen distractions while the child is listening to the recording. Battery power is also an option for all three kinds of devices. Battery power makes the player portable so children can listen anytime and anywhere. Most importantly the equipment is affordable.

In many cases you probably already own appropriate equipment to get started.

The benefits of children’s audio books, especially the role they play in creating reading independence, are infinite. Through advances in technology audio books are now available to many families. The equipment is easy for young children to use and there are many books available in audio form. Adding audio books to your home library has the potential to greatly improve your child’s reading ability.

Don't forget to make your own audio books for your kids. When they go off to camp or to a friend's house for an over nighter, no one needs to know that they are actually being comforted by hearing you read to them. All they have to do it plug in their headset and Viola!  (See the Podcasting post for more information on making your own podcast - aka audio books.)