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iSlope - good posture and working position for iPad use

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 9th October, 2013 at 9:39am

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Here's a useful product for pupils starting to use iPad in the classroom. With or without a protective case like the Big Grips frame (as pictured), or Gumdrop, Otterbox etc., many users will require an additional stand to raise and tilt the device and hold it steady in position. Rather than pupils hunched, heads down, over flat iPads, we want to encourage good posture, easy access, and a good line of vision to both technology and classroom / teacher/ board etc., 

There are already many forms of writing slope and laptop stand/riser etc.available, at varying prices. This one is a handy compact and lightweight slope that exactly fits the iPad.



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eBooks from public libraries

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 8th October, 2013 at 4:40pm

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Frank Shaw from South Lanarkshire emailed to say that the South Lanarkshire library service now have an eBook and digital audiobook lending facility. To find out more, visit their web site

I took the opportunity to search and update our Books from Libraries page on the Books for All web site, and most of the council library services in Scotland now offer an eBook lending service where you can download and read eBooks (and sometimes audiobooks) on your computer, iPad, tablet, mobile phone etc.

The majority of the services seem to be using Overdrive, The OverDrive books are EPUB format which you can read on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, smart phones etc.

On a computer you read the books with Adobe Digital Editions (ADE). ADE is becoming more accessible in that with the latest version 2.0, the text can now be read using a few text-to-speech tools, and the font size can be increased to about 24 point, but there is only one font and limited colour options. Visit the Quick Guides page to download a guide on ADE.

For iOS, Android and eBook readers or smart phones, you read ebooks and listen to audiobooks using the OverDrive Media Console app.

RNIB also offer useful infornation on the accessibility of different types of eBooks.


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Closing the Gap

By Allan Wilson on Friday 4th October, 2013 at 10:48am

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Just a quick word about the Closing the Gap magazine, for the benefit of our UK readers (and others) who may not be aware of this excellent publication from the USA. Subscriptions are available for overseas readers allowing you to download the magazine, published every two months, in PDF format. The subscription (which also allows access to archived webinars) currently costs $110 for an individual.

Each issue has a number of articles with a general focus on the use of technology to support learners with additional support needs / disabilities, all written by leading practitioners. Most of the articles have an American focus, but the content is always very relevant to a wider audience, and there are occasional contributions from other countries - CALL's Craig Mill recently had an article published in the journal.

The contents of the current issue are fairly typical:

  • Communication and the Use of Tangible Symbols by Lori Dahlquist
  • Teaching with iPads for Students with Multiple and Visual Impairments by Tara Mason
  • The Windows 8 Tablet: The Best of Both Worlds by Elliot Pludwinski
  • A Cure for the Evaluation Report Writing Blues by Chritopher R. Bugaj and Sally Norton-Darr
  • iLOVE Writing: Using the iPad to Support Struggling Writers by Kelly Charlebois
  • DISKOVERIES: eBooks by Joan Tanenhaus
  • Technology Trends: iPad Use and Autism by Penina Rybak




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Paediatric Powered Mobility Workshop 1/11/13

By Paul Nisbet on Thursday 3rd October, 2013 at 5:57pm

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Bobath Scotland are running a one day workshop on Powered Mobility for children, led by Ros Livingston and Debbie Field. This is a great opportunity to think and learn about both the evidence base for paediatric powered mobilty and it's importance for children's development and education, and also how to assess for appropriate mobility aids, train users, and measure progress.

Ros previously worked in an Edinburgh special school and with Debbie is now working in Vancouver in Canada. They will be presenting at the European Seating Symposium so save yourself the cost of attending the conference and go to Bobath instead! Read more here, and download the booking form here.

(I was involved with developing the CALL Smart Wheelchair many moons ago and our research showed that powered mobility can have a really powerful impact on opportunities for engagement and on motivation, so I'm very enthusiastic about getting young people mobile - see the Smart Chair pages for a little more information.) 



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Nice new video of P2Go users

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 18th September, 2013 at 10:12am

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Excellent new video released recently by Assistiveware, the Proloquo2Go suppliers.

It features an introduction by the wondeful Jane Farrall (AAC specialist) from Australia, and some nice examples of conversational P2Go use by three highly engaged and communicative iPad-using school pupils. 




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Setting up the iPad for a user of Proloquo2Go

By Sally Millar on Saturday 14th September, 2013 at 4:43pm

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Proloquo2Go is a very popular App for communication, on the iPad.

The developers, Assistiveware, provide a number of excellent support materials  - videos, tutorial, fact sheets, FAQ, forum for discussion and so on, and you are advised to consult these when getting started. 

CALL is not intending to duplicate these, but has made a series of short videos with supplementary hints and tips on setting up the iPad for a P2Go user, especially one who is prone to 'go exploring' on the iPad...

Proloquo2Go: Sally introduces "Getting started "Hints and Tips"

Proloquo2Go 1: Moving and arranging app icons on the desktop

Proloquo2Go 2: Creating Folders and Updating P2Go

Proloquo2Go 3: Setting Restrictions and Guided Access

Proloquo2Go 4: Help and Support

Proloquo2Go 5: Choose a Vocabulary

 (If you can't access YouTube, contact CALL for an alternative link to the videos)

Thanks to Craig for filming and editing these. (The flicker's not his fault!)



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Including All Children in the Scottish Children's Book Awards

By Robert Stewart on Wednesday 11th September, 2013 at 12:21pm

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The Scottish Children's Book Awards is an innovative nationwide reading project in which children and young people from every corner of Scotland read and vote for their favourite Scottish children's books of the year. Last year over an amazing 31,000 votes were cast and children and young people from every local authority in Scotland, from Aberdeen to Dumfries; Shetland to Arran, took part. The awards are run by the Scottish Book Trust.

Children can vote for their favourite book, from a shortlist in each of three categories, either as individual readers or as part of a reading group in a school, library or bookshop. The shortlisted books are:

Early Years (0 - 7 years)

  • Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson
  • What's the Time, Mr Wolf? by Debi Gliori
  • Jumblebum by Chae Strathie and Ben Cort

Younger Readers (8 - 11 years)

  • Black Tide by Caroline Clough
  • The Accidental Time Traveller by Janis Mackay
  • Really Weird by Daniela Sacerdoti

Older Readers (11 - 16 years)

  • The Seeing by Diana Hendry
  • The Book of Doom by Barry Hutchison
  • Ferryman by Claire McFall

But what about disabled children who can't read the books?

CALL Scotland has worked with the Scottish Book Trust and the authors and publishers to create accessible digital versions of the nine shortlisted books. The idea is that children and young people with physical, visual and reading or dyslexic difficulties, who can't read or access the paper books, can read the digital books instead and take part in the awards. For example:
  • children with spinal injury, cerebral palsy or other physical impairments can click a switch or press a key on a computer, to turn pages and read the books by themselves;
  • dyslexic readers or children with visual impairments can change the font size and/or colours on screen, or use text-to-speech software to read the books;
  • the books can be read out by the computer using "Heather" or "Stuart", the high quality Scottish computer voices that is available free for schools and pupils from CALL Scotland's The Scottish Voice web site.
The books are available free of charge. Readers and schools can request accessible digital copies of the book(s) they wish to read via the Books for All website or phoning 0131 651 6236.


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Reasonable adjustment or taught dependency? Reader/scribes and ICT in National assessment of Literacy

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 11th September, 2013 at 12:15pm

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As of August 2013, SQA clarified what is and is not a 'reasonable adjustment'  for learners with disabilities in assessments, and it seems that this has caused a bit of disquiet in some areas of Scottish education.

From speaking to practitioners, I believe that there is a general misunderstanding of the policy and so in this blog I will lay out the situation as I understand it. I'll be writing with some more detailed suggestions and comments over the next few weeks, but for now I want to make some initial observations.

(Disclaimer: we work with SQA as consultants advising on the the use of ICT by learners with additional support needs, but the views expressed here and elsewhere on our web sites and publications are entirely independent. You might also say that we have a vested interest in promoting the use of ICT in assessments. You'd be wrong though. The only interest we have is enabling learners with disabilities in Scotland to have every opportunity to access education and fulfil their potential.)

The policy that seems to be causing most comment concerns the use of readers and scribes in assessment of literacy. SQA say that:

“In relation to the National Literacy Units at all levels: (i) exemption from demonstrating any of the four assessed skills of reading, writing, listening or talking will not be a reasonable adjustment and (ii) using human readers and scribes will not be reasonable adjustments where reading and writing abilities are being explicitly assessed.” (Section 96(7) Equality Act 2010: Specifications on Reasonable Adjustments in National Qualifications in Scotland.

The first thing to point out is that the restriction on reader/scribes only applies to National Literacy Units (and Modern Languages or Gaelic (Learners)) where reading and/or writing are being explicitly assessed. Reader/scribes can be used in all other subjects.

SQA also state that:

“In order to minimise the disadvantage faced by some disabled learners in attaining the National Units in Literacy, the use of word processors and other assistive technologies such as screen readers, spell checkers or speech-recognition software would be acceptable as reasonable adjustments.” (Specification 3 - Literacy Units.

So essentially, the policy is that learners can use ICT but can not use readers or scribes for assessment tasks in National 3, 4, 5 Literacy Units. Is this reasonable? I believe that it is.

Human vs computer readers

In my opinion, a computer reader provides a satisfactory and effective alternative to a human reader. I also believe that the use of a computer reader provides a more consistent and ultimately fairer method of support for learners. I do not believe that pupils with disabilities are disadvantaged by the SQA policy.

With the free Scottish voices, the consistence, intelligibility and quality of the computer speech is excellent. Literacy assessment tasks are likely to be created using a word processor such as Microsoft Word (the exemplars from SQA are all Word files), and there are many free programs (including the Speak facility built in to Word 2007/2010) such as WordTalk, MiniReader, Natural Reader etc etc that can be used to read from Word, in addition to commercial products such as ClaroRead, Read and Write Gold, Penfriend, Co:Writer, etc etc.

Now it's possible that some pupils with complex disabilities might not be able to use the technology – e.g. a pupil with very severe physical disability and significant visual impairment might struggle to control the technology  - but it can be done if the school takes the trouble to organise the reading text and questions in an accessible format.

I think the experience and support offered by computer readers is comparable to human readers, but the computer of course offers the huge advantage of being independent and by teaching learners how to use the technology, it gives learners a useful life skill. Teaching them to rely on a reader doesn't.

Scribing vs writing with ICT

The actual assessment task at National 3 is to:

“3    Write simple, technically accurate texts by:

3.1    Selecting and using appropriate language

3.2    Organising writing appropriately

3.3    Using appropriate spelling, punctuation and grammar”  

(Unit Assessment Support: H23W 73 Literacy (National 3): Package 1: Unit-by-Unit approach, p. 21)

To pass the assessment, the learner has to:

  • "decide who will read your article and use words to suit them;
  • give facts, information and advice;
  • make the article clear and easy to follow (think about things like headings, the order of information, using lists or bullet points);
  • use spelling and punctuation and sentences that make sense.
  • write at least 80 words."

All learners are permitted to use ICT (including a spellchecker) for this writing task. The assessment is not time-limited and is generally expected to be done in class as part of day to day teaching and learning. Learners with disabilities can also use more specialist assistive technologies to generate their 80 words.

I do not believe that restricting the use of scribes for a assessment that is specifically intended to assess a learner’s ability to generate text independently is unreasonable. There will be some learners who will not be able to pass the assessment - for example pupils with severe learning difficulties or complex needs, but they would not be able to tackle the assessment with a scribe either.

So is  a pupil with dyslexia, say, disadvantaged by not being able to use a scribe? I say not. Is it fair that SQA are encouraging use of ICT instead? Absolutely.

I think that the widespread use of scribes for young people in secondary schools actively damages learners. There's a risk of developing 'learned helplessness' and it should be avoided. Teaching learners to rely on human scribes isn't helpful - as I said in a previous blog, it's not successful, not confident, not responsible, not effective and not what schools should be doing. Teaching learners to write independently by whatever means - whether by handwriting, or with ICT, is surely a priority for Scottish education.

Are we really saying that there are significant numbers of young people in the middle of their secondary education who are incapable of writing 80 words independently, by hand or using ICT? If so, there is something seriously amiss with Scottish education. If so, we need to know about it, and one way we'll find out it by assessing learner's writing independently and not disguising lack of ability or effective teaching by using scribes.


I've heard some staff saying that lack of computers or cost of software is a problem, but I really don’t think this is an acceptable argument in 2013. We really need to be teaching young people to use ICT and local authorities and schools must accept that and make adequate provision. As far as the specialist assistive software is concerned, the text reading tools and voices are free, as I said; spellcheckers are built in to standard word processors, and even the more specialist commercial writing support tools are a lot less expensive than paying for scribes.  (I'll look at these tools in a later blog.)

"Reliant on readers", "stuck with scribes", or "independent with ICT"? Let's go for the latter.


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Good Fonts for Dyslexia

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 4th September, 2013 at 10:15am

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People often make assertions about the 'best' font to use to make it easier for people with dyslexia to read text, but this has been done without making use of any real research into the subject. For example, the British Dyslexia Association generally recommends the Arial font, while admitting that "We do not know whether any researchers have tested reading speed, accuracy or comprehension with different typefaces."

Now Spanish researchers have published1 the results of a study, comparing 12 fonts, using eye-tracking software to measure reading time and 'fixation uration (a measure of readability). They also asked the research participants about their personal preferences.

Their main conclusions are that:

  • Font types have a significant impact on readability of people with dyslexia
  • Good fonts for people with dyslexia are Helvetica, Courier, Arial, Verdana and Computer Modern Unicode, taking into consideration reading, performance and subjective preferences. On the contrary, Arial Italic should be avoided since it decreases readability.
  • Sans serif, roman and monospaced font types increased the reading performance of participants, while italic fonts did the opposite.

The Open Dyslexia font produced recently specifically for people with dyslexia scored well for reading speed, but was the least popular in meeting personal preferences.

The research supports our view that rather than assuming that a single font (usually Arial) can meet the needs of all people with dyslexia, it is important to make people aware of different fonts and, where possible, let them choose the font they want. (Arial may actually be a bad choice if italics are included as they are particularly hard to read.)

1Rello, Luz & Baeza-Yates, Ricardo (2013) Good Fonts for Dyslexia, ASSETS 2013, Bellevue, Washington USA


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By Sally Millar on Thursday 29th August, 2013 at 1:00pm

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I have just come across the free App Tellagami

It has lots of useful and fun uses for both AAC development and education. You can quickly and easily create an animated single page short picture story by choosing backgrounds (you can take or import your own photos) and customising your avatar/character. Stories can be recorded in or typed in and spoken via text to speech (30 seconds). Stories can then be saved and shared via email, Facebook, Twitter, SMS text.

Video tutorial here, showing it used to support reading fluency. Lots of good ideas here at the wonderful PrAACtical AAC site about how to use Tellagami with pupils and AAC users


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Higher set Scottish Texts on the Books for All Database

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 19th August, 2013 at 11:14am

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We have scanned and uploaded most of the Higher Scottish set texts to the Books for All Database and so they are now available for any of your learners who have print disabilities. The books are PDF files so they can be read on almost any device - Windows or Mac computers, iPads, Android tablets etc. They have been scanned from paper originals and converted to readable text using an automatic optical character recognition process, so there may be some errors in the text, but they look pretty accurate to me. Together with the digital versions of the set texts for National 5 we uploaded in July, these files should help learners get to grips with this session's English courses.

I've also searched for commerical eBook versions of the set texts, and the table below gives you links to both the eBook and scanned books on the Database.

The Books for All web site has quick guides on reading PDFs, and there are also some video guides.  


Amazon Kindle

iTunes Books

RM Books

Books for All Database

The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil by John McGrath




The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil

Men Should Weep by Ena Lamont Stewart




Men Should Weep

The Slab Boys by John Byrne




In progress






Short stories by Iain Crichton Smith.

The Red Door, The Telegram, Mother and Son, In Church, The Painter, The Crater


(All in The Red Door:  The Complete English Stories 1949-76)

Listen to the Voice, £7.56

Listen to the Voice, £8.99


Listen to the Voice

The Black Halo: The Complete English Stories 1977-98

The Red Door: The Complete English Stories 1949-76

The Cone-Gatherers by Robin Jenkins

The Cone-Gatherers, £4.63

The Cone-Gatherers, £8.99


The Cone Gatherers

Short stories by George Mackay Brown.

A Time to Keep, The Bright Spade, The Wireless Set, The Whaler’s Return, The Eye of the Hurricane, Tartan.


(All in A Time to Keep and other stories)

A Time to Keep, £5.49



A Time to Keep


In progress

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Sunset Song, £1.39

Sunset Song, free


Sunset Song

The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway

The Trick is to Keep Breathing, £6.17

The Trick is to Keep Breathing, £6.49


The Trick is to Keep Breathing






Carol Ann Duffy.

War Photographer,  Havisham, Valentine,

Originally, Anne Hathaway,

Mrs Midas

(All in New Selected Poems 1984-2004)




New Selected Poems: 1984-2004

Norman MacCaig.

Sounds of the Day, Assisi, Visiting Hour, Memorial, Aunt Julia, Basking Shark

(All in The Poems of Norman MacCaig)

The Poems of Norman MacCaig, £7.91

The Poems of Norman MacCaig, £11.99


The Poems of Norman MacCaig

Sorley MacLean.

Hallaig, Screapadal, Heroes, Shores, An Autumn Day, I gave you Immortality.

(All in Sorley MacLean: Collected Poems)

Sorley MacLean: Collected Poems, £14.40

Sorley MacLean: Collected Poems, £21.99


Sorley MacLean: Collected Poems

Don Paterson.

Waking with Russell, The Thread, 11:00: Baldovan, Two Trees, The Ferryman’s Arms, Nil Nil

(All in Don Paterson: Selected Poems)

Don Paterson: Selected Poems, £5.99

Don Paterson: Selected Poems, £9.99


Don Paterson: Selected Poems

Liz Lochhead.

The Bargain, My Rival’s House, View of Scotland/Love Poem, Some Old Photographs, For my Grandmother Knitting, Last Supper

(All in A Choosing)

Dreaming Frankestein & Collected Poems, £6.96

(does not include View of Scotland or Some Old Photographs)

Dreaming Frankestein & Collected Poems, £7.99

(does not include View of Scotland or Some Old Photographs)


A Choosing

Robert Burns.

Holy Willie’s Prayer, Tam O’ Shanter, To a Mouse, A Poet’s Welcome to his Love-Begotten Daughter, Address to the Deil, A Man’s a Man for a’ That

Poems and Songs of Robert Burns, free

Poems and Songs of Robert Burns, free

Poems and Songs of Robert Burns, free

Poems and Songs of Robert Burns.PDF

Poems and Songs of Robert Burns.DOC




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free AAC App

By Sally Millar on Friday 26th July, 2013 at 2:58pm

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Just to let folks know that there has been a major new update to the AbleNet AAC App Sounding Board. It is a free App anyway and the update is free via the App Store.

Sounding Board has always been an attractive option because (as well as being free) and offering all the 'standard' functions of communication and choices by touching pictures, imported photos, linked boards etc., and output through recorded speech, it is one of the few AAC Apps that also offer (1) audio prompts, and (2) switch and scan access. However it had limitations and a slightly 'dated' look to it, previously.

This latest version is much improved, for example:

  • New more modern looking and more intuitive interface
  • Now works in landscape mode as well as portrait
  • Boards can now contain up to 20 locations (used to be 9) - and you just add messages and leave it to save itself and configure the layout, instead of choosing a pre-determined layout before you start
  • Optimised for all versions of iPad , iPhone or iPad Touch
  • User data collection faciity (it tracks activations of each board and each individual symbol/picture)
  • Can export boards and share the file by email. BUT - note that this does NOT work with boards made in earlier versions of Sounding Board, but only with new boards created in Version 4. (However, don't panic - boards made in your earlier version will run fine after you've upgraded to V.4 - they just won't export.) 
  • Can import  boards from other users/devices and/or buy and import pre-made boards as in-app purchases ($0.69 each) So far the few boards on offer are single 9 location boards (not linked board systems); it is not clear what future plans might be for possibly increasing the range of boards available). 


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Calling all Scottish AAC users!

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 9th July, 2013 at 10:58am

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Do you use AAC?  Do you know someone who uses AAC (over 15 yrs.)? Please book up NOW and come along on 19th August to a fantastic event at the Corn Exchange in Edinburgh. The fabulous 'Lost Voice Guy', Lee Ridley -  the first Stand Up Comedian to use AAC - will be doing a one-off gig for Scottish AAC Users. PLEASE PASS THIS INFORMATION ON

This is a UNIQUE opportunity to have a laugh with Lee, meet up with other AAC Users, and have a great day out in the height of the summer in the Festival City!

It's FREE and lunch is included. For more details and to book a place please email or call 0131 651 6068. Or download a booking form here, and mail it in. You can also book a place online. Book early in case it fills up!


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National 5 English Set Scottish Texts on the Books for All Database

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 3rd July, 2013 at 5:05pm

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Back in March I gave a presentation at the Developing Teachers in a Post-PC Era conference that we organised with Apple UK, where I suggested that one of the potential benefits of more learners using more new mobile technologies (iPads, tablets, mobiles etc) was that digital books and curriculum resources would become more common. This will be good for pupils who struggle with print because there will be more pupils wanting digital formats and therefore we are likely to see more being produced (as long as the commercial eBooks from Amazon, iTunes, RM Books etc etc are actually accessible to pupils with print disabilities, which is another story).

So, as an exercise to see how well prepared we all are for this shiny new digital age, I searched to see which of the National 5 Set Scottish texts were actually available in digital format. I found that there were some significant gaps, which is a bit disappointing given the first National 5 exams will be delivered next session. 

The good news though, is that we have scanned most of the books and they are now available free of charge, for pupils with print disabilities, on or via the Books for All Database!

To save you the trouble searching for them either on the commercial sites or on B4ASD, we've done it for you:


Amazon Kindle iTunes Books RM Books Books for All Database
Bold Girls, by Rona Monro - - -

PDF to follow

Large Print (28pt)

Sailmaker, by Alan Spence - - -



Tally's Blood, by Ann Marie di Mambro - - - Not yet - in progress


Short stories (a selection) by Iain Crichton Smith  Listen to the Voice Listen to the Voice -

Listen to the Voice PDF

The Black Halo: The Complete English Stories 1977-98 PDF

The Red Door: The Complete English Stories 1949-76 PDF

Hieroglyphics and Other Stories (a selection) by Anne Donovan - - - Hieroglyphics and Other Stories PDF
The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson Yes - - The Testament of Gideon Mack PDF
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson Yes Yes Yes



Carol Ann Duffy Yes, various Yes, various   New Selected Poems: 1984-2004
Edwin Morgan Yes, various Yes, various   New Selected Poems (Poetry pleiade)
Norman MacCaig Yes, various The Poems of Norman MacCaig   Not yet - in progress
Jackie Kay Yes, various Yes, various   Not yet - in progress



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School holidays are here!

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 3rd July, 2013 at 2:04pm

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Two dogs staring at each other and one is saying to the other: I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking.


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