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A Great Example of the Power of Immersion Reading Technology

by Paul Nisbet

on Mon Feb 24, 2020

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Amanda Warren, who is a Dyslexia Tutor, has written a fascinating post about how Immersion Reading has opened up books and reading for her son, who is dyslexic.

Amanda writes that her son was diagnosed with dyslexia, poor working memory and extremely slow processing at age 10. In school he has been working on the Accelerated Reading programme but her son has real difficulty with reading and "the more I pushed him to read, the more he rebelled". Amanda says that "Now in Year 8 and sitting at the bottom of the class in terms of AR points, I could see his lack of reading was limiting his vocabulary and significantly affecting his ability to access many areas of the curriculum."

The Educational Psychologist had recommended Amazon's WhisperSync app and so Amanda bought David Walliams' Demon Dentist Kindle eBook, and the accompanying audiobook. With this Immersion Reading technology, the audio book plays while the text in the eBook is highlighted, and this immediately engaged her son:

I was shocked, not only was he understanding what he was reading but he was enjoying it! For the next hour he continued to read, without any prompting, only pausing occasionally to tell us more amusing extracts.

Amanda gives us a fascinating insight into why the audio / eBook combination was so powerful:

Two weeks later, all 441 pages had been read. I asked my son why it was so much easier to read like this and he explained that with the sound added, he could imagine the characters and create pictures of the story, a skill that for him, is missing when viewing text alone. The audio also removed the burden of constantly performing the complex process of matching written characters to known words and from words to voice output, translations that for someone with very slow processing are extremely draining.

Immersion Reading is different to reading with a computer reader, because the audio is a recording of an actual human being, and so the narrated audio has more expression and variation and is likely to be more engaging than a synthesised computer voice, especially when accessing fiction and literature.

So if you've not already looked into Immersion Reading, why not find out more and try it with your learners? You do have to buy the Kindle eBook (£3.49) and audio book (£4.49) - you can't get them free from Books for All or RNIB Bookshare - but £8 sounds like a bargain if it can open up books for a young person who is struggling with reading.

Immersion Reading works on newer Amazon Kindle Fire and the Kindle apps for iOS and Android.

I'm reminded of the research from Dr. Michelann Parr[1]  who in 2015 wrote that:

  • "Children who fall behind as readers read less; this, in turn, can increase the skills gap between struggling readers and their peers.
  • Self-efficacy – belief in oneself as a reader – is half the battle in helping students learn to read.
  • Choice – in what to read, when to read and how to read – acts as a powerful motivator for all students and especially for those who struggle with reading."

And she argued that:

  • "Text-to-speech technology facilitates student choice, differentiation and self-advocacy."

Again, text-to-speech or a computer reader may not be quite as engaging as Immersion Reading when you're reading David Walliams' inspired humour, but it can unlock the world of books and literature for people who struggle with the printed word.

[1] Parr (2015) The Voice of Text-to-Speech Technology One Possible Solution for Struggling Readers?

Tags: text-to-speech, immersion reading, dyslexia, audio

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