The second in our series based on the work of Doctor Michelann Parr discusses what using read aloud technology looks like. A child comes to school unable to read. He has difficulty recognizing letters and has trouble with the sounds each letter makes. He has little to no sight word vocabulary and has limited interest in books or stories. His parent and teachers spend extra time and use motivational techniques to encourage him to read. However he still does not develop the reading skills he needs to be able to gain meaning from text with the speed, fluency and comprehension he needs. In Grade 5 he only able to read at a Grade 1 level. Traditionally, reading strategies develop the ability to decode and make the connection between sounds and letters. However these methods are not effective for some students who have difficulty with information processing. Decoding can take an enormous amount of effort for these readers and by the time the word is successfully decoded, the child may no longer have the energy to understand or use the content. So many of these students become frustrated, entering a cycle of withdrawal from text and ceasing to read. This in turn causes them to lose contact with text of all sorts, undermining their reading development and the acquisition of knowledge and understanding in all subjects. Assistive technology, and specifically text-to-speech technology (TTST) offers this student hope. The technology, which reads aloud as the content is highlighted, decodes the text, which a disabled learner cannot do on his own. This empowers struggling readers to work autonomously at grade-level, giving them the chance to put aside decoding difficulties and move on to high-level thinking. Disabled readers are no longer stuck on the basics of decoding and understanding text and low-level activities but are given new and exciting opportunities to engage with the content, to make meaning from text and to develop comprehension and study skills. This underlines the need to not only continue to teach students who struggle to read to decode, but to give them opportunities to interact with content and the written word in other ways. Research tells us that children who fall behind in reading subsequently read less, which in turn causes a growing gap in skills between struggling readers and their peers. This undermines the crucial self-belief that is necessary to cultivate strong reading skills, which lead to strong lifetime study skills. Choice has also been shown to be a key motivator in encouraging readers – allowing students to choose what, when and how to read. “Struggling readers should not be limited to low-level activities focused on decoding and literal comprehension,” states Doctor Parr. Text-to-speech technology provides struggling students a way for them to successfully decode text in order to gain higher-level comprehension, when and how they choose. Dr. Michelann Parr teaches at the Schulich School of Education, Nipissing University, Canada. She specializes in language, literacy, and special education. [textaid_cta]