Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Text Reader Software

What is text reader software?

Text reader software "reads" the screen using computerized speech. Some text readers highlight the text word by word as it is read. Many software programs also offer a variety of study tools including electronic notes, highlighters, dictionaries and more.

What is digital text?

For text reader software to read, it needs to be provided with some reading material in a digital format. This means that it is text that is presented on the screen and that you can highlight the text with your mouse. Digital text is one of the four formats of AIM (Accessible Instructional Materials). Schools are required by law to provide print instructional materials in accessible formats to students who need them. Learn more about accessible formats from the AIM Center.

How do you know who needs it?

As with all tools, students benefit when the tool is matched to the task at hand as well as their individual needs and preferences. While not all tools are needed for all students, no student will benefit from software if it is not used in conjunction with authentic learning tasks. 


The Protocol for Accommodations in Reading (PAR) (free download) provides a systematic method for data collection to determine how students perform using reading accommodations such as a text reader.

How much do text readers cost?

Advanced packages cost between $300 and $1500 for a single license. MCPS has 5-10 licenses of Kurzweil 3000 by Kurzweil Educational Systems ($395-$1495) in every school. Other examples of high-end text readers are Read&Write by TextHelp ($364-$645) and Wynn by Freedom Scientific ($375-$995). These full-featured text readers also have the capability of scanning paper documents and converting them for reading on the computer. The less expensive text reader software programs provide the reading and study tools only. 

I would like to use text reader software at home. Are there more affordable options?

  • Read&Write for Google Chrome - is a Chrome extension with free text to speech. Other features are also included and expire after a 30-day trial, but the text to speech features are always free.
  •  Natural Reader – offers text to speech with a continuum of features for free - $199 depending on features
  • TextAloud - offers text to speech and conversion of text into audio files for $30 - $55 depending on features
  • List of free text-to-speech tools from the UDL Toolkit

How do I find electronic text?

There are many internet sites that provide informational text. Text from these sites can easily be imported into text reader software. Here is a list of good sites for teachers.

You can also subscribe to membership websites that provide the full text of current and popular books for download. These sites are only for use with students who have a reading disability as defined by the Chafee Amendment.

  • Bookshare – offers thousands of titles for children and adults. Membership is free in the US. Learn more
  • Accessible Book Collection – offers over 1000 books for all grade levels including easy readers and picture books. The books are proof-read for accuracy and include pictures. Subscriptions are $50/year for a school or for an individual. Learn More

How do I have the electronic text read aloud by the computer?

You need two things: something to read (electronic text) and something that will read it (a text reader). Once you have a file of electronic text, you open it in your text reader software which will read it aloud. You'll need to be aware of the file formats (61K pdf) that your text reader can open.

What text reader software is available on MCPS computers?

My school uses Chromebooks. Can I use text reader software on a Chromebook?

  • You cannot install software on a Chromebook, but there are Chrome extensions and apps that provide the text to speech function.  In MCPS, we use Read&Write for Google Chrome.

I have a talking word processor for writing. Do I need to buy a different program for reading?

Not necessarily. Talking word processors can also be used to provide text-to-speech. If you already have a talking word processor, such as Clicker or Write:OutLoud you can paste text into it and use the "read" function to have text read back.


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