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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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