Extra Special Learning Resource
I’ve been writing about free digital resources here for almost 6 years. I’ve discovered and written about hundreds of helpful learning supports. Among these, there have been some exceptional gems–so special they deserve to be shared again…and again! This is the first of what I’m calling my Extra Special Learning Resource series. Series posts are likely to come at irregular intervals.
Tar Heel Reader is a truly exceptional resource that I’ve written about three times–on October 6, 2008; then on January 9, 2009; and yet again on October 4, 2009 when I discussed using it with PowerTalk. When I first discovered it in 2008, there were about 500 books “for beginning readers of all ages” in Tar Heel’s online library. As I write now, there are 21,310 titles!
Tar Heel Reader recognizes the reality that there are indeed beginning readers of all ages. Although the reading level may be appropriate in some children’s picture books in a library, it is both inappropriate and counter-productive to use these books with older learners.
[Tar Heel Reader is]…a collection of free, easy-to-read, and accessible books on a wide range of topics. The books may be downloaded as slide shows in PowerPoint, Impress, or Flash format. Each book can be speech enabled and accessed using multiple interfaces, including touch screens, the IntelliKeys with custom overlays, and 1 to 3 switches.
Tar Heel Reader’s description of itself is accurate. What it fails to mention is the engaging nature of its books. Each book consists of a set of images from Flickr, accompanied by a limited amount of text. The quality of Tar Heel Reader books varies, but many are excellent. I’ve embedded an example here, and more at the bottom of this post. [Books from Tar Heel Reader cannot be embedded, so I have transferred some to Slideshare for the sake of this post.]
If desired, and a voice is selected, each book can be read aloud in a the digital voice of a child/woman/man. The quality of the text-to-speech may not be to everyone’s liking, but I have found that the voice is often not a major issue to the reader who really needs it. If you wish to enhance the experience of reading any Tar Heel Reader book, please see my 2009 post about downloading books into PowerPoint and then using then with PowerTalk and high quality voices.
I was pleased to discover that Tar Heel Reader stories work well on an iPad. There is just one significant difference. When a voice was selected for text-to-speech, I had to click on the text before it could be spoken. On a computer, the text is spoken automatically.