Audiobooks for schools
September 11, 2019 6:56 PM   Subscribe

I am a school psychologist in a small public charter school (grades 6 – 12) in CA. Some of our students who are on IEPs or 504 Plans have access to audiobooks as an accommodation. I am looking for the most cost effective and timely way to get access to audiobooks for individual students.

For example, one of our classes is reading The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater. There are several students in this class that need access to an audiobook version both at school and at home. My school has started using Overdrive this year, but the audiobook for The 57 Bus is not available on that service. I believe there are other books that our teachers are using this year that also do not have audio versions available on Overdrive.

My school is unsure what to do in cases where Overdrive does not have the audiobook available. Does anyone have experience providing audiobooks in a school setting? Does anyone know of another service that allows multiple simultaneous users to access the same audiobook at once?
posted by yeahyeahrealcute to Education (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you contacted the National Library Service at the Library of Congress?
posted by Melismata at 7:26 PM on September 11, 2019

Best answer: Does your school not have a library media specialist? If your students are print-disabled (a wide-ranging term) they have a legal right to get content "format shifted" into a format they can access. And the library can actually do this for them, if they are able to, legally. I am a qualifying authority at the Internet Archive and we help get print-disabled users access to print content that is accessible to them. You have options through

- your school library
- your local public library (if no school library, they should know what options are available to you)
- the state library system

to help get you access to that content in a format which your students can access. Depending on the publisher, sometimes you can talk to them directly.
posted by jessamyn at 7:27 PM on September 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I used to give presentations at teachers' conventions on free education resources, and this is what I would always say: If you are willing to trade your time for money, then there is plenty of "free" stuff out there. It still has a cost, but the price is paid in your hours, not your dollars. Once you understand that, then free suddenly doesn't look as good as it used to. But it can be done, and more easily than people imagine.

With a few hours of research you can easily uncover dozens of no-cost, volunteer-read audiobooks. Here are a few places to get you started. Also, don't discount the good old Internet Archive.

I had good luck with Librivox before I retired, and I think Storynory might have some good simpler books well-suited for younger ages and IEP students with reading challenges (as long as they can get past the British accents). And don't discount YouTube-- there is an embarrassing wealth of audiobooks and childrens stories there, often illustrated as well. Another teacher I know found good children's audio books on Spotify, of all places.

Since you are a psychologist and not a teacher, I have to offer this one warning-- check everything before you release it for students to listen to. You might think it is great for your middle-schoolers to study history by listening to "Hamilton" songs, but it comes back to bite you when they start dropping f-bombs in front of the principal at lunch. "Where did you learn this?" "From history!" they shout proudly. Ask me how I know this...
posted by seasparrow at 8:17 PM on September 11, 2019

Try Learning Ally (formerly Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic). When I volunteered with them (admittedly some years ago now), members could request custom audiobooks a few times a year. They were read by volunteers. The website looks a super scammy to me now, but I think the service (educational audiobooks for students with disabilities) remains unchanged.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:22 PM on September 11, 2019

Also, since you are already using Overdrive, don't overlook a similar library service called Kanopy, which is also handled through libraries, and also usually free, and will even stream movies and audio books for a certain number of titles each month (it is different for each library system contract-- some get four titles per month, some seven, and some ten). Here is an example of the kind of services most libraries can get for free from Kanopy.
posted by seasparrow at 8:23 PM on September 11, 2019

Yes to many of the above.

The 57 bus is also available on playaway, albeit not cheaply, but this by passes the need for a hosting service such as overdrive.
posted by aetg at 3:18 AM on September 12, 2019

Does your local library have a service like Hoopla? Our library has several sources for audiobooks; Hoopla is the one I know of that allows multiple people to check out the same book at the same time.

If your school doesn't have an experienced library person, the local public library is absolutely your source for this; with enough notice, they can get copies of whatever audiobook you need on CD, and they can borrow multiple copies from other regional libraries if they need to.
posted by gideonfrog at 4:25 AM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Your school librarian should be able to track down digital versions of many.. books as a matter of accessibility for students with disabilities. Your school might also find some titles with text-to-speech formatting via the Book sense website, which is is available to people with print disabilities and the agencies/departments that serve them.
posted by childofTethys at 5:09 AM on September 12, 2019

I came in to suggest Hoopla as well. The phrase you are looking for is "multi-user access" (as opposed to "single user"). The major book wholesalers can likely help, although the cost will not be free. Your school likely has contracts with at least some of them: Follett, Baker & Taylor, Mackin. They all sell digital products as well as print books.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:15 AM on September 12, 2019

Response by poster: Hi everyone, thanks for all of the great answers so far! Just wanted to pop in to clarify, as I should have included this in my original post: this is a very small and new charter, so there is no library or library media specialist. We also don't have contracts with book wholesalers, as each student has a Chromebook and all of the curriculum is presented through the Summit Learning personalized learning platform (no physical textbooks). Classroom sets of books are typically purchased through Amazon.
posted by yeahyeahrealcute at 6:43 AM on September 12, 2019

Given your update, I'll just add that it is unlikely you'll be able to find multi-user access digital products in the trade market (Amazon). You'll be looking at a subscription service or a standard wholesaler. (I work for an educational publisher who sells multi-user ebooks and audiobooks; you cannot find those products on Amazon although we do sell our single user digital products there.)

In your specific scenario, at the wholesalers, the audio rights for The 57 Bus seems to be available to purchase only as a Playaway, which is not a multi-user audiobook (it's a device pre-loaded with the content), or on a CD from Recorded Books. I don't see multi-user options available anywhere. I'm not sure if it's on a streaming service.

Since you don't have a LMS, your local public library might be able to help as well.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:34 AM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Check out Bookshare which is designed for just this purpose. From their website, “Bookshare lets students read their way. They can access a huge library of ebooks on devices they already use and customize the reading experience to accommodate their specific learning needs.

Readers can experience Bookshare ebooks many different ways:

Listen to books with high quality audio
See text and follow along with word-level highlighting
Adjust reading speed, font, and color
Enlarge font size
Read in braille
Add bookmarks and notes
Take advantage of partners apps and study tools.

Bookshare is FREE for US Students with qualifying reading barriers. Students 18 years and over can sign up on their own; parents can sign up students under 18 years of age.“
posted by ms_rasclark at 1:29 PM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

I mistyped-Bookshare is a resource ALSO, connect with your local department of education about resources for K-12 students with disabilities. Someone at your school will need to certify eligibility, but there is so much more out there, including requesting accessible content from the publisher.

Have the teachers, when they are selecting course materials, check for accessible formats, as many newer publications have robust features. This is absolutely not true of all books and publishers.
posted by childofTethys at 1:47 PM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

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