Key Elements of a screen reader
Classes in reading fluency with a screen reader
Who can be helped by using a screen reader
Working with students with little or no computer skills
Testing and Evaluating Progress
Setting up a classroom/lab area
Eligibility and Copyright Laws
Scanning Books


Frequently Asked Questions

Classes in Reading Fluency with a Screen Reader

Is the reading fluency program part of a class or is it an open lab?

The screen reading fluency program was offered at Delta College through Spring 2009. There were both classes and open lab time available. Most students enrolled in the classes; one beginning course and one advanced course. Orientation and evaluations were a separate class.

Currently, the screen reading fluency program is being offered at one Sacramento City School System location in an 8th grade class. Additional offerings of the program will become available in the future. If you are interested in sponsoring the program at your school or as a part of your child's IEP plan, please contact us for information how this might be accomplished.

Contact Janice and Ted for information

How does the Reading Fluency with a Screen Reader Model compliment traditional reading classes?

A student is often enrolled in both the screen reading and traditional reading courses at the same time. This does not have to pose a problem. The student will most likely be reading faster and with more enjoyment with the screen reader. But, because the student's confidence is increasing and motivation to read increases, there is often a corresponding improvement in their visual reading.

Many students decide not to continue with the traditional reading program while they are learning to read with the screen reader. This is OK, also. It really depends on the person and what they want and can handle. Many students do better by just learning to read with the screen reader, because learning to read with a screen reader takes time and effort. However, students are often forced to take additional courses because of financial aid requirements.

It is also important to develop relationships with reading faculty. If other instructors express a bias against learning to read by listening, the student's self-confidence and acceptance of their reading achievements will be adversely affected.

In your orientation, do you take a certain time block, say an hour for the orientation? Is it a structured thing?

The orientation is structured. The orientation usually takes about one hour and is done individually. I have not had good success doing orientations with more than one person at a time. It is normally the first opportunity for the instructor to learn about the student. The instructor's goal for the orientation is to find empathy with the student's past experiences trying to learn to read. The student's goal is to learn about the reading fluency program and how this reading program is different from others that they have tried previously.

The instructor guides the student through the orientation by asking pertinent questions and explaining current theories about how someone learns to read. The orientation is typically an emotional experience for the student when they discover why they have previously not been able to learn to read and that it is possible for them to achieve their learning goals.

The orientation can be identified as a separate course so that a student can get additional credits. This has positive and negative consequences. A separate course allows for greater flexibility delivering the orientation. Someone can go through the orientation and decide that this is something that they may want or not want to pursue. Additionally, California State law only allows for a maximum number of basic skills credits. It is not wise to waste these credits.

Does this start at the beginning of a semester or is it open-ended?

Enrollment can be handled anyway that your college will permit. At Delta College, the course began at the beginning of the semester, but students were allowed to enroll during the course term up to a cut-off date, also. The course could also be arranged to have varying units to allow for different start and stop dates.

Can everybody be at different stages in this class?

Yes, each student will be reading at their own level. This is especially important in the reading groups, where more advanced students can help newer readers.

What is the name of the class and the subject title? If we looked it up at Delta College, how would we find it?

The course name was Reading Fluency with a Screen Reader, SP87 A and B. These codes might have been changed.

Do you discourage students from taking any content courses that are heavily loaded with reading until they work through this program?

Yes, we do discourage students from taking content courses until they reach a certain level of reading fluency and confidence, but most often students are already enrolled in these courses or are encouraged by others to begin advanced classes as soon as possible. This becomes complicated for the student. They are distracted from our curriculum, wanting to read their textbooks instead of reading for pleasure. They typically still have significant problems keeping up with their textbook reading, understanding what they are reading, and remembering what they have read. The student under-performs in the content course and in our course, leaving them discouraged.

While we discourage students from taking content courses immediately, we understand their predicament and still support them as much as we can by providing alternate format of books and helping them with technical problems. Most students return to the reading fluency class with a greater understanding of the importance of reading for pleasure, but still have pressures to continue with content based classes at the same time. Many times this pressure comes from the need to get student financial aid.

When you help them choose a book, do you have certain things that you ask them, like what’s their hobby or interests? Do you look at what their reading level is?

We do not look at their reading levels to determine what book they should start with. We do consider their developmental level. For instance, if they are 40 years old, but have a teenage developmental level, than we will suggest a teenage level book to read. But, if their developmental age is the same as their biological age than we suggest a book at that level.

Hobbies, cultures, movies, and other interest play a significant part in the selection of a person's first book. We often get it wrong because we are still getting to know the student. Students tend to want to please us and often say they want to read a book only because they think we want them to. This is not good. The book should be something that interests them and one that they will enjoy. Common mistakes by us are assuming that if someone is of a particular culture, they want to read about that culture.

If students want to take the course more than one time, is there a limit to how many times they can take the class?

This is determined by your college's policies. We recommend that the course be taken for at least two years, the amount of time that is usually needed to reach reading fluency levels of stage 2 and become independent readers.

Is the reading group for credit?

The reading group at Delta College was not an assigned course. Some of the students were enrolled in the reading fluency course, while in the reading group. We would suggest developing a separate course for the reading groups.

Do you also incorporate reading with mp3 formats in your class?

Yes, mp3 and audio files can be a significant support to help reading flexibility. A person can take their reading just about anywhere with mp3 or other audio files. Mp3 and audio file formats are converted text files using the computer voice and speed that a person is currently using. We are not talking about audio books that have been recorded by a human reader and cannot be controlled for the reading speed of the reader.


We do not encourage the use of mp3 file reading until the student reaches stage 2 and they have a strong affect towards the technology and greater confidence in their ability to read with a screen reader. Mp3 files are created individually for each student.

So you are not necessarily using their text books?

In the reading class, we have each student choose a novel to read. We do not encourage reading content based materials for the reading class. Fluency is not supported by slower content based reading. The books, at first, should be within the context of the person's prior experience to allow for easier mental representations. As their reading confidence grows, they can begin to expand their reading contexts.

Unfortunately, many students are taking content based courses at the same time that they are learning to read fluently with a screen reader. The student must come in at other times, or read at their homes, to read this material. Research shows that to learn to read fluently a person should read 1/2 hour per day of enjoyable reading and continuous reading, not context based studying.

In terms of time, from the beginning when a student starts this class, how long does it take to see results? Some students get impatient.

In terms of instruction, reading rates are not our primary measurement during stage 1. Focusing primarily on reading rates will mislead both the new reader and the instructor on the real reading achievement. Stage 1 should focus instead on affective measures of how they feel towards the technology, their confidence in reading, their self-efficacy that they can learn to read, and their motivation to read for enjoyment. These are the most reliable and valid measures at this stage.

Most adult students start with about a 6th or 7th grade reading level with speeds of about 30 to 40 words per minute. Almost all of the people that we have worked with have no problem understanding spoken language at conversational rates of language of 80 to 100 words per minute. With this in mind, I begin most students at this higher language rate. Students perceive an immediate improvement of reading enjoyment and comprehension based solely on this improved reading rate. But, this initial perceived improvement is not usually followed by other quick improvements. The student will slowly increase the rate of reading over 6 to 9 months until they reach reading fluency rates over 200 words per minute.