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I had written several weeks ago about an anonymous donation the Friends of Keene Memorial Library received, that was to be used to support dyslexic students in our community.

First a little background on dyslexia. Dyslexia International (2018) reports “dyslexia, also known as specific reading disabilities, is the most common form of learning difficulty”. According to the Dyslexia Center of Utah (2018), 15-20 percent of the population has a language based learning disability – dyslexia being the most common on those disabilities. Dyslexia International (2018) reports 20 percent of the prison populations have been identified with having dyslexia. Dyslexia can cause school failure, depression, increased risk of suicide, delinquency, and re-offending. In the long term, the costs to society can include unemployment, mental health problems, costs of remedial programs, antisocial behavior, drug abuse, early pregnancy, and involvement of the criminal justice system. The total costs to society can exceed $229 million dollars a year.

After several weeks of research and networking to identify possible solutions the library could provide to assist our local students succeed, we used a portion of the donation to purchase 10 LiveScribe 3 smartpens, portfolios, and notepads. You can read about these pens here: https://store.livescribe.com/livescribe-3-smartpen-black-editionhtml . These pens are yet another example of how advanced technology can assist students with disabilities to succeed in the classroom. The pens work two fold 1) record the audio of the class lecture and 2) synchronizes your handwritten notes with the audio files. These files can then be uploaded to your smartphone, laptop, tablet, etc… You can write your notes on the notepads provided, and watch it instantly appear on your tablet or smartphone. These notes are can be converted to text to aid in reading back the notes for studying.

This technology helps the students overcome their reading difficulties, and in turn, achieve better grades on tests and homework. As many students already have smartphones, iPads, kindles, etc… the pens will work with Android and iOS: iPhone 4s and newer, iPad 3rd Gen and newer, iPad mini (all models), and iPad Touch 5th Gen and newer. The library also has Kindle Fire HDs for checkout in the case the students do not have a device to use.

The smartpens and accessories have finally arrived this week and we are putting together the kits. We will be reaching out to local educators and schools to setup test runs with the smartpens, as we did with the Verizon internet jetpacks and the FPS Learning Center. In order to create checkout processes and identify any obstacles, we run test checkouts to make sure we have everything covered in our policies.

I greatly look forward to seeing how these new technologies can improve students’ lives. Finding a way to ease the burden of a reading disability for any student in our community, is one of the most fulfilling parts of my job. Seeing a child smile while reading a book, is something you never forget.

Tina Walker is Director of Keene Memorial Library in Fremont.

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