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RNIB Bookshare opens world of books for young girl and mother

Samantha Stout is 48 years old and lives with her daughter Jessica, age 10, in West Sussex. Jessica was born with cataracts, Microphthalmia and Nystagmus. She doesn’t let her visual impairments hold her back, she enjoys life and takes on new challenges.

Jessica’s family has used several of RNIB’s services including the Advice Line. They’ve also contacted RNIB for legal advice and guidance when trying to secure funding for one-to-one learning support in her mainstream school.

Samantha says that Jessica has adapted really well overall - trying her own techniques to navigate the world. When it comes to reading, Jessica needs to read large print. She has accessed reading materials through RNIB’s various reading services; including the large print library, braille services and Talking Books.

Samantha and Jessica’s Teaching Assistant Jo Edwards rely a lot on RNIB Bookshare to access Jessica’s books. Jessica uses an iPad at school and has a Connect 12 with the Progiji software that she uses at home. With this software they can download books from RNIB Bookshare straight onto the Connect 12 and it converts the text to the correct format and size.

Samantha explains that Bookshare makes getting a book so much easier and accessible, saving you a lot of unnecessary work.

“Bookshare just makes everything more accessible, because Jessica does need large print, we can't just go into a bookshop, buy a book and bring it home. She needs to have something accessible, which means something which we can enlarge.”

Instead of having to order the book through a company, getting it all printed off and sent, customised, we can just download textbooks straight away from Bookshare and have the text adapted into her font size, quickly and instantly.”

Samantha also explains that although there are other services out there like Kindle, you can always rely on Bookshare to have an extensive range of books, educational as well as fiction and it’s a free service.

“I don’t know if Kindle would have some of the educational books that you could get through RNIB Bookshare. When I have been looking for stuff for Jessica, I have noticed that they have got maths books and things like that. Whereas I don’t know if Kindle would do that.

With Bookshare, the books are free, which is fantastic. We have been using it for a few years now and would struggle without it.”

Jo Edwards Jessica’s Teaching Assistant at St Nicholas and St Marys primary school

Jessica is coming to the end of her time with us in the last year, it’s my 6th year with her at St Nicholas and St Mary primary school, and we’ve been using Bookshare since year 1. Bookshare was one of the first things that I was introduced to when I first worked with Jessica, the school suggested it might help Jessica with her reading. I hadn’t ever worked with a visually impaired child before.

We’ve used Bookshare for tests and CGP books for Key stage 2, which she can’t access easily. Things like ‘Rising Stars’ by Hodder and Stoughton – we get them in a pdf format and then I use software to cut and paste and make it more user friendly. The CGP books are like fact buster books - there’s one for arithmetics, alegebra, grammar and there are exercises with the questions and answers. Bookshare is really useful for this, as I don’t know where else I would get those books from otherwise, the publishers haven’t been very forthcoming.

I’ve recently downloaded and shared with Samantha the CGP study book, as she was struggling to help Jessica with the grammar CGP book, so now she’s able to help Jessica with her work. The first thing that Jessica needed after lockdown was the summer year 5 Rising Stars test in maths and reading and some novels.

I would have to start from scratch with everything if it wasn’t for Bookshare, I’d have to write a new document. It would be a real struggle particularly if we didn’t have the CGP revision texts and the tests. I think it’s about having a range of options and seeing what works, I’ve had to change the way that I’ve helped Jessica as she’s got older. Bookshare has been such a valuable resource, it always has such a comprehensive library of books and it has been our go to.”

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