Getting the Text to be read
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  1. #1
    myhealthylife42 is offline Junior Member
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    Oct 2015
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    Default Getting the Text to be read

    Hello.

    Sorry if this has been asked before: Is there anyway I can have the text read to my child?

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    lucykoch is offline Junior Member Newbie
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    Aug 2010
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    We use a free program called natural reader (naturalreaders.com). So far we have just been using the free version but there are three levels of the paid version with different capabilities. The paid versions start at $69.50 per user. There are also ios and android apps that sync with the paid versions (the iOS app is free to start and then $10). I'm not sure how useful they are and I doubt they would integrate with Puffin Academy - at least not in iOS. If you didn't know about that, Puffin Academy lets you use T4L on iOS devices. The paid versions of NR also integrate toolbars into Microsoft word, outlook and power point to read text there, read as you type, etc.... Here's our experience with this software and it's features. Two of my three children (11-14) are diagnosed dyslexics so a text-to-speech reader helps a lot with comprehension.

    Here's how it works as far as we use it in T4L:

    After you install the software, there is a floating bar you can have hovering over on the side whenever you are on the computer. Many programs rely on converting blocks of text to mp3. In T4L it wouldn't really be practical to have audio files like that. There are a few paragraphs per page and making the files and then retrieving those would be a real pain. It would be easier - and faster - to sit next to your child and read it out loud for them. What Natural Readers does is even a little better than that. In T4L you just highlight text and click play. It expands the floating bar a bit and pulls the text over there (it does this automatically rather than copy/paste). Then it highlights each word as it reads it. This is the feature that I haven't really found in any similar program (at least not in Windows - Mac seems to have more options).

    You didn't mention how old your child is but I think this part would be pretty easy for most kids to catch on to. T4L quits reading everything in 2nd grade I think and I'm guessing most second graders could get the hang of using Natural Reader. It resets itself when you highlight new text on the web page and just sits there waiting until you need it again. This on-the-fly aspect seems simple but it's what really makes this the best program we tried. My guys have trouble with word substitution. Dyslexia + a large vocabulary can make for some interesting 'errors.' But this way, as they read along, they hear what that highlighted word should sound like. As far as I can tell, I think it may correct some hiccups in the phonological loop. Their reading aloud otherwise has gotten a lot stronger in recent months as well.

    The paid versions allow you to create audio files of longer texts. That's not really applicable to most of T4L apart from the longer reading assignments. Even for literature, I would still prefer more of a read-along rather than a straight audio version. But looking ahead at those lessons, there are often aspects of the reading that focus on vocabulary that may include place names, character names, foreign words or antiquated terms. You really need to know what they look like in print. Audio only misses a lot of that. Audio only also misses a feel for how punctuation directs the reading of text. That's not so much of an issue for adults, but its more of an active focus for our children for understanding grammar.

    Having said that, it's also the case that a social studies lesson is really about learning the social studies information. There's a common sense balance in there. For what it's worth, I see the text-to-speech reader as a way to help reading be more accurate and less painful for them. It's doing a really good job in that regard. But I would be cautious of looking at it as a substitute for reading. Most of T4L may not pose an issue since it would use the on-the-fly set-up but it's something to keep in mind for other resources.

    I mention that because some of the natural reader testimonials gave the impression that they were just converting all of their child's textbooks to mp3 and then everything was unicorns and rainbows. That doesn't really solve all the issues of dyslexia and there is more than just text in the average elementary school textbook. A text-to-speech reader is a good tool, but its just that, a tool. It's not the same as being able to read effectively. Realistically, you can have a lot of audio input, but sooner or later, there is likely a written test of some sort. We have always used a lot of video for history and science but I usually turn the closed captioning on too. Every little bit helps. My dyslexics that love text-to-speech are technically visual learners. Audio only would likely not do them much good at all.

    You have to know you or your child's learning style and figure out the work-around. Usually, combining different input methods is your best bet. Sure one will always be the weakest. But that's the point. All those connections still connect back to the weak paths too and strengthen that system. When it comes down to it, the whole point of putting info in is to be able to get it back out again. The more connections you have to that piece of info., the better your chances of retrieving it later. The way I explain it to my guys is that we don't want things mis-filed. If f-a-m-i-l-i-a-r is "familiar" we don't want it connected to the visual and auditory parts of "similar". With that one, even the meanings are close. But having that auditory correction helps with that sort of filing error in a way that would be really difficult to do otherwise.

    I know the people in the testimonials probably aren't "really" just having their kids "only" listen to mp3s of school texts. I'm sure the reading was difficult and overwhelming and the text to speech helped -- and after all it's a one paragraph testimonial. But they really should be a lot clearer about how they implemented it - it wasn't just '"made it an audiobook." Can you imagine how disconcerting it would be to have only heard your texts or just watched videos and then get to class and have a test where you have to read and answer written questions, or worse yet, you are expected to write about it, label diagrams, maps, etc...? I'd be the first to say a text-to-speech reader is fantastic but you have to keep it in perspective. It's part of a larger strategy. That doesn't make the product sound as "magical" but it really does do a very good job of doing what it does. It's easy to use, the kids like it, they actually use it, and we see real benefit and progress using it as part of our schooling. That already puts it far ahead of a lot of other things we've invested in for homeschooling.

    While you didn't specifically mention dyslexia, it's one reason a lot of people go looking for a text-to-speech reader. Personally, I also can't read out loud for extended periods. It makes me very sleepy. We have two issues to work around. Please forgive me for answering a question you didn't ask. If, on the other hand, you are beginning to suspect issues or just didn't mention it, or someone else sees this answer, then you get some info.

    Right now I'm just wrestling with all three wanting the upgraded version so they can have the better voices. You'll have access to them briefly at the beginning and the quality is really good. It really does sound like a real person is really reading. The free version pops up an 'upgrade now' ad every 1,000 words or so which has become really annoying to them as well. I'm not wild about $200 for text-to-speech but they use it constantly. When an upgrade for a school thing is on a birthday wish list you know you've got a winner - after all it costs as much as a good video game.

    I hope all of that answers your questions. Your reasons for wanting text-to-speech may be different but understanding why and how we use it may help you figure out what features you need. It can be really difficult to plow through all of the products out there. There are some really great tools out there but not everything works for everybody. I'm sorry if I over-explained this little piece of software but it's been a big help for my children. But don't get too frustrated if it takes a little tweaking. One thing I forgot to mention about Natural Reader is that you can change the voice and the speed. Tone and speed can make a big difference in how well you can understand what's being said. You have to fine tune these things and what is comfortable for your child may be annoying to you.

    You can tweak other aspects of reading too. Lighting makes a big difference. If you are dealing with dyslexia, broad spectrum light is better - Ott lights are nice but Lowes has the Ott light bulbs that fit any lamp for around $5. Mine are old enough now to be picky about these differences. But they like their good lighting and pencils that write really dark and several other things like graph paper for math (one number per box- so the numbers don't move around). If you ask, you may find that your child has a whole different definition of normal. For one of mine, it was "normal" for numbers and letters to move, to read upside down, mirror and mirror upside-down. Once you know, you have information you can work with.

    Have a casual conversation with your child about enjoying reading. You can just show a child all the settings in a kindle app and they will get a pretty good idea of how different people are when it comes to what they think is a comfortable way to read. There are tinted overlays and rulers that can really help with focus and eyestrain. Maybe you use those for studying a science book but not reading a novel. There are web sites where you can try out different color backgrounds to see if that makes reading text easier (apparently it really does for some people). They will also give you an animated example of how text looks to some dyslexics - though not all, it's pretty varied. In an office supply store you will see all sorts of lamps, magnifying glasses, reading glasses, and anti-glare items for monitors. Lots of people do lots of things to make reading more comfortable and enjoyable. You could call it a field trip but looking at some of that stuff you might stumble on something, like glare, that your child didn't even know was a thing you could fix easily. They may also just not realize how very normal it is to have preferences about these things and about what you find comfortable. While it wouldn't be part of reading for T4L, you could always ask if they would like a special reading spot. Never underestimated the appeal of a large decorated cardboard box.

    Good luck trying the Natural reader. Try some of the other things too if they sound like they might fit your situation.

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