Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review + Multi-Giveaway: Voice Dream Reader: The Must-Have Tool of 2014

Voice Dream Reader App -More Notes - an "after-show" following my article at Quartz

DOES: More photos, ideas, and observations about this incredible app.
$10, default voice included

AGES: 3+ ?
EXPERTS: Karen Janowski, Assistive Technology Consultant, & Nicole Kolenda, Speech and Language Pathologist,  Executive Clinical Director at the Atlas Foundation

GIVEAWAY PRIZE: There will be 10 winners!!! Woo-hoo! The first winner will get the On-Task On-Time Timer as well. (Giveaway is run by Toys are Tools- not Quartz)

First, before you do anything, please read my story at Quartz if you haven't done so already.  To me, Voice Dream Reader, the tool I describe in this story is undoubtedly the most important tool I have discovered this year. To best understand this app, go to the Quartz story. 

The Slippery Slope of Advocacy

When I'm at a meeting regarding my children's education, invariably I will hear something like, "You know what's best for your child," which implies that I know what is best for him in terms of how he should be educated but I disagree.  How can I know what is truly best for his education if I was never a teacher myself?  Just because I know some things about learning doesn't mean I know all I need to know.

It's like I'm a surgical supply salesman and I'm telling a surgeon how to operate.  No thanks... not on my kid. Seriously, I have had therapists say to me, "Tell me what you'd like me to do."  It's just frightening.

Tester #1 read one of my stories to me for the first time ever! I almost died. And of course, this Quartz article was all about him.

The truth is, education, for so many of us, is about how much parents advocate and I worry about some of those great schools and teachers out there.  What if all this "advocacy" is weakening their efforts to educate our children?   And what about the parents who can't advocate because of work, language issues, lack of knowledge?

All I know is that the topic that requires most of my "advocacy" is reading. In fact, it's on the top of many minds here today.  Good news is that I found a tool to help change things around for us - big time!

I think he comprehended a bit too much.  He got emotional and started listing injustices he's seen in the classroom right after he read my story.  Try reading this with your child.  I almost fainted.
What Do Experts Say About Voice Dream Reader?

One of my favorite speech and language pathologists in all of the world is Nicole Kolenda, the Executive Clinical Director at the Atlas Foundation for Autism. She thought the Voice Dream Reader was very helpful in many ways, "but mainly that it takes away the "stress" in having to organize the speech system to read while simultaneously processing the incoming information gained through reading." she said.  

Another champion of children, Karen Janowski, an assistive technology consultant, is frustrated just like me that tools like Voice Dream Reader are not used more often. While this app does not replace instruction, using this app could save some expenses for schools as well as give a kid some dignity and confidence. She recalled a recent meeting she had with teachers about a student who was reading two levels below his own grade level. After evaluating his need for assistive technology services, she recommended that he use the Voice Dream Reader on an iPad because the school was able to offer iPads to students.  The teachers rejected her suggestion explaining that they didn’t want him to become dependent on the technology and if he ever had to read grade level material, they would read it to him instead. Karen says she runs into this all the time.

Karen made a Wiki for us to use- 'tis all free

How is this okay? Excuse me child in wheelchair, you don't need a wheelchair. I will just carry you whenever you need to go anywhere, ok? Heaven forbid you become dependent on a wheelchair. Karen worries that reluctance to employ such tools will hinder a child's interest in reading. Self-selected reading has been shown to be the best indicator of reading success,” I think I would have exploded on the spot.  Especially since she knows how many resources are FREE FREE FREE! (check out her toolbox- she is super awesome)

(Make sure you read my Quartz article to hear the thoughts of Matthew Schneps whose work really changed the way I helped my son with reading when I found this article last year)

Want to see how changing text appearance may possibly help you to read?  click picture for simulator at the Laboratory for Visual Learning, a research collaborative of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and UMass Boston.

Voice Dream Reader may not be free but it's only $10 and not per month nor per year, it's per-forever and ever! The voices are usually under $5 and there is a default voice too. The experience is super smooth. You have to try this out yourself.  It's worth the ten bucks just to try.  I'm not kidding.

What Can Be Read.......

Okay, the skinny on the books.  If you purchased an eBook from Kindle or similar readers then you can't upload those onto Voice Dream Reader unless you removed the DRM (digital right management).  I do have some books that I purchased from O'Reilly (MY AFFILIATE- woo-hoo!) who does not place a DRM on their books.  

If your child has a qualifying print disability, you can go to Bookshare and get books for free after having your membership approved. Ours was approved because they accepted our Learning Ally membership and so he had so many books and textbooks at our disposal.


Moreover, you can read web articles, pdfs, word docs, and waltz between Voice Dream Reader and storage places like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Evernote.  This is HUGELY important as so many children have executive functioning issues and if you can minimize the organizational tasks, then they can focus on the core of their work more.

There are more things to talk about but I'm going to let you discover them on your own. Just be kind and make sure you share this with anyone you know.  There are people who don't know they are dyslexic, they only know that they don't love to read. There are parents and teachers who would love to use this with the people in their lives but they can't use what they don't know.  Please spread the word.  Let's make the  2014-2015 school year the best ever!

Hint: the next story on the horizon is about what kids can do with LEGO to tell stories all while meeting Common Core Standards

And NOW.......

USE Rafflecopter to Enter This Amazing Contest to Win A Free App for Voice Dream Reader (10 codes available)   First winner picked will also receive a On-Task On Time Timer!!!  Read my rave review here.   Start off the school year with good habits already in place. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Lastly, we should applaud the teachers who do want to help kids become more self-reliant.  Ms. Bolich from Jefferson Elementary in Spokane Washington could use an iPad in her Resource Room.  She has been excellent in getting Tran-Quill Writers to her kids.  Maybe now she can have Voice Dream for her students but she needs an iPad first.  If you can help, donate at her Donors Choose Page.  Thanks!

Disclosure:  Toys are Tools was not compensated by the manufacturers of anything mentioned here for the publication of this review.  The reviewed items were provided to Toys are Tools to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised



  1. It's not really an educational app but Scribblenauts has really helped my kids with mostly spelling but also reading (or sounding out words). They really wanted to play independently and it spurred them on to phonetically work out how to spell most of what they needed in the game as asking us for help took too long. It also helped with typing.

  2. My older one barely looks at instructions for games and an app really wouldn't help him slow down and focus although the use of the app may get his attention. The app might help my younger son who is a beginner reader but has more patience. The oldest has been asking for family game nights and we just had our first one a few nights ago while on vacation. We had a blast playing Apples to Apples Jr., Argh!, States Bingo, and Eboo's Animal Bingo. We had games for each age group and everyone had fun. Our oldest suggested we do this at least once a month.
    We have found that the Kindle distracts our kids from reading and educational tasks. It's too easy and tempting to switch over to Minecraft that we end up savings the iPad and Kindle for play time and have the kids read physical books and write/draw in their journals.

  3. Yes, they do have difficulty sometimes, so I believe this will help them understand instructions more easily.

  4. My kids use a couple apps that help them with math, which has really improved their understanding of math concepts. However, these were apps that came with online math curriculums.