Tar Heel Reader Celebrates 10 Million Books Read



Tar Heel reader is an online open-source library of free easy to read accessible books on a wide range of topics on January 7th 2017 less than a decade after the site's launched in 2008 Tar Heel reader reached 10 million books read to site throughout of a need that was recognized by dr. Karen Ericson of the Center for literacy and disability studies in the Department of Allied Health Sciences our target at the time that we had first started thinking about Tar Heel reader was really older students with severe disabilities who are still beginning readers and writers most of them have served cognitive disabilities motor impairments sensory impairments and we have this huge problem that they were beginning and they needed beginning level reading materials but all of the beginning level reading materials that are out there are geared towards very young children the typical grade school child has access to a thousand books the typical disabled child has access to none the lecturer Erickson gave on the subject to caught the attention of dr. Gary Bishop of the department of computer science Bishop met with Erickson and began working on a solution we were meeting in this very office in May of 2008 when the idea came up of using pictures from the giant picture repository Flickr to make a tool to enable teachers to create looks we were trying to create a large collection of books that would be super simple that would use really common words that would have short sentences with a big picture and not a lot of text on each page and so we were able to use the power of the computer to be able to create a really simple interface that teachers and parents and friends and family members could use in order to create books that were on topics that these adolescents were interested in but we could constrain the complexity of what they wrote the growth of Tar Heel reader has been unbelievable so when we first launched it really the idea was can we get a thousand books and we knew we needed a thousand books because the research told us when beginning readers have access to a thousand books in their classroom library they get the breaths and the depth of experience that they need in order to become readers and writers so that was our goal we met that goal within months of launching the site and then within a couple of years we're hitting a million books read and then we're hitting ten million books read I went to an educational assistive technology conference and I'm walking down the hallway and I heard two other presenters that I didn't even know presenting about Tar Heel reader at this conference and by the time I went back to the conference the next year it was mentioned in about 20 of the 80 sessions at the conference and now when I go to conferences anybody who's talking about supporting readers with disabilities is talking about Tar Heel reader as a solution for them and so it just keeps growing additional contributors to Tar Heel readers rapid growth are its availability and flexibility books have been read by users in over 200 countries and territories authors can write books in 27 different languages where it originally served adolescents with disabilities it is now used by children without disabilities adults learning second languages and even students of Latin I'm really proud of target reader reaching 10 million books read when we started I imagined that would be the day when there would be a thousand books on the site you know that was the dream we would eventually get to a thousand books on the site and you know some people would use it I had no idea we would hit over 50,000 books on the site now millions of books read I just had no idea it would grow to that level I'm proud that people have found our work useful I think it's the most significant thing I've done Gary and I never had any funding to develop Tar Heel reader we get all this feedback all the time about what a difference it's making it seems like when you're at a public university where a huge part of your mission is giving back to be able to give back to the community in the scale that we've been able to give back and to be able to define community in a really global way not just the people in Chapel Hill not just the people in North Carolina but around the world are benefiting from this work that we've done I think for me that's the greatest thing about it I feel like it's the most significant contribution of my career we made it possible for children all over the world to learn to read they're kids who can read today who couldn't read and they can read because of target reader

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