Learning Ally Saves the Day

Learning Ally Saves the Day

Chief Joseph/Ockley Green Speech-Language Pathologist Moira Finnegan, MS, CCC-SLP, remembers well the seventh grader struggling with dyslexia who would not read. Despite his parents’ attempts at finding the right book to interest him in reading, the boy had never picked up a book on his own. But when Finnegan learned his family was going on a week long road trip, she loaded the audio version of Hunger Games onto an app through The Shadow Project-provided Learning Ally, and voila! The boy was hooked on reading.

“It was huge for him and his family,” said Finnegan. “He could have gone through life never accessing a book. The audio book was the key for him.”

Finnegan says audio books are terrific for children who are still working on their reading skills, but can easily comprehend the text if it is read to them. “Audio books are an important way to access text, especially for older students. Many children with dyslexia would not be able to access grade level material if they had to read it on their own,” she said.

“There is a misconception that audio books discourage kids from reading,” she said. “But I absolutely think that is not the case. Audio books encourage children to try reading books they would normally consider much too hard. By experiencing literary language with their ears, they gain exposure to more complex vocabulary and language structures.

“Learning Ally has been so motivating for our kids,” said Finnegan. “It makes such a difference to have a real human reading the story with the proper intonation, rhythm, and pronunciation of words, and so many kids need this support, especially if they have a learning challenge that makes the decoding of words difficult.”

Finnegan has been teaching at Ockley Green in north Portland for four years (Chief Joe merged last year with Ockley Green). “I love working with kids and giving them access to the wonderful world of books that allow them to escape for a while,” said Finnegan, who helped draft legislation this year with Decoding Dyslexia of Oregon requiring a dyslexia specialist at the state level.

“What excites me is taking kids who’ve gotten quite discouraged, and showing them that they Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 9.01.03 PMdon’t have to give up on themselves.”


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