Skip to main content

Style Magazine

Learning Ally

Having kids is hard. Rewarding, but hard.

And there are millions of parents who have children with reading difficulties, which in turn makes parenting even more challenging.
Did you know that children who aren’t reading proficiently by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school and have a difficult time with vocabulary and writing?
Furthermore, children who encounter reading complications also struggle in all other subjects. With Common Core being implemented in California, even math classes include a large amount of text and comprehending word problems. Reading well correlates with academic success through all grade levels.

Learning Ally—a program that aids students (and adults) struggling with reading and comprehension—is a helpful tool. At first glance, it’s simply audiobooks. However, when children use the program, not only can they hear the words, but they can also read along visually on their phone, tablet, or computer. Another great feature is when the narrator reads the words aloud they’re highlighted on the device; for a child whose brain may wander for a moment, this is crucial to helping them find their place in the book.

Learning Ally’s books are also read by people! Companies such as Bookshare, an online company for those with print disabilities, offer audiobooks with mostly computer-generated voices. Unfortunately, this results in a lack of inflection, variation, and change of tone. Learning Ally has over 80,000 human-read books in their library, including textbooks. Each table, graph, chart, and picture within the text is also explained. Kids can place bookmarks, take notes within the program, and easily navigate through pages, chapters, and sections.

Danielle Horneman, instructional strategist with El Dorado County, CARE, says, “Learning Ally provides an avenue for struggling readers, not only at the lower grade levels, but also in high school. Students have access to required readings, such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Romeo and Juliet, allowing students to follow along, hearing proper pronunciation and dictation. I find the biggest undertaking for students at the higher-grade levels is the lack of proper dictation, blurring a story into one big mess (like a run-on sentence) when they read. When they’re done, these struggling readers have no idea what was read, as the story is jumbled. Learning Ally allows students to focus on content while being exposed to higher-level vocabulary, proper pronunciation, and dictation.”

The most tremendous benefit for those using Learning Ally is the ability for children to access grade-level content, gaining the same information and vocabulary as their peers. By providing students with the ability to read independently and read the same content as their fellow students, you will give them the give of knowledge and self-confidence that follows them into adulthood.

For more information about Learning Ally, visit

by Brenna McGowan