Reading Text

The Office of Literacy and Essential Skills has defined 9 skills needed for work, learning and everyday living. Reading text is named as one of the skills required that provides the foundation for learning all other skills.

According to the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, Reading Text

  • refers to reading material that is in the form of sentences or paragraphs;
  • generally involves reading notes, letters, memos, manuals, specifications, regulations, books, reports or journals;
  • includes forms and labels if they contain at least one paragraph; print and non-print media (for example, texts on computer screens and microfiche); and paragraph-length text in charts, tables and graphs.

Assistive technology can be used as a tool that supports learning. In the following section, you will find various high and low technology that can be used to support reading in the educational setting.

High technology to support reading text

 Closed Circuit Televisions (CCTVs)

Closed circuit televisions are used by individuals who have low vision.  A CCTV is a video magnification system that will magnify images onto a video monitor, television screen or computer monitor.  Students can use the CCTV for near reading tasks such as reading books, textbooks, worksheets, test and articles as well as for distance reading such as reading off the blackboard, whiteboard and posters/maps posted on the walls of the classroom.  The following features of CCTVs support the skill of reading:

  • Magnification – make reading materials larger to view easier
  • Line markers – provides line guides to help you focus on the part of text you are reading
  • Line masking – masks lines of text to help you focus on the right line of text
  • Colour contrast – changing the text colour and background colour allows you to read poor contrast reading materials.
  • Distance camera – allows you to rotate the camera so that it faces the blackboard, whiteboard or walls for you to magnify and read.

 Scanning and Reading Software

Scanning and reading software (also known as Optical Character Recognition or OCR software) begins with using a scanner to scan paper documents into a computer. Software will then translate it into digital format so it can be read and edited. While not all scanning and reading software are built the same, the following features of scanning and reading software support the skill of reading text:

  • Tracking/highlighting text – helps you focus on the part of text you are reading as it provides visual reinforcement.
  • Text-to-speech capabilities – helps you focus on the part of text you are reading as it provides aural reinforcement.
  • Adjusting the speech rate – slowing down the speech rate can help you focus on understanding the content.  Increasing the speech rate will help with skimming the text to get a general idea of what it is about.
  • Built-in dictionary and thesaurus – will allow you to look up unfamiliar words.
  • Highlighter – use the highlighter to highlight the main points in a text can help you focus on key information.
  • Extract – using a specific colour to highlight new words and utilizing the extracting feature can allow you to create an instant list of words that you want to look up using the dictionary or thesaurus.
  • Syllabification – this feature will break down words into their syllables when you don’t know how to pronounce the word.
  • Sticky Notes, Voice Notes or Footnotes – these features allow you create a summary of the text, make notes on key information and write down or record questions or thoughts you may have.
  • Browsing – this feature will read the first and last sentence from every paragraph to in order to quickly preview the content.
  • Bookmarks – an electronic bookmark can be added to key words, ideas, headings, subheadings for sections to be reviewed later.
  • Summarize – this feature allow you to create an overview of the text based on keywords and or bookmarks created.

 Screen Reading Software

A Screen Reader, commonly used name for Voice Output Technology, is used by individuals who experience difficulty reading the standard text displayed on screen, for example, individuals who are visually impaired or blind. Screen readers produce synthesized speech output for text displayed on the computer screen.  A screen reader can read the text from various applications, the internet and some collections of books available online. Students can adjust the rate of read-back to allow for variations of speed as they process auditory information.

 Text-to-Speech software

Text-to-Speech software allows you to have written text read out loud. Whether you are reading from a website, a document or from an email, the following features can assist with supporting you to read this information:

  • Text-to-speech capabilities – helps you focus on the part of text you are reading as it provides aural reinforcement.
  • Tracking/highlighting text – helps you focus on the part of text you are reading as it provides visual reinforcement.
  • Dictionary – to allow you to look up unfamiliar words
  • Audio conversion – will convert any text file into audio files such as MP3 or WAV for your portable listening devices.

Low technology to support reading text

Barriers to Reading Low Technology Solution
Unable to read due to visual limitations
  • Use photocopiers or word processing programs with large print options to enlarge educational materials.
  • Use large print or Braille textbooks and novels
  • Use low vision optical devices such as handheld magnifiers and telescopes. Magnifiers assist students with near-distance vision tasks like reading books and handouts; telescopes assist with far-distance vision tasks such as reading the chalkboard.
  • Use textbooks and novels in audio format
  • Book holders to bring the reading material closer so the content is more visible and accessible.
  • Coloured transparency to be placed over the text
  • Copy the text onto coloured copy paper
Difficulty focusing on the right line of text
  • Use textbooks and novels in audio formal
  • Use reading windows/templates and line markers (rulers) to help student keep his/her place on the page when reading
  • Line by line coloured filter strips
  • Reading helper – covers only one line of text at a time
  • Use word processing programs to increase line/word spacing
Unable to physically access a book
  • Electronic Page turners to assist students who are unable to turn the page of a book
  • Magnetic tape turner added to each page. Students use a magnetic wand to turn the page.
  • Clothes pins and paper clips can be attached to books to help turn pages of the book.
  • Book holders to bring the reading material closer so the content is more visible and accessible.
  • Books can be created using PowerPoint that can be then physically accessed using a computer
Difficulty focusing on key information
  • Post-it notes to help mark pages of a book, make notes, etc.
  • Hi-Liter pens to highlight text passages
  • Highlighter tape, tabs to accentuate text in books or places that can’t be permanently altered
  • Dictionary/thesaurus supports including picture based dictionaries and thesaurus


Helping Your Child With Reading and Writing – A Guide for Parents Kindergarten to Grade 6 – a guide developed by The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, Ontario Ministry of Education, that suggests everyday activities that parents and children can have fun doing together.

Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) is a Canadian organization focused on improving the literacy and essential skills of adult Canadians. OLES provide expertise, project funding, and a wide range of learning tools and other resources.

Ontario Ministry of Education – provides information and resources for parents and teachers that will support students’ reading, writing and math skills.

Ottawa Network for Education created videos for students who are interested in learning about or starting to use technologies for reading, writing and other school work. To learn more about technology to support reading, visit Ottawa Network for Education to watch a video titled ‘Hearing is Believing! AT to Support Reading’ and ‘Tools for Reading.’

Tech Matrix – provides information and resources on assistive technology and software used by students and teachers