a collection of free, easy-to-read, and accessible books on a wide range of topics. Each book can be speech enabled and accessed using multiple interfaces (i.e. switches, alternative keyboards, touch screens, and dedicated AAC devices). The books may be downloaded as slide shows in PowerPoint, Impress, or Flash format.according to the welcome page. The idea is to provide new readers of all ages with appropriate, interesting, accessible content--because new readers who are 12, 17, 23, or 41 don't necessarily want to read about puppies and kitties, right? Students and teachers and parents can also create books for the site, using the wealth of Flickr images or their own uploads. Tar Heel Reader is a collaborative creation of the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies and the Department of Computer Science at UNC-Chapel Hill (thus the name).
Recently, Tar Heel Reader passed 1000 books in its ever-growing archive. About 5% of those, I wrote. I was never able to track back and figure out where I first heard of Tar Heel Reader--on a blog or news feed, no doubt, but which? But I remembered Karen Erickson from my own UNC days (we were doctoral students at the same time in the School of Education), and I knew that she did cool work, so I joined the effort very early on. I wrote several of the first twenty books in June, and I keep adding one or two a week. They're a joy to construct, an excellent challenge, to make interesting books within the limits of the form. My topics have ranged around, from food and clothing and color themes, to books about voting, the first amendment, gargoyles, calligraphy, Shakespeare, the solar system, mirrors, and drag racing. I'm still working on making a story--I've made a few attempts so far, but I'm not a fiction writer and it shows.
If you know a beginning reader who would enjoy accessible picture books on such a range of subjects, send them to Tar Heel Reader. In just their first twenty weeks they've had visits from over 12,000 computers worldwide. It's that cool, and it's getting better every day.