When Hunter Clark, a ninth grader in the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw Independent School District (EMS ISD), was diagnosed with dyslexia, his mother Sallee Clark, an educator at his Fort Worth, Texas school, started seeking ways to help him read more easily. Soon, they found a solution: Immersive Reader, a free Microsoft tool that uses proven techniques to improve reading for people regardless of age or ability.

The free tool helped Hunter improve, and other students across the district benefitted from the technology, too, since students in kindergarten through grade 5 use Microsoft Teams as their main learning platform, giving them access to Immersive Reader. The tool also helped the district, which serves a diverse group of over 21,000 students, make good on its promise to promote inclusivity and accessibility by empowering students to read and learn independently—and in the styles best suited for them.

Ensuring accessibility and inclusion

Immersive Reader provides a variety of ways to assist students with reading, such as the ability to change font sizes and line spacing, color code parts of speech, and have text read aloud to them by a computer. The tool has been particularly helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic. As EMS ISD transitioned to remote learning, teachers had to assign more text-heavy work, and Immersive Reader made it more digestible and simplified reading.

For students like Hunter and Payton—a high school senior in EMS ISD who also has dyslexia—Immersive Reader has made a notable difference in their reading and learning experiences. “Immersive reader will read to me and I can follow it because it highlights the word,” said Hunter, who once struggled to read because dyslexia made words move, disappear, and reappear on the pages. “It’s helped me…in all my work since I downloaded the app. Pretty much all you have to do is tap it and it will read everything, so I could do it for Bio, English, all of that. And I’m pretty much A-Okay.”

In Payton’s experience, difficulty came with reading long chapter books, focusing, and comprehension—but not anymore: “[Immersive Reader] has lines that keep it focused on one line at a time and blows up the words more so I can read up close. I use that for all my assignments,” Payton said. “Immersive Reader has really impacted my reading and comprehension and everything. I can achieve things just as a normal kid.”

What’s more, Hunter’s mother Sallee and Payton’s mother Jeni Long, who is also an EMS ISD educator, are witnessing these breakthroughs both in their own homes and in the classroom.

“Seeing how our own children’s education transformed after they started using Immersive Reader drives us to spread the word about it to teachers and students both in our district and across the world,” said Jeni.

“Our teachers always seek to empower students and make sure that all individuals have the same learning opportunities as their peers,” Sallee said. “It’s about building relationships of mutual respect and trust. With the powerful text tools in Immersive Reader, teachers show that they understand students’ challenges and care about their success.”

It’s not just students with dyslexia who have grown academically and personally through the power of Immersive Reader. The tool can be transformative for any student, including students learning to speak the primary language used in their class.  

“We’ve seen tears after demonstrating the translation capabilities, which open up a world of learning and communication for students and teachers who were frustrated by language differences,” said Jeni.

Empowering students and building everyone’s confidence

Part of the appeal of accessible and inclusive tools like Immersive Reader is the confidence they can build in any student. And for students with cognitive differences or visual difficulties, reading and writing can become a daunting task. With Immersive Reader, students who once struggled with reading and writing can become more confident participating in class, completing assignments, and collaborating with others. EMS ISD’s adoption of Immersive Reader has seen student empowerment and learning confidence come together in a multitude of different ways.

“[Hunter]'s learned how to work efficiently in the classroom” and become empowered, said Sallee. This marks a big shift from Hunter’s middle school days when raising his hand for help left him feeling self-conscious. His struggle to communicate clearly also made him feel isolated from peers. But with Immersive Reader, Hunter is in the driver’s seat of his own education and able to work independently with the support of the tool’s features and individualized preference settings.

Payton’s mother Jeni has likewise seen an improved confidence and empowerment take center stage in her reading and learning experiences. “Being able to find those supports on your own so that you can advocate for yourself and find out what works for you has been huge and such a transformation in [Payton’s] education,” Jeni said.

The overall benefits of Immersive Reader have equipped EMS ISD educators with one more way to create a clearer path to accomplish their main goal: enhancing learning for all. At EMS ISD and beyond, Immersive Reader has demonstrated its potential to create empowered and confident students and more inclusive and accessible classrooms where students can grow and thrive.

Be sure to learn more about Immersive Reader’s capabilities and EMS ISD’s success story, and sign up for the Microsoft Newsletter to stay up to date on how districts nationwide are supporting learning with Microsoft Education.