During this time, it is very important to keep ourselves informed of what is happening in the world and how it can have implications for us and how we go about our lives.
However, news bulletins and programmes on television, newspapers and websites can sometimes provide information that is inaccessible due to the confusing written grammar used, complex vocabulary, and difficulty finding the important points.
For those who find literacy difficult (due to specific learning or general learning difficulties) or those who have not had the exposure to sufficient literacy instruction yet, alternative ways of reading the news or alternative sources may be useful to know about.
Free/inbuilt text to speech options
For some people, having text read aloud on their device may be sufficient to assist in accessing news. Most devices have built-in options that will assist with this, for example, using Spoken Content on the iPad/iPhone or using Select to Speak on Android.
If you are using a computer or laptop, inbuilt accessibility features may offer support. For example, Windows uses Narrator, and the Mac operating system using Speech. However, as both of these options are designed more as Screen readers for people with visual impairments, they can be clunky to use for people with literacy difficulties.
An alternative is to look at using text to speech options using the web browser that you are accessing your news from. Within Microsoft Edge, the ReadAloud option in Immersive Reader will help. On Chrome browsers, using the similarly titled Read Aloud extension may help. Other options can be found here. For Firefox users, extensions can be used similarly. Safari relies on the inbuilt text to speech options in the device.
Plain English News Sources
For individuals who require text in a plain English format, either due to difficulties with understanding complex sentences or those who are learning English as a Second Language, some sources that might be worth exploring include:
The Times Plain English, a website that collates articles from several sources (it is not directly affiliated with The Times newspaper, despite using a similar font), provides up to date news. News in Levels gives articles in three different levels of complexity to suit individual readers. It also includes a short section on explaining unusual vocabulary used in the article. A few articles are uploaded each day and are usually a mixture of world events and entertainment/interest options. Simple English News is not updated as regularly, usually only once or twice a week, and focus more on light-hearted and interesting topics that hard-hitting news.
News Sources for Children
For younger people, a simplified news programme, such as TRTÉ’s News2Day (www.trte.rte.ie/news2day ) can provide a synopsis of major international and local news stories. Previous reports can be accessed through the RTÉ player, allowing them to be viewed at your own pace, with the ability to pause and rewind if needed. The website also has a handy COVID 19 dictionary.
From a more international perspective, PBS’s News Hour extra (www.pbs.org/newshour/extra ) is aimed at older children and teenagers, using a mix of text and videos, with tasks linked to the topics and providing questions to highlight salient points and for further discussion.
The News Readers Press website provides articles in both an easy to read format, but also includes a text to speech option on the website. It encourages interactivity through the use of polls, additional teaching materials and a vocabulary list.
The News For Kids Website provides articles on a wide variety of topics and uses pictures and a comprehension worksheet to help with understanding.
The News-o-Matic app, for Android and iOS, is a paid-for resource with a free trial (currently free until the end of June 2020) and is aimed at children, with colourful graphics and a multimedia approach with videos, news articles available in text and audio formats and interactive polls.
Symbol based News sources:
Symbol World, a free to access symbol resource website, also has an eLive News section, www.symbolworld.org/ which provides simplified news stories, using plain English and symbols. New articles are posted a couple of times a week. It is UK based.
The News-2-You app provides a weekly newsletter, differentiated to four levels, that can include symbol-based and text to speech options, for those who find literacy difficult. It is subscription-based, but a free edition can be downloaded before signing up. It is American produced, so some of the topics reflect this.