Education Department awards $42.5M grant to grow online library of accessible books


Benetech, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit, received a five-year, $42.5 million award from the U.S. Department of Education to expand and improve availability of free, accessible books for qualified students through an online library.

Bookshare — one of Benetech’s global literacy projects — provides personalized access to over 800,000 titles to students with visual and reading impairments and currently serves approximately 500,000 students across the United States.

With this grant, Benetech plans to reach an additional 200,000 students through Bookshare and provide at least 4 million free e-book downloads to students over the award’s five-year span. The company also announced its intent to work directly with scholastic publishers to ensure that accessibility features are included in over 50 percent of the nation’s educational books by 2022.

“Access to knowledge through reading is a basic human right and a critical step on the path to economic, educational and social development,” Brad Turner, Benetech’s vice president of global literacy, said in a statement. “Many students struggle in school and in life because they read differently. Benetech is proud to work with these students, their parents, and their educators to make reading not only possible but also fun and enjoyable with personalized reading experiences.”