Many years ago an old friend showed me her text-reading device -- a book scanner and optical character reader with various voices and speeds. As a long-time researcher, author and teacher in the dyslexia field, she was fascinated with the printer-sized desktop device and explained to me the details of its operation. I was partly familiar with the basic technology, but I was amazed that it was available at a reasonable price and size. I was especially taken aback when she had it read a few paragraphs from my own first book. My own words -- with a machine voice.
Later, I was visiting a dyslexic university professor who is world famous in his field. At the time, he was teaching 19 graduate students who were working for their PhD’s. He explained that he rarely read any of their written submissions. Rather, they submitted their work via computer -- and he had his computer read the papers aloud to him.
This professor strongly encouraged the students to “read the book of nature”, through careful and open-minded observation -- and to not pay too much attention to what others had written or thought. Indeed, this professor noted to me that he rarely read anything except signs in an airport or the like. Rather, he said he tried hard to get his grad students to observe carefully what they would see and learn to “think like a dyslexic.”
Thus, over time, I had found that you could learn a lot from just looking and thinking (even doing high level work) -- but that it was sometimes useful to read as well -- and useful to have a machine to provide some help when needed.
For many years I have observed and written about technology trends, especially miniaturization. However, I was not fully aware of the further development of the amazing capabilities of tiny devices until I was asked to use and comment on the C-PEN ReaderPen (TM).
One merely scans the lighted lines of text and the device reads it back to you in a UK or US voice. If you are not sure of a word, a dictionary is provided with a long-form definition. It can do these things in Spanish and French as well as English. It is small and easy to handle, recharging through a standard USB connector (provided). It can store text and even record your voice commentaries, easily switching to left-hand mode when desired. This is a lot of technology and power to fit inside a comparatively tiny device, the size of two ordinary plastic pens.
I am a dyslexic writer who has studied visual thinking, visual technologies, and dyslexia, having authored three books. I love books and the worlds that they open for me -- and how they allow me to communicate with others. However, I read very slowly (and I like to think, deeply), often rereading sections because I have misread some word, making nonsense out of the context.
I also know that I often prefer hearing spoken words (with related visual graphics) rather than merely reading them. I once found that I could understand Shakespeare’s plays much better by listening to them as I read the printed words. (I have good friends who experience the reverse, often preferring reading to listening.) I am amazed at the power of the ReaderPen. Although I can read with some facility, I plan now to carry it with me daily -- expecting to find many useful ways of employing its rich capabilities for reading, pronouncing, storing, recording, defining, and describing.
-- Thomas G. West, author of In the Mind’s Eye, Thinking Like Einstein and Seeing What Others Cannot See.
* * * * *
“I have found the C-Pen ReaderPen to be an enormous help for dyslexics and others with reading difficulties. Its ease of use and multiple capabilities make it a kind of “Swiss Army Knife” for cutting through many of the problems associated with reading, memory and comprehension. Highly recommended. “
-- Thomas G. West, author of In the Mind’s Eye, Thinking Like Einstein andSeeing What Others Cannot See.