Monarch Reader - Coming Soon

Monarch Reader - Coming Soon

Introducing Monarch Reader: A New Chapter in Accessible Books for Beginning Readers

One of the most exciting things our team learned at ATIA 2024 was from Building Wings, the company behind the literacy instruction solutions, Readtopia, Readtopia Go and Newstopia.

Beginning in the summer of 2024, the beloved free resource Tar Heel Reader — an online library of accessible books for beginning readers of all ages — will join forces with Building Wings, and relaunch as Monarch Reader.  And yes everything educators of complex instructional needs students loved in Tar Heel Reader will still be free -- but better.

 Image of Bridges team at Monarch Reader launch with Don Johnston

The Bridges gang with Don Johnston and Marisa Rodriguez of Building Wings at Karen Erickson's announcement of the new Monarch Reader at ATIA, 2024. 

A Brief History of Tar Heel Reader

Founded in 2008 by Dr. Gary Bishop and Dr. Karen Erickson at UNC-Chapel Hill, Tar Heel Reader  is a free online library with a vast collection of easy-to-read books for individuals with diverse learning needs. Each book can be speech enabled and accessed using multiple interfaces.   Named as a nod to the university’s nickname, it is both a repository and easy to use creation tool for simple ebooks, accessible by switch, touch screens, eye gaze or other alternative access methods.  Teachers, students, parents, therapists, friends and caregivers have created thousands of books in multiple languages, shared worldwide.

 Karen Erickson with Bridges team at ATIA 2024 preview of Monarch Reader

Karen Erickson chatting with Christy, Leanne and Kim from Bridges at ATIA 2024.


The Transition to Monarch Reader

With Building Wings, the site will be rebranded as Monarch Reader. What does this mean for users?

  1. Continuity: The current digital library, hosting tens of thousands of books in dozens of languages, will retain the components educators know and love. Including supporting alternative access methods, input device compatibility, and customizable text and background colours to enhance the reading experience.
  2. Age-Appropriate Content: Monarch Reader will continue to cater to both young and older readers, ensuring age-appropriate and age-respectful content. Including shared reading for emergent readers, special education teachers, school SLPs and school OTs, support staff, educational assistants etc.
  3. Inclusivity: Accessibility-for-all is central to Building Wings’ mission. Monarch Reader will continue to be an easy to access tool for adapted literacy support. 
  4. Updating the interface: Monarch Reader will have a new, modern user-friendly interface with much improved search capability
  5. Long term support and viability. Tar Hill Reader is being migrated to a more comprehensive and robust platform. It will align seamlessly to Building Wings’ other literacy instruction solutions:  Readtopia, ReadtopiaGO, and Newstopia.
  6. Freemium:  All the stories and authoring tool functionality that is currently in Tar Hill Reader will remain freely available at no fee.  Building Wings is looking to add professionally created books and additional features and functionality for a subscription fee. 


What’s Next?

As the summer of 2024 approaches, keep an eye out for the fresh look and feel of Monarch Reader that will make fostering inclusive literacy for all easier.   A subscription with enhanced content and authoring tools ie expected to follow sometime in late 2024 – early 2025.


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  • Amreen Shafiuddin
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