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What do you do when a Scout can’t read his handbook?

Does a Scout in your troop have trouble reading the Boy Scout Handbook or merit badge pamphlets?

Don’t let that get in the way of his enjoyment of the Scouting program. Instead, take time to make a difference.

If you’re successful, you’ll help the Scout’s growth in your troop, at school, and in life. The stakes are high.

I asked our 10,000-plus Facebook friends for their ideas on how to help Scouts who have difficulty with reading that’s required for rank advancement, summer camp, or merit badges.

Here were some ideas:

Give It Time
Have additional Scoutmaster Conferences with this Scout to read over the requirements with him. Be sure to have him take notes that he can refer to, and don’t cover so much at one time that he becomes overwhelmed. At summer camp, cover the merit badge requirements before classes if possible, or set him up with a buddy to whom he can ask questions. Make sure his instructors at summer camp know about the issue so they can assist him.
– Kimberly S.

The Buddy System
Take the biggest, strongest, burliest kid in the troop and ask him to “mentor” this young lad. If all goes well, the big kid will appreciate the responsibility and treat the younger one as his own. There won’t be any teasing, and both boys will benefit. It also sends a message about helping each other. I always remind boys that we take care of our own.
– Harry S.

Now Hear This
The Boy Scout Handbook is available as an audio book from LearningAlly (formerly Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic). It is available on CD or as a file to download to an MP3 player (WMA format). Merit badge pamphlets are also available.
– Jamie D.

More to Hear
Another great resource is BookShare – they have books ReadingAlly does not have. To access BookShare a student must have the signature of a physician or diagnostician.
– Stephanie H.

Use Your Resources
This young man requires additional effort on the part of youth and adults. That’s simply not negotiable. Talk to his principal at school, talk with his teachers. Get as many insights as you can on him.
– John P.

Success Story
We have a kid just like that in our troop. Our boys look out for him, and we use the buddy system. That and informing the counselors ahead of time did the trick. He loved camp and earned badges. He will be a Life Scout this summer.
– Joe W.

(Painting by Joseph Csatari)

8 Comments on What do you do when a Scout can’t read his handbook?

  1. Mike Ransom // July 5, 2011 at 12:36 pm // Reply

    I wish the handbook and MB pamphlets were available to eReaders like Kindle and Nook, where fonts can be enlarged and audio text is possible.

  2. Mama Wulf // July 5, 2011 at 2:05 pm // Reply

    Good stuff thanks. I have 2 dislexic sons that greatly appreciate a little help and understanding. My oldest has shared with the other scouts the science of dyslexia as part of learning about disabilities we found that helpful for the whole group.

  3. Along with The Boy Scout Handbook and some merit badge pamphlets, Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic) also has recordings of the Cub Scout Handbooks.

    Users must be certified as a person with a documented print disability, but access has been free for certified users.

    Unfortunately, there are less than 60 merit badge pamphlets including old revisions.
    They will accept volunteer readers 🙂

    Thanks for the link. I’m not sure of the overlap, but there are 30 merit badge pamphlets there.

  4. The MB Book App for iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad works well as an eReader for me. Like the handbook app, it’s tricky to navigate but is easier to carry along than all 110+ MB books. I would hope that the BSA would consider adding an audio text feature to the app as a quick and relatively inexpensive way to make these accessible. The basic software for the app is already written and there’s plenty of people out there who have audio text applications, so it shouldn’t be too hard to combine that on the back end and update the app for Scouts with reading or vision impairments.

  5. Michael Doland // July 11, 2011 at 1:26 pm // Reply

    As a Scout from an affluent literate community, becoming a 19 year old Scoutmaster for a minority troop where the Scouts could not read was a shock. My university suggested that future English teachers would be a good resource, and we extended out meetings by 1/2 hour to accomodate a basic reading class without the peer pressure and over-crowding of the public schools. The unintended consequence was that we immediately had a cub scout pack since younger siblings want to take advantage of the “reading + Scouting” format.

  6. As a SM and a father of two sons with severe learning disabilities, I can approciate everything said. My middle son has been with the same boys since he was a Tiger. He is now a First Class scout. They take care of him, and he takes care of them.

  7. Unfortunately Bookshare will NOT allow you to join, even at a discount, diagnoses of autism and ADHD. If anyone knows of a resource willing to help these kids, I’d be very grateful.

  8. offers a formatter that makes text easier to read, there is an option to add a slant for dyslexic readers. … this has helped my boy tremendously. Now if I could only get his Boy Scout handbook printed in this format, he would really be prepared.

2 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Bookshare, BSA open a new chapter | Bryan on Scouting
  2. What’s the only thing wrong with the Braille Boy Scout Handbook? « Bryan on Scouting

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