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Focus on Free: Immersive reader

Karen Chegwidden

Immersive reader is one of the accessibility tools in the Microsoft 365 suite, and is available in One note online, Word online, Teams, Microsoft Edge browser, Outlook and Minecraft education Edition. It’s an exciting tool that I wish was available back when I was teaching my dyslexic child to read, and I think it could have a range of applications in the home education setting, especially for students with learning differences. It’s free, and if you use Microsoft 365, you already have access. If you don’t yet have Microsoft 365 you can get free access for your home educated student through the HEA.

So what is it exactly? Immersive reader is a toolkit that allows learners to change the text to their individual preferences to support independent reading. Here’s a summary of the options available:

A different view of the text which reduces distraction, making the text on the screen more like the text in a book. It removes the extra menus and focuses attention on the text

The text can be read aloud to the user, making the written word independently accessible to learners who are not yet confident readers. The words in the text are highlighted as they are read aloud, making it easy to follow along.

The text of the entire document can easily be enlarged, supporting students with visual impairments.

The spacing of words, letters and lines can be adjusted to suit individual preferences and reduce visual crowding.

The background colour is easily changed, which could reduce glare and support some types of Dyslexia.

You can separate words into syllables to support the decoding process when learning to read.

Different parts of speech can be colour coded according to grammatical category - with or without labels. This feature has applications when teaching grammar and writing, as well as reading.

Line focus - a tool that acts like a reading ruler - highlighting either one or three lines of text at a time.

Picture Dictionary - a tool that allows students to click on any word and see an image showing the meaning of that word. It includes the option to hear the word as well.

Translate allows the document to be translated into a wide range of languages, a feature which may be particularly useful for learners for whom English is a second language. You can toggle back and forth between the translation and the original language, Home Educators could also use this feature to support learning a second language. The read aloud feature still works once the document is translated, so you can hear and read along. It is also possible to translate single words, instead of the whole document.

How to access immersive reader:

  • In Word, click on View in the top menu, and then select Immersive reader.

  • In Edge, right click on the text ad choose ‘read aloud’

  • In PDF’s, open in Edge and click read aloud

  • In Teams, select the message to be read aloud and then select ‘immersive reader’

You can find out more about Immersive reader here:

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