A Tool for Struggling Readers: Word’s Immersive Reader

Let’s face it: Google dominates the educational landscape with its Classroom program and endless apps: Forms, Slides, Meets, etc. And there are so many technology tools popping up to make learning fun: Wakelet, Flipgrid, Kahoot, with hundreds more to come. So it can be easy to forget about Word. Yes, Microsoft Word. It’s so well-known and not-in-the news, it can be easy to overlook some of their recent developments to help struggling readers.

The Immersive Reader Tool

Go to Microsoft (the software or online version) Word->View->Immersive Reader with any document.

Visual Supports

Users can adjust the text size, spacing, line focus, and color themes (including different colors for parts of speech). These features help struggling readers in multiple ways:

  • Fewer words per page, making the process of visualizing information easier.
  • Larger fonts and increased spacing between words to help readers slow down and avoid skipping or re-reading lines.
  • A reduction in decoding errors that allow readers to focus on the meaning of the text and vocabulary.[1]

Students gain confidence in reading and engagement by being able to focus more easily on the text.

Vocabulary Aids

The Immersive Reader has text-to-speech embedded that can be adjusted by speed and voice. Users can translate by document or Word. And, uniquely, readers have access to a picture dictionary! They hover the mouse over a word, and its image appears along with the option to have the Word read aloud in English or another selected language. Educators can easily measure student comprehension by referring to pictures shown in the text.

Many educational databases and news sources have articles that can be saved to Microsoft OneDrive to open in Word or downloaded to open in Word to take advantage of Immersive Reader supports.

Creating Lifelong Readers

Let’s incorporate all the tools we can use to augment student access to texts and books, increase engagement and confidence, build knowledge, and encourage critical thinking and discovery.

The Immersive Reader is just one of many.

[1] McAlpine, Sabine. “Students, Teachers, and Parents Agree: Large Print Provides Huge Benefits.” Sharing Times, Jan. 2021, mailchi.mp/faf72d62a4c1/whats-happening-in-nyc-school-libraries.


Author: Leanne Ellis

I am a School Library Coordinator for the New York City Department of Education’s Department of Library Services. I plan and deliver workshops, provide on-site instructional and program support to school librarians, coordinate programs, administer grants, and am program coordinator for MyLibraryNYC, a program administered with our three public library systems.

Categories: Blog Topics, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models, Technology

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