Reading with your blind Child 

 

brailler girl!

 A question came up on a Facebook a Forum: “Do you read to your little ones?What type of books? How do you Keep them interested? Some brilliant answers were given, which I’m allowed to share with you: 

  • I read all the time! I keep the books in a place where my daughter can reach them. Even if she seems uninterested, I finish the story because eventually she’ll come to recognize and memorize. She’s 17 months old. She’s just recently learned to turn the pages. Now she turns them so quickly I can’t read the page quick enough. Which is ok! I let her feel the braille. Or if it’s a touchy -Feely book she will find the textures on the page
  • From an educator’s perspective.. reading to children is SO important on many levels! Repetitive reading is great, too… so don’t fret when they ask for Dr. Seuss for the hundredth time. I’ll also say that if you are thinking about Braille for your child, have plenty of books in Braille and have things labeled around the house in Braille… I’ll also say never underestimate the power of Braille… especially for kids that may have some functional vision or who may use both print and Braille.
  • Touch and feel books or talking books (the ones with the buttons for different parts of the books) are great. Teaching them to turn the page also helps them to feel involved in the story reading. And keep going even if the child seems not interested. Make it a part of the daily bedtime routine. And remember to have fun with it.
  • I have read to my daughter every night her entire life (20 months). Even when she was in a coma for 2 weeks, I still read to her. We read before bed each night. A couple weeks ago, I said turn the page – AND SHE DID! I was shocked. I thought it was a fluke. But she kept doing it and now each book, every night, she has turned the pages. She also loves touch and feel books and the music or sound books.
  • Every day! Use exciting voices. Tell them what’s happening in the pictures. Talk about why people might act the way they do (especially if it’s not good behavior) and what they could do. Stop mid book and talk about what might happen. Once you’ve read a book a billion times and they have it memorized start the first few words of a page and let them finish it. Eventually they pick up the books and turn the pages saying all the right words because they’ve memorized them so well. 🙂 we started out with a bunch of touch and feel books, now heading into first grade M loves Roald Dahl and box car children. She reads Pete the Cat and pinkalicious and fancy nancy books with a little help. Read read read!!! It’s SOOO important.
  • Rhyme is good- all the Dr Seuss, books with funny sound effects, started with “that’s not my…” Books but he tired of them fast. Language was so important to L, so classics were good- Winnie The Pooh, Paddington, now he loves Tony Stanton, David Walliams, Cressida Cowell, Harry Potter. Also- Roald Dahl as the description is terrific! 

    homemade tactile book. doors from cardboard, faces from yarn and felt

     

Thinking further about Braille and literacy:

Books are a huge deal in our house, so we realised early on that we were going up have to get to work learning Braille, then began our journey of practising braille and spending hours buying, making, altering and changing books to make them suitable for Lucas who is educationally blind.

We borrowed a Perkins Brailler and a Braille Primer soon after our son was diagnosed. It was something that empowered us- we refused to consider the possibility of not learning Braille- if he was going to read and write it, so would we! 

In our books- We used ‘objects of reference‘, so had a puppet or toy of the main character who can then be used to ‘act out’ and hold during story time.  We also found props are great- if you’re telling a beach story- have a bit of towel, a water spray, maybe a shell or seaweed to handle throughout. Don’t use plastic imitation bits though- make it realistic. If describing an environment for a story use the actual objects themselves, not plastic visual representations of them. Put simple Braille in the books also, so “looking for the Braille” Is the first task when turning a page. 

I loved making a simple ‘shape book’. I used foam to cut different sized versions of the same shapes-  square, circle, triangle. I made a ‘cover’ from and old study folder, and used treasury tags to bind. I then Brailler labels for each page (I.e. ‘3 small circles’) and stuck these under the relevant shapes. At the end, I had sticky plastic Braille labels with Velcro on the back, and shapes with matching be,cry underneath.  He had  ready to place the correct label under the correct shape (from its description)- i.e. Which label goes under this small circle? He played with it for ages, and I used the same notion same notion for coins, counting, bigger/smaller, textures and the alphabet. Make pages fun with interactive parts, sounds, activities, then cement the knowledge with Velcro sticky black labels. The books were a way of using Braille, tactile pre-Braille skills, and understanding of the use of books, and they were fun, plus they were cheap to make and I could make more for any themes which arose.

 

girl sat at Perkins Brailler

 

 Ideas to help you make your own tactile books:

  • Use a hot glue gun to make tracks, trails, jumps, shapes
  • Wikki Sticks
  • Shopping bag (could Braille the items) book
  • Tactile Book Advancement Group 
  • Booklet from TBAG
  • Get hold of old buttons, stampers,  beads and create trailing stories, teach tracking and matching to encorporate within the text. Obviously be careful of choking!
  • Be clear about what you want the image to ‘say’. When depicting a girl for example, focus on the easily recognisable bits and make those tactilely accurate- so a few strands of yarn are better than plaited ribbon to represent her hair. An item of clothing needs only be a very simple shape as long as it’s made of the right fabric.
  • For a nature book- get outside and choose real leaves and flowers to press/dry/stick in. Drawings and rubbings just aren’t the same!
  • This Raised line drawing board is a good way to make ‘pictures’- but make sure they don’t confuse perspective and become just a tactile version of a visual picture
  • If using Braille, use a proper device and make sure it’s accurate. Depicting Braille in buttons and sequins looks nice, but is often impossible for even a fluent Braillist.
  • Don’t emboss or raise print if the first reading skill for your child is to be Braille! They can look at print letters once they have Braille sussed
  • Get lots of Braille all round your house so it becomes ‘the norm’.
  • Please encourage your blind child to start ‘mark-making’ as quickly as they want with a Brailler. We found Lucas taught himself the alphabet very quickly with his Mountbatten Brailler as it had a speech package.
  • There is now a new ‘Smart Brailler’ by Perkins, which I believe has a similar speech function. Project Brailer are accepting applications for your child to apply for one. 

And my biggest word of advice- please don’t worry what it looks like! If it’s made using real objects, tells a clear story, and opens avenues for more fun, reading and learning, then be proud of it! It’s tempting within a classroom setting in particular to neaten or pretty-up a blind child’s work with images they had little to do with. Please don’t- the parents will know their child didn’t do the work! 

For schools- please take advice from the Sensory Support Team, and use your planning time to question “what are the learning outcomes for this work” “what knowledge or experience does this child need?” rather than ‘how am I going to create a masterpiece from foam depicting the inner workings of a flower?’ Tactile images and posters for display can be decorative, but they’re a visual learning tool, usually not best suited to severely Visually Impaired kids. 

There are some great (albeit some are pricey) books out there for VI kids. We particularly like these:

Ten Wriggly Wiggly Caterpillars. 

‘That’s not my‘ Usbourne series. Often to be found in school fairs and charity shops. 

Hairy Monkey

Braille and raised line books from Maxi-Aids are great. Nice clear braille, tactile pictures, can even be coloured in! 

Tactus books have made some breathtakingly good participatory tactile books for competition. They’re not easy to source, but we’ve managed to grab a few from the RNIB shop in London. Good ideas for making your own books too. 

clearvision Library loan out tactile books, books with Braille alongside print and pictures, which is so important if the adult isn’t a Braille Reader. A school and town library are also permitted to join Clearvision- so if you wanted to enter the summer reading challenge for example, they could order in a box of books so your child can choose to get out a book the same as a sighted child. It’s not a full-proof system, and they often won’t put the books on display, but it’s a start. Incidentally, this years reading challenge didn’t have any literature in Braille format which was a real shame! 

Living paintings offer both fiction and non-fiction books, and uses thermoform diagrams which lots of people find useful. 

Seedlings books are excellent, very reasonably priced, and are sent pretty fast. You can also sometimes sign up to get a free book! 

World Book Day books can be obtained by asking your Qualified Teacher for the Visually Impaired for the Braille/large print option. They are usually made by the Joseph Clarke School, but I’m not sure if that’s the case next year. 

The RNIB offer a talking book library. 

Braille Bookstore has some great books, and cheap products. Order early though- postage from the U.S. to here in the UK isn’t fast.

American Printing House for the blind also sells Braille books. 

    

tactile book. matchsticks depicting windows, lolly sticks for a door

 

  

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