Book Sharing for Blind & Partially Sighted Children

child with braille book
Category: Bookbug

For fans of the Tracy's Early Years Lowe-down blog, Tracy Lowe, Scottish Book Trust's Lead Early Years Trainer, will be back blogging here soon.

As you'd expect, there are more challenges involved when sharing books with blind and partially sighted children, but with a few tweaks the stories can really be brought to life for them. Using a few favourite books, we will give you some practical suggestions of how to do just that.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

This is a perfect story for sparking young imaginations. The family set out on an adventure, determined to track down the bear of the title but meet with many obstacles along the way -- obstacles ideally placed to enrich the reading experience in that they provide an excellent platform for using sound effects, props and acting skills! The 'swishy swashy' grass and the 'squelch squerch' of the mud, along with the 'splash splosh' of the river and the 'Hoooo woooo' of the snowstorm can keep the kids entertained for hours! Grass could be created out of raffia, mud out of gooey playdough, the river out of a washing-up bowl containing a little water and the snowstorm by a handheld folding fan and /or kazoo!

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

This story about a canny little mouse outwitting the other animals, and finally the Gruffalo himself, has become a modern classic. Why not make it magical by collecting stuffed animals depicting the various animals (mouse, fox, owl, snake) and a toy Gruffalo? Blind and partially sighted children respond especially well to tactile representations and this, along with different voice intonations, will guarantee that children engage with this firm favourite.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

Despite this book being over 40 years old, it is still as popular as ever with young children. It tells the story of a little girl called Sophie who is just sitting down to tea when a huge furry tiger appears at the door (as they are wont to do!) and the hungry animal proceeds to eat them out of house and home. Why not incorporate the events of this book into a tea party / picnic with a big stuffed tiger 'invited' along?

While sharing books with a blind or partially sighted child it is always a good idea to describe the pictures and events rather than just reading the text. Also, it is important that they too get to handle the book as it is all part of the enjoyment of reading and something that should be encouraged. A range of tactile books should be made available, as well as books with sound effects. Giant print readers should also have access to picture books which they can explore by themselves.

Finally, visiting the child's local Public Library and joining in any relevant activities, e.g. a rhyme time, can ensure good habits are formed. And good habits around reading are paramount. We here at RNIB want our members -- and all children -- to grow up with a passion for books that will last a lifetime.

For further information, please contact the Children's Librarians at RNIB National Library Service, on 0161 355 2061 / email: childrenslibrarian@rnib.org.uk.

Hazel Sharrock and Liz Farrell

Hazel Sharrock and Liz Farrell are Children's Librarians at RNIB National Library Service, a postal lending library offering books in Braille, giant print 24 point type, and daisy audio.