Bringing picture books to life for Visually Impaired children

Find out about how pupils from an enterprising secondary school are working with award-winning charity, Living Paintings, on a curriculum-based project to help blind and partially sighted children.

Living Paintings brings pictures to life for blind and partially sighted children. In 2009 they began a unique collaboration with Bradfield College, which led to an adaptation of the picture book ‘Michael Recycle’. Thisyear they are choosing to work on Scottish Children’s Book Award shortlisted book, Loon on the Moon by Chae Strathie. 

Children who are blind or partially sighted can enjoy the text of the story but miss the wonderful extra dimension that the illustrations bring to a book. Living Paintings take well-loved children’s books and add the text in Braille plus our special raised Touch to See pictures. The children can explore and “see” these raised images through their fingers whilst an audio description guides them and describes every page of illustrations in the book.

Working to produce a Touch to See Picture Book gives pupils not only a fantastic opportunity to help other children but also an interesting new way to cover many areas of the curriculum. First the pupils form a Project Team and select the book they wish to adapt from a shortlist.  Loon on the Moon was an instant hit with the pupils as they loved the humorous, whimsical tale and the bold, colourful illustrations. The art and English departments work together to choose which characters and scenes to translate into the raised, Touch to See pictures. 

The challenge for the art department is to capture the style of the original illustrations whilst simplifying them so that the professional carver can create beautiful wooden images from them.  These wooden images are used to form the plastic sheets which become the Touch to See images. 

Meanwhile the scriptwriting team write the audio script which opens the world of the illustrations up. The audio scripts are further brought to life through music and sound effects, which the pupils compose and perform.  Once the book has been tested by a Visually Impaired child, drama pupils get their chance to shine recording the audio script in our professional studio in Kingsclere.  Meanwhile the Touch to See pictures are being carefully hand-painted and once they are finished the copies of the book are assembled and are ready to be placed in our free, postal library.  

 Making the 30 copies of each title costs Living Paintings £2,500 and the pupils raise these funds by coming up with fun, original ideas such as “readathons”, bring and buy book sales, fashion shows, etc. They also need to publicise the project to their fellow students via Facebook and Twitter.  Pupils who worked on the Michael Recycle project even made a short film.

The pupils gain a tremendous amount from producing a book which will bring enjoyment to thousands of blind children for years to come. 

This is a project which could be rolled out to schools anywhere. If you want to find out more please ring 01635 299771 and talk to Rachel Kent, Fundraising Manager.

Living Paintings offers Teacher Resource books covering a range of topics such as Vikings, Romans and British wildlife. For more information do check out our website on


Check out our blog from Ross Collins, author of Dear Vampa, about his work with Living Paintings. Ross is also up for a Scottish Children's Book Award this year: check out our free resources to use with the book!