Early Years – Literacy

Top tip sheets from Paths to Literacy

Thank you to Paths to Literacy who have shared these top tip resources with us to help you get the most out of reading with your VI child.

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10 tips to introduce reading to a young child who is blind or partially sighted

By Charlotte Cushman access the original article at:

One of the first and most important things to remember when introducing books and literacy experiences to a young child with a visual impairment is that the child is a child first. While there are certain tips and techniques that will make reading more meaningful and pleasurable for children who are blind or visually impaired, many of the same principles apply to ALL children. Sharing quiet time together with a family member, teacher or other special person enjoying stories that are funny or interesting is something that all of us love, regardless of our age or the amount of vision we have.

1. Share your love of reading by reading aloud with your child every day.

It is important to set aside time each day to read with your child. This does not mean that you have to read a book from cover to cover or make the child listen to each and every page. This means that you show your child that books are something special to be enjoyed and that they can make life more interesting and fun.

2. Choose times and places that are quiet, comfortable and free from distractions

Life is often busy and can be chaotic, especially when juggling schedules and other children. Turn off your cell phone and the TV, sit close to the child, and really focus on exploring books and literacy materials together. Be sure that the child is comfortable, with proper positioning, so that she can focus on you and the story rather than on trying to sit up. This simple act of sharing focused time together will help to create a routine that is special and enjoyable for both you and the child.

3. Choose books that relate to the child’s own experience

Many young children who are blind or visually impaired have limited experience with the world, and if they have additional disabilities or are deafblind this is even more true. Books about rocket ships or monsters will have limited meaning to children who don’t know these concepts, and it is best to begin with simple books that relate directly to a child’s own experience. One favourite that many children enjoy from a young age is Little Rabbit’s Bedtime. It includes familiar routines, such as taking a bath and brushing teeth, and real objects can be shown to the child while reading the book (i.e. a real toothbrush and washcloth). Click here to see how it can be used with real objects.

For older children or children with multiple disabilities Lunch Crunch offers a simple story line where you can use real carrots, crackers, etc. to accompany the story. See this post for more ideas on how to set this up.

4. Use objects to support the story, in place of illustrations (story boxes)

As with the examples above, real objects can be used to illustrate and expand the story. These can help children to identify objects mentioned in the story (e.g. a pair of shoes) or to encourage them to act something out (e.g. brushing hair). Story boxes are collections of items from a given book that are stored together with the book in a convenient way. There are many examples of story boxes on this site. Read more about story boxes.

5. Add textures or bright colours to call attention to important parts of the page

The type of adaptation used will depend on the individual child, including the amount of vision they have and the specific vision condition. CVI or Cortical Visual Impairment, for example, often calls for different types of adaptations. In general textures or bright colours can be used to call the child’s attention to a certain part of the page or to make the meaning clearer. Click here for more suggestions for children with CVI. See Modifying Books for Students with Multiple Disabilities for more ideas.

6. Use interactive language to make the story more engaging and meaningful

Stories can be a wonderful way to help children to draw the connection to their own experience. For example, “José went to the grocery store in this book. Do you remember when we went to the grocery store yesterday?”

7. Provide books in braille and/or large print

Braillable labels or sheets can be created as overlays that can be added to individual pages. There are also many sources of braille books, some of which are free. Work with your child’s teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) to identify sources of books or to find help creating braille books. One parent had the idea of hosting a book making party! Click here to read how she did it.

8. Encourage the child to be actively engaged in the handling of the book

Invite the child to:

  • find the cover
  • open the book
  • turn the page
  • find the “top of the page”

9. Create tactile books with the child, based on their experiences

Blogger Liam’s mom shares lots of great ideas for creating experience books for your child. Experience books are created by collecting real objects associated with a given experience and making them into a book. Look at her post on How to Create an Experience Book.

10. Store the books and other literacy materials in an accessible place that the child can find

Designate a shelf or cabinet that the child can locate and reach. Label it with braille and/or a tactile symbol or picture to indicate that this is where to books are kept. Encourage the child to find the shelf and choose a book to look at. Invite her to return the books to the shelf after reading time, so that she will learn about where things are stored and can thereby take a more active role in selecting books and making literacy an active choice in her life.

Most important of all — Enjoy!

10 tips to prepare your child to learn to read braille

By Charlotte Cushman access the original article at:

Learning to read actually begins at birth, as there is so much that goes into the whole process. It includes developing basic cognitive concepts, motor skills, language & communication, and more. For children who are learning to read braille, all of these skills are necessary too, but it is also essential for them to develop their fine motor skills and tactile discrimination.

1. Be sure that the child has LOTS of access to braille EVERYWHERE!

Remember that children who are sighted have seen MILLIONS and MILLIONS of words before they begin to read. There is typically print everywhere: on boxes and containers of food, shampoo, toothpaste that can be seen at home, in shops, and on the television. Usually there are many examples of print in a house, including newspapers, magazines, books, correspondence, computer, lists. Now think about how much practice and exposure a child who is sighted has had before formal reading instruction begins. It is crucial to provide as much exposure to braille in the environment as you can. Items in the house should be labelled in braille, and every child should have loads of beginning reading materials in braille available that they can find. See Creating a Braille-Rich Environment at Home

2. Give the child lots of practice developing fine motor or hand skills

Encourage children to open and close all different types of containers, and to do all types of fasteners on clothing (buttons, snaps. zippers, etc.) Invite them to help with cooking chores — stirring, scooping, chopping, pouring. While these may not seem important to learning to read, they are!

3. Have the child sort, match, and categorise items

Ask the child to sort different types of materials — buttons, beans, nuts, coins. It can be anything, but it is important that he or she be able to distinguish different properties of items. Have him sort big/little, rough/smooth, squares/triangles, etc. Be sure to set up the sorting task with distinct places to put items and an organized workspace. For example, mixed coins can be placed on a large plate and quarters can go into one bowl on the left and pennies can go into a bowl on the right. The child doesn’t need to understand the value of the coins at this point, but just to recognize the difference in size and tactile distinctions. Have the child follow patterns, such as big, little, big, little, etc.

4. Give the child practice telling stories and sequencing events

Decoding braille is only part of the process of learning to read. Language development is an essential part of being ready to read. Ask the child to tell you what he or she did today. Have him name 5 things he bought at the market. Ask her what happened yesterday. What was the first thing he did when he got up? What happened after that? What did she do before bed?

5. Familiarise the Child with Positional Concepts, Directionality and Spatial Orientation

Give the child practice with positional concepts, such as up/down; above/below; in front/in back of/next to; top/middle/bottom; left/middle/right. Ask her to show these things on herself (e.g. “Put the cup behind you.”) Then ask her to do it with two objects (“Put the book above the plate.”) Ask him to point to these locations on a page. (“Show me the bottom left part of the page.”)

6. Practice counting

  • Count things in the natural context throughout the day. Count the number of shirts in the laundry basket, the number of forks in the sink, the steps from one location to the next.
  • Count how many people are going to site at the table for dinner. Then count the chairs and silverware. Match one plate to each place and one cup to each plate. (1:1 correspondence)
  • Ask the child how many items are in a set. For example give him 8 spoons and ask “How many spoons are there?” Next give him a larger array of items and ask him to make a smaller set. For example, give him 10 nuts and ask him to give you 6.

7. Provide Opportunities to Increase Tactile Discrimination.

Create tactile books to give the child exposure to different items. See these posts for some ideas on object books and tactile books:
Next, give the child more formal practice by brailling single cells that are the same, with one letter that is different. For example, you might braille a line of a, a, a, a, a, l, a, a, a. Ask the child to find the one that’s different. Braille his name and put a different word in and ask him to find it. For example, Ahmed, Ahmed, Ahmed, Ahmed, puppy, Ahmed, Ahmed, Ahmed. You can make this harder and harder as he gets better at it.

8. Create Experience Stories

Invite the child to dictate a story about an event. Write down what she says in print and braille and then have her read it aloud with you over and over. This will help her to begin to understand that the braille code is associated with meaning, and that each braille word on a page corresponds to a spoken word. This is also a motivating way to get started by creating her own books.
For more information about Experience Stories, see:

9. Encourage the child to “Scribble” on the Braillewriter

Reading and writing go hand in hand when developing literacy skills. Children who are sighted practice scribbling with crayons and markers long before they begin to learn to write actual letters. Similarly, children who are learning braille should have practice making marks on paper using a braillewriter or slate and stylus. Read more about this: Scribbling with My Son Who Is Deafblind

10. Read every day!

As in the first point above, be sure that the child has lots of exposure to braille all around the house and in every environment possible. In addition, it is important to read stories with him or her every day. In the United States there are many ways to get free braille books. If you have difficulty getting access to books in braille, you can contact the Association for the Blind nearest to you. The exposure to braille in general is important, but it’s equally important for the child to begin to understand that braille is a code for spoken language.

Want to explore reading further on the Paths to Literacy website?

Visit: www.pathstoliteracy.org/learning-center/literacy-basics

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