Blogger Renee Grassi

Adapting Books for Children with Disabilities

Accessibility is key to serving an inclusive library audience.  Because of that, it’s important that librarians examine–not only our programming–but the accessibility of our library collections as well.  Unfortunately, the process of reading a typical library book may not be accessible for all abilities.  The simple act of turning the page, for example, may be difficult to accomplish by someone who has a disability.  What can librarians do, then, to make our books accessible to those children in our communities with special needs?

Leap Into Literacy adaptive books for special needs children

Partners with Passion

In the Chicagoland area, librarians are fortunate enough to have the expertise and dedication of Rita Angelini, founder of Leap Into Literacy. The mission of this non-profit organization is to create adapted books for children with special needs and make these books available in public libraries.  Using Boardmaker symbols and a bit of creativity, Rita and her amazing group of volunteers adapt small picture books into large, durable, accessible books that can be manipulated by a child with special needs.

What makes a book accessible?

Each page is laminated with thick laminate plastic sheets, allowing fast and easy cleaning for children with compromised immune systems.  Page fluffers or page turners are added, creating adequate space for children to turn the page on their own.  At the bottom of each page, four Boardmaker picture symbols are included that summarize the actions of the story in the illustration and text above. The symbols, which include both image and text of a particular concepts, offer an opportunity to reinforce vocabulary for children who are nonverbal or learning to read.  When all of the adapted pages are finished, the pages are inserted to a three-ring binder, making it a durable, long-lasting product that can be utilized by children of any reading ability.   Afterwards, the books are donated to public libraries across the Chicagoland area and are added to the libraries’ collections to circulate to each community.


Whether you partner with a local organization like Leap Into Literacy to create a circulating collection of adapted books, or you want to try your hand at creating a collection to be used in-house for  programs, any library can improve the accessibility by offering adapted books.  What has YOUR library done to offer unique and accessible reading formats?  Share your ideas below!  To learn more about page fluffers, laminate, and other adapting techniques, check out the Adapting Creatively Blog for some great tips.

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