Twitter is a great place to share ideas with your fellow youth librarians. Just recently, Jennifer Taggart, blogger at Adaptive Umbrella and author of the recent ALSC blog post Inclusive Technology Station, reached out to her Twitter followers. She needed suggestions of high contrast picture books for children with low vision to add to her library’s special needs collection. It made me think–how do families with children who have low vision find library books? Unless our libraries have a special needs collection, it can be difficult for librarians and parents alike to sift through all of the picture books to find the right one.
If this is a situation you have struggled with at your library, here are some criteria you can consider when making book recommendations to families with children with low vision.
High Contrast: Books featuring high contrasting colors are inherently more accessible to children with low vision. These titles offer visual stimulation and allow the reader to more easily distinguish between the shapes, letters, and numbers in the illustrations. You will often find high contrast board books, but it’s important to remember that older children may prefer a more mature book format. Some of my go-to recommendations for high contrast picture books include The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara, The Graphic Alphabet by David Pelletier, and Lemons Are Not Red by Laura Vacarro Seeger.
Large Print: Large Print books are enjoyed by readers of all ages with visual challenges. Also known as “large type” or “large font,” picture books that contain larger than normal print may make it easier for children with low vision to read. Look for books that utilize a consistent font throughout the story, and have extra spacing between the letters, the lines, and the margins. This will improve the readability of the text, and will help the child track more easily.
Texture: Children who have low vision need to rely on their other senses to experience their world. That’s why books with added textural elements are more accessible and effective for low vision readers. Look for books that have flaps, feathers, buttons, raised objects, or textured shapes. If you’re looking for books specifically for braille readers, the non-for-profit organization Seedlings makes Print-Braille-and-Picture Books available for libraries to purchase.
Pop-up Elements: Whatever the reason, not all of our libraries choose to provide pop-up books in our collections. Some libraries may have a special pop-up book collection just for in-house use, or perhaps these titles are available through interlibrary loan. If they are, consider these types of books for recommendation. Pop-up elements provide dimension to the book, so that the illustrations can be enjoyed in 3D. Two of my absolute favorite pop-up books is The Great Wide-Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner and ABC3D by Marion Bataille.
As youth librarians, it’s important for us to advocate for access to books and reading for children of all abilities. So, here are a few additional suggestions when working with parents with children who have low vision:
- Encourage parents to pair a book with the audio format of the same story. Readalongs and audio books are effective tools for children with vision loss because they engage the auditory sense and support the development of literacy skills.
- Show parents your favorite rhyming picture books. When the child and the parent read together, parents can add rhythm by having their child clap along or slap their knees with the rhyme. This develops hand-eye coordination and is great for kinesthetic and musical/rhythmic learners.
- Recommend that parents look for objects around the house that correlate to the characters, setting or the plot of the story. They can make these objects available during the shared reading experience. This provides tactile stimulation and helps the child conceptualize the story and its characters more concretely.
If you’re looking for strategies for adapting books, check out this Pinterest page with lots of ideas: Adapting Books for Children Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision. And to learn more about serving patrons with blindness or low vision, including tips for inclusive customer service and collection development resources, check out the ASCLA Tipsheet on Blindness and Low Vision.
What are some ways that you help families with children with low vision at your library? Share your ideas below!