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Everyday literacy tips from CVI parents

Creative and fun ideas from CVI parents about how they incorporate literacy into their everyday routines

A young boy playing with letters on a washing machine

Literacy is everywhere.

Experiencing the world, storytelling, engaging in play schemas and daily routines, building relationships, going on adventures, listening to music, and much more are all part of the fabric that builds literacy skills. Every kid with CVI is ready to engage in literacy, no matter the age or what they are doing. Working on literacy skills is hard for some kids with CVI (read about the 6 ways CVI impacts the reading process), but there is always a path forward.

We asked our CVI Now parent community: What are some creative ways you incorporate literacy and concept development at home? 

Here are some general examples of parent responses that might offer some inspiration!

“Give real-life meaning to letters, phonics, and words.” —Kira, CVI mom
  • Label items around the house with a letter or word. Go on a letter or word hunt. You can say, “I’m thinking of a letter that makes the ‘buh’ sound. Do you see this letter in the room?” Because the letter is connected to a familiar food (banana), context and memory provide a more meaningful interaction.
  • Incorporate letters and words into beloved activities (2D or 3D): shoot letters from a nerf gun, hide letters in a sensory bin, add letters to a Lego structure, pretend to wash and dry letters in the laundry room.
  • Get creative (and a little messy!): Draw letters or words in shaving cream, make letters or words out of playdoh, explore sandpaper letters, have fun with word puzzles, use letters in water play, or find all the items that begin with a certain letter then create a story about them. Explore letters and words in a multisensory way!
  • Play around with sounds of language. Emphasize beginning and ending sounds, segment words to show syllables, and have fun with rhyming words. Listening to songs repeatedly can help develop a sense for rhyming, word and sentence structure, and letter sounds.

A series of four pictures: Top left is a bowl of bananas with the letter B on the bowl, top right is the letter B made out of playdoh, bottom left is a boy writing the letter B on the iPad, and bottom right is a boy writing letters on a light box.

Create a reading routine that meets your kid where they are at.

We know how powerful it is to read to our children, but it can be tough to do after a long day at school or right before bed when the fatigue has totally set in for your child with CVI. A literacy routine at home can be much more than sitting down and reading a full book. Here are some ways to rethink reading time.

  • Listen to an audio version of a favorite book while your child holds an item related to the book. Pete the Cat books seem to be a favorite in the CVI community with its bright colors, strong visual features of the main character, repetition, and predictability of the text.
  • Read just one or two pages of a book while sitting together. This is still a fun, sweet moment with a book.
  • Create an object book. For example, the title can be “I like…” and include some of your child’s favorite items. Velcro items to black cardstock or All-In-One board, or set out items in a row on a black mat.
  • Show a slide or two of a familiar 2D image on a tablet. This could be an image from a familiar book or song. Read aloud the text or lyrics that connect to the image. Or it could be a photograph of a favorite item or place with a short and story to tell.
  • Listen to a song together. Songs tell stories too! Incorporate objects or photographs related to the song.
  • Tell the story of the day. Go through the day’s activities and routines. Talk about the best and hardest parts of the day.

Boy looking a magnet black board with Pete the Cat and buttons

“My son used to prefer really repetitive books with text that was easy to predict. Once he was familiar with a book, I would leave out words, and he would fill them in verbally. I started with things like end rhymes, and then words in less predictable places, and sometimes entire simple phrases. This definitely supported literacy skills for him because he can pick up a familiar book and ‘read’ it with the right cadence. So even if he isn’t getting the words right, he has the gist of the story, the cadence and even some rhyming structure. We’re on an Elephant and Piggie kick right now. Those are SO FUN. And they’re really really simple, with large font and color coding for the speakers. My son has learned a couple of words from that book — NO! especially.” —Kira, CVI Mom

Storybooks of favorite everyday activities

Create stories about what your child experiences every day. It could be about eating their favorite meal, doing the laundry, a recent adventure, building a Playmobil set, or a morning routine. There is a story in everything we do.

These stories could be told aloud with real objects, made into a print book with real photographs (add letters, words, sentences depending on your child’s needs), or put together as e-books. For some kids with CVI, the backlighting of an iPad or tablet supports visual attention and recognition. Programs like Keynote and Powerpoint offer features such as recording sound or speech on a page, adding movement to an image, and adding Alt Text for an image.

“I use Keynote on my son’s iPad to create short ebooks about his favorite things and experiences, as well as social stories to help anticipate something new. He loves the Instant Pot, so we created a short poem together about the sounds it makes and the foods we like to cook in it. I put one image per page on a black background (real photographs of the Instant Pot and food ingredients), recorded a line of the poem for each page (Henry even recorded a line or two!), and added some slow movement to each image. Light and movement still support visual attention and recognition of 2D. I added the phrase Instant Pot at the end in his preferred presentation based on his Learning Media Assessment results. Then I put the presentation on autoplay, so he can follow along with his ebook, almost like watching a simple video.” —Rachel, CVI mom

Sample pages from an ebook about an Instant Pot. Images of an Instant Pot on a black background and one image of a bowl of rice.

Calendar time at home

Many kids with CVI use a calendar system (object, tactile, visual) to help them anticipate what’s coming up in their day. Calendar time is an important part of developing literacy skills. One CVI parent shared how she incorporates calendar time each morning.

“My son starts his school day with the calendar and typing his name and date. I made a calendar that he can take parts of it off to look at individually and then he works on finding his way around the calendar. We also linked his AAC device to his iPad so he can type directly on it. He types his full name and date.” —Barbara, CVI mom

Boy with CVI adding the label Thursday to his home calendar.

Boy with CVI using his AAC device to type his name into his iPad.

Writing can be anything and everywhere

Writing can be tough for some kids with CVI for a myriad of reasons (difficulty with visual motor and fine motor skills, impact of clutter and visual field loss, difficulty with spatial awareness and spatial configurations). No matter if your child is an emerging writer, handwrites, types, uses an AAC device, or uses speech-to-text software, there are fun ways to incorporate writing into your daily routines. Here are some ideas:

  • Make a list for the grocery store.
  • Create a to-do list for the morning.
  • Plan a dinner menu.
  • Jot down a few things you will expect to see on a familiar walk or at a favorite place.
  • Text a friend or family member with a question or something fun to share.

“I have my son, Henry, ‘write’ (scribble) a list of what he wants from the grocery store. We think of ideas together. We may go find the food in the kitchen or look at a few pictures on his iPad. I make sure I write down what he says for later in the store. We take his list to the store, I say: “Henry, take out the list in your pocket, unfold the paper, and tell me an item that we need.” I want him to know that writing has meaning, that marks/symbols on a page have meaning. As he gets used to this routine, he’ll have a familiar context to work on his writing skills.” —Rachel, CVI Mom

Check out 8 literacy resources for children with CVI and explore Voices from the community to learn about more resources from CVI parents.

A little boy practicing his words at home.

8 literacy resources for children with CVI

Boy with CVI with noise canceling ear phones watching his favorite video on the iPad

Parents share how their children with CVI show visual fatigue

Boy with CVI sliding down a metal slide

Voices of the CVI community