How to create an accessible classroom library

Ideas on how to create an accessible and inclusive classroom library that benefits students with print disabilities and visual impairments.

Colorful books on 2 shelves.

When I was volunteering in an elementary school classroom, I had a student tell me how much they wished that they could read all of the different books that were in their classroom library. This student had a print disability that meant they were unable to read standard print, and they thought that this meant they were unable to read the same books as other students. However, I was able to show them that they could actually read all of the same books, they just would have to get them in a different format. Soon enough, the student was listening to several different audiobooks with their siblings and discovering books they had heard their friends talk about in the past. Creating an accessible classroom library was a major goal for their teacher, and today I will be sharing my tips for how to create an accessible classroom library or increase the number of accessible books for students.

What make a classroom library accessible?

There are a few different definitions for accessible classroom library that range from the physical layout to the availability of books in non-English languages to the content in the books themselves. For the purposes of this post, I am talking about making a variety of books accessible for students with print disabilities, with a print disability being defined as a component of a learning, visual, or physical disability that keeps a person from being able to access materials in standard print.

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Examples of accessible book formats

Some examples of accessible book formats that students with print disabilities can access include:

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Purchasing physical books in an accessible format

When purchasing books that are in an accessible format, look for titles that are in large print or Braille. One of the most common Braille books I have seen in classroom libraries are the ones from the DK Braille series, though many other Braille books can be found through the following services:

Large print books can also be purchased on Amazon/Amazon Business, and the National Library Service keeps a comprehensive list of ways to get a variety of large print materials. I’ve also linked an additional post on finding research sources and other types of print content in accessible formats, including children’s books.

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Assistive technology for physical books

There are a few different tools that can help students with low vision to read physical copies of books, though typically the assistive technology specialist or teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) will do assistive technology assessments for individual students. Some examples of assistive technology for physical books include:

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Provide ways to access digital books

With my eye condition, I am unable to read a majority of traditional printed materials and prefer to read digital books. My dream classroom library would involve me being able to download a copy of whatever was on the bookshelf in large print or another preferred format to an electronic device that I could use in the classroom. 

Some examples of places to download books might include:

Examples of ways to read books in the classroom might include:

Another interesting way to read picture books would be to look up storytimes/readings of the book on the YouTube Kids app and to add the books to a curated playlist for students to explore, though this would probably be better for after school hours.

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Apps for interactive books

In addition to digital books in traditional accessible formats, there is a growing number of apps and services that allow students to access favorite books as well as exclusive books in a combined print and audio format. Some of the popular services I have worked with include:

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Funding an accessible classroom library

All of these ideas may seem interesting and great, but I recognize that many teachers do not have the funding to create their own accessible classroom library for low vision students, or even to create a classroom library in general. However, there are ways that teachers can get funding for their classroom libraries, such as through DonorsChoose. Some examples of items to request through DonorsChoose include:

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More tips on how to create an accessible classroom library

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes,

Updated September 2023.

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