I still remember that first picture book that I read – ok, memorized – as a preschooler. I read that book over and over again, to myself, to mom and dad, my sister, my cousin, and even to my neighbor’s dog. That book had repetitive rhyming phrases and beautiful illustrations that provided clues to the words on that page. My room was full of well-loved books on a variety of topics that interested me, my parents read to me, modeled reading by reading themselves, spent hours at the library for story time and helping me pick out books to take home. My mom spent her evenings sitting with me while I slowly learned to sound out and read those simple take-home kindergarten books. My young world was full of wonderful books!
As teachers of the visually impaired (or parents of child with visual impairments), how can we spark our student’s interest in reading? Finding the perfect accessible book for young students with visual impairments can be challenging. Most public libraries and mainstream school libraries do not carry – or have a very limited amount – of large print or braille books. Emerging reader books often use pictures to provide clues to the written word or what is happening in the story; these mainstream books are often not in an accessible format and the images are not described. The few books with tactile graphics tend to be expensive and are not easily available. If you are a teacher of the visually impaired with a student who is an emerging or young reader, you have probably spent hours upon hours pounding out custom-made braille books for your student.
Fast forward to the 21st century – where technology has made digital books accessible for all! Interactive digital books with read aloud, music and fun sounds are available on tablets and smart phones. (See Interactive Stories post) These mainstream apps are fun for young children who are not yet reading and for young readers! Educators and family members can create their own customized books about a child’s family, trip, class, or event. Young students love to read about themselves!
Customized digital books are simple to create. Choose your favorite book creating app, such as Book Creator or Pictello. Take a photo or grab a picture off the web. Add a word, sentence or paragraph. If desired, add a related audio clip, or add a video clip. You have just created a customized book! You can even record the child’s voice as he reads the story. The student opens the book on his tablet using whatever accessibility features he desires. Need larger print? Invert colors? Screen reader? No problem! Pair a refreshable braille display and instant braille.
Directions on how to create digital books using Book Creator.
Want to simply download a digital book that another educator or family member has created? Paths to Technology has a depository of free accessible digital books in the iBooks section.
UPDATE: Paths to Technology now has a Book Library! The Book Library is one section under the Teacher-Created Resource Library. There are many more digital books available in the Book Library – these books are in multiple formats (Apple Books, PDFs, Presentations, etc.)
There are a variety of custom-made books currently available on Paths to Technology and teachers are regularly sharing more. Currently, these books tend to be for emerging readers, young readers or students with multiple disabilities. Below are a few examples of books listed by various topics:
Students can create their own customized books. These books might be about themselves, school, family, pet, trip, or event. Students who are not able to type out sentences for a book, may record their sentences (using a recording app like VoiceMemos). These auditory clips can be added to each page and the TVI can transcribe the auditory into text and add the text to the page. Other students might use dictation (speech-to-text) in an app like Pages. Dictation converts the speech to text and the TVI can copy and paste the text into the book app. Older students might choose a topic to research and turn that information into a fun book. Zoey the Dog post includes information about how a 3rd grader created a book as part of her IEP writing and tech goals. Using VoiceOver with Book Creator: A Blind Student’s Experience is a post with a video demonstrating a blind student creating a book using Book Creator with VoiceOver.
Family members, friends, etc. can also make books! Is your local scout troop, youth group, college student, etc. looking for a volunteer project? Ask them to make digital books. The first books shared on Paths to Technology were books created by University of North Carolina students to fill their required volunteer service community hours. There have been multiple requests for a series of aphabet books – each book would contain words that start with that letter. Example: “B” book might have items such as a bat, bank, bird, etc. Each page might include an associated sound; bat (sound of ball hitting a baseball bat), bank (coins falling into a piggy bank), bird (bird chirping). Other book topic requests have been for books about community helpers or jobs (police man or baker), animal facts, holidays, and events.
After creating a book, please consider sharing the book on Paths to Technology. We want this book depository to grow! If you use photos of students, be sure that the parent has signed a media permission slip. For more information about sharing digital books, leave a comment below or email [email protected].
By Diane Brauner