Sitting girl holding and reading a large book with a rocket cover.

How to create accessible summer reading lists for print disabilities

Share content in multiple formats and create summer reading lists for dyslexia, low vision and other print disabilities.

I love getting recommendations for new books to read from my university or local libraries, especially when it comes to summer reading lists with all of the new and upcoming releases. However, there are times I miss out on being able to access the reading lists because I have a print disability that impacts my ability to read small or standard-sized print materials, which make it more difficult for me to not only read the list of recommendations, but find accessible copies of the books listed on them. Here are my tips for how to adapt summer reading lists for print disabilities and how to create inclusive and accessible summer reading lists for dyslexia, visual processing disorder, low vision, blindness, and other print disabilities that affect access to standard materials.

Make a copy of the list available online

When someone would hand me a paper that I couldn’t see as a kid, there is a strong chance I would put in my backpack and forget about enlarging it or asking someone to read it to me as soon as I got home- basically, if I couldn’t see it, then it didn’t exist. Providing a copy of a summer reading list online makes it much more likely that I will access something because I can zoom in on the text to make it larger, or use other tools like text-to-speech to have text read out loud. Programs like Microsoft Office Sway or Wakelet can provide free solutions for organizing several links to titles as well.

One caveat to this is that taking a picture of a reading list and posting the image online isn’t particularly helpful, since things like shadows, low resolution images, and text that can’t be recognized by OCR or a screen reader can make it difficult or impossible to read. Instead, post a digital copy of the original file or create a list of links that show the titles in the catalog or links to events.

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Offer a list of reading applications

There are several fantastic reading apps for print disabilities that can be used for reading books from a school or public library. Some apps that come to mind include:

For readers with print disabilities, these apps provide several accessibility features like larger print sizes, adjustable spacing, options for customizing fonts/displays, options for reading text out loud, and backlit displays that may make it easier to sustain visual attention. Sharing these apps alongside summer reading lists can help introduce readers to even more titles in accessible formats.

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List the title and author names together

Since I can’t read physical books, I will often look up titles to download from Bookshare, an accessible online library for people with print disabilities that is also free for students. When lists have both the title of a book and the author name printed together, this helps a lot with searching for books in an accessible format.

Besides Bookshare, some other examples of accessible libraries for people with print disabilities include:

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Create line guides or line trackers for patrons

Some people with print disabilities use line guides, line trackers, or focus guides to help with focusing on single lines or words on a page and blocking out surrounding content. Libraries and summer reading programs can provide simple and inexpensive line guides in a few different ways for summer reading participants, including:

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Include links to audiobooks

Some readers with print disabilities prefer to listen to audiobooks in lieu of or in addition to reading printed text, with the latter strategy being an example of an audio-supported reading strategy. Indicating titles that have audiobooks available provides readers with the option to check out both a print book/ebook and audiobook/eAudiobook together, or to locate an audiobook separately. One of my friends would check out print copies of books and then listen to the audiobook version on Sora or Libby while reading the books, while a sibling would listen to just the audiobook at the same time.

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Make a copy of titles featured on a display/bulletin board

I love looking at colorful book displays that are filled with lots of fun books to read, but it can be visually challenging to read the titles of books or identify salient features of covers when there are so many books next to each other- this gets even more difficult when covers are grouped by color or with very similar graphics. Providing a list of titles featured in a bulletin board or display as a text-based list online or as a handout may be more helpful for readers with print disabilities who want to browse the list of titles, and potentially find them as audiobooks or in other formats.

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Subscribe to newsletters for summer reading

I subscribe to newsletters from my local library and other reading websites that provide lists for summer reading recommendations in HTML formats so I can more easily enlarge them or open them in my web browser to read with assistive technology. I can also organize emails more easily or use digital bookmarking tools to make a note of titles I am interested in, or open Bookshare or Libby in a new tab to download books.

Several libraries for print disabilities also distribute their own newsletters with summer reading lists and year-round book recommendations like Bookshare, NLS, Learning Ally, state libraries, and more. Definitely check out these websites and subscribe to their newsletters!

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Modify reading programs for print disabilities

Instead of requiring participants to read a set amount of pages or books, another approach for summer reading programs can be to read a certain number of minutes, since students with print disabilities who are simultaneously learning to use assistive technology may have  a slower reading speed. However, daily practice with reading and technology can still provide huge benefits, and help students become proficient in technologies that they will be using in the classroom for the next school year. With consistent practice, students will be able to focus on the joys of reading without also having to think about how they will read something or use assistive technology to access it.

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More accessible summer reading lists for print disabilities

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes,

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