This time of remote instruction has been difficult for our students, families, and teachers. I am trying desperately to meet the needs of my students the best way possible. When students have limited internet access or may have a modified curriculum this presents even more of a challenge. Right now parents have a heavier task of supporting their children with school tasks. Reading with a student is a fun engaging activity that can work on so many skills at onces. Reading is an important way for a child and parent to connect. I have found that sometimes parents that have a student with low vision, no light perception, or multiple impairments are not sure how to read with their child. It definitely can look different depending on their abilities and what they can tolerate.
There is one student on my caseload that when I first started working with her would not participate in any story for longer than 1-2 minutes. She did not explore the pages tactilely and would flip through the pages really quickly. Over the course of a school year, usings books she could interact with, she was able to sit and read several stories for nearly 30 minutes. This occurred through singing parts of books, building a routine, and building a bond with my students. It was an amazing transformation. She was not only building stamina for “reading”, but she would also be able to retell the story in her own way. She would pull her favorite books off the shelf and re-read them to herself while turning the pages. She would also request that staff read her the book by bringing the book to a staff member and when a book was finished would often say “Again?” It was not just that she enjoyed the story, it was the whole experience of touching, singing, repetition, and interpersonal connection with an adult.
Watching this transformation for this one student inspired me to want to see all students engage with reading. More than that, I wanted to help families engage in literacy activities with their children. The way I have found to do that is provide tactile books for families and have a video of me reading the book like I would if I was sitting with their child. I can demonstrate how to help them interact with their child and how to describe what is on the pages of the books. The most important thing is spend this time with your child and have fun experiencing a story for the first time or the 100th time. There is no perfect way to engage a child because a parent knows their child best. I simply offer strategies that help most students with visual impairments engage in a book. It may take days, weeks, or months for your child to build up their “stamina”, but do not give up. Schedule that time to interact and spend time with your child. It is my hope that parents feel empowered to engage in literacy with their child.
By Brittany Smith