Reading opens up the world to a child.
Reading out loud is especially valuable and already a much used tool in the early stages of primary education. Picture books encourage literacy and are of great importance to a child’s cognitive, emotional and social development. But how do you use picture books for blind or visually impaired pupils in your class room? How do you provide these children access to stories in which illustrations play a major role?
For this purpose, we developed Picture Books Plus. The language development of blind and visually impaired children is central. The method is a preparation for reading comprehension and preventing slipping or floating language. It supports and encourages interactive reading so that children can explore the rich world of illustrated story telling.
Why read picture books out loud?
Being read to, dreaming together, joining in an experience fantasising with beautiful illustrations or diving together into an exciting story, who would not love that? Picture books are ideal for this.
Reading picture books aloud is an activity that invites and stimulates interaction. Ask questions, try out some words and actively produce them later. A conversation about the expectation of the story, if there are only a few pages read, provides material for an engaging exchange of thoughts. Reading aloud provides for increasing vocabulary, genre knowledge and understanding of narrative structures. This period of emergent literacy is the base for the reading comprehension which plays an important role in general education as such. Besides these cognitive functions of stories there are two other functions, namely, the emotional and social.
Picture books are of great importance in the development of every child. For visually impaired children there are currently only about thirty books with tactile graphics and braille available. These are stories that focus on the tactile recognition. Picture Books Plus gives young visually impaired children access to regular picture books. With the analysis method developed by Picture Books Plus an illustrated story is edited equivalent in form and content for visually impaired children. Maintaining the three functions of a story – the cognitive, emotional and social function – is central.
Various literature studies have shown that a broad experience of reading entails great benefits. Researchers conclude that anyone who reads a lot develops more knowledge and skills allowing him or her to pursue a higher educational level. An example of how this works can be found in the research, Meer lezen, beter in taal, van Stichting Lezen (2014). There appear to be two types of words: high-frequency and low-frequency words. High frequency words are basic words that children learn in conversations at school and at home. Low frequency words are words that are primarily used in school books and in fiction. Picture books use predominantly low-frequency words. So, by reading picture books children come into contact with words they are not regularly exposed to in everyday life. This increases vocabulary. This makes this genre of great importance in preparation for reading comprehension.
What does a set of Picture Books Plus consist of?
First, for the visually impaired children there is their own picture book with tactile drawings in colour and the story in braille. Additionally, there are one or more toys or objects that are related to the main characters of the picture book. Then, for the sighted classmates, we provide the original picture books. Finally, there is a reading manual for the teacher. This reading manual provides the teacher assistance on how to read interactively with visually impaired children.
The first edition of Picture Books Plus: Killer Gorilla, Tony Ross and Jeanne Willis
- Plush gorilla 2. Tactile edition with braille and embossed drawings 3. Reading manual 4. Original picture book. This comes with a plush mother mouse and a baby mouse.