Parents are often saddened that their young child who is blind cannot enjoy the lovely illustrations in the storybooks that are so readily available. These pictures are for the eyes, however, and with a little thought and time you can bring interesting and meaningful illustrations to your child’s fingertips.
Make a Story Box
Make a story box for your child’s favorite book. Place in a box as many of the items mentioned in the story as you can collect. If you are reading about boats, your story box might contain reasonably accurate models with working parts of the boats mentioned. Perhaps there is a sea gull in the story, or a fishing pole, or a dock, or maybe a sea shell. All of these can find their way into the story box.
Populating the Story Box
The models you use need not be large. A general rule of thumb is it should fit into the hand. If it is too large, it may be hard to maintain perspective. Don’t hesitate, however, to use large and even real life items. Perhaps your story is about a car that has a flat tire. Let your son or daughter feel the good tires and the bad one on the car. Guide his hands to show how the jack is used and the tire changed. The next time you come to the flat tire part of the story, he will have in his mind a vivid picture of what is happening.
Reading with the Story Box
Present the items to your child at appropriate places in the story. Soon she will anticipate the “picture” and begin to create the scenes independently, maybe even getting the scenes set up before you begin to read. If that happens, you might ask her child to “read” the story to you by going through the models.
Labeling the Book and the Box
Mark the book and the box with tactile symbols so your child can select his favorite book without help. For example, if the story is about a kitten, you might glue a patch of furry fabric to the front of the book; attach an identical furry patch to the story box.
Other ideas for tactile labels are Velcro, Wikki Stix, felt, cork, heavy or textured paper and whatever else your imagination creates. Be sure to put a braille label of the book title on the book and on the story box, even though the child may not yet be reading. It is never too soon to provide opportunities for little fingers to wander over braille.
A Sample Story Box
We made a story box for Dumpy the Dump Truck, a little book by Julie Andrews for children ages 4 – 8. The box contains a small plastic dump truck, tow truck, back hoe, tractor, garbage truck, and an ice cream truck, all with moving parts. There also are a rooster, a sea gull, Old Nellie the cart horse and little models of the main people in the story: Farmer Barnes, Charlie, and his grandfather, Pop-Up.
We cut two outlines of a dump truck from poster paper and glued one on the book cover and the other on the box. We put the name of the book in print and braille on the box and added a braille label to the book cover.
Almost any box will work for the story box. A lid will help keep the parts from scattering. Plastic storage bins with fitting lids are especially nice.
Building a Library
Keep the story box and book together on bookshelf. Soon your son or daughter will have a nice little library of “picture” storybooks.
Please share with us your experiences in reading to young children who are blind so we may share your ideas and frustrations in a special resource section to be developed on this website.