The magic of reading is an experience every child should have in their lives.
Being able to read through the multi-sensory experiences of touch and sound and then continue to learn through play creates an inclusive literary experience for children who are blind or have low vision. Reading can be cognitively stressful for children so the earlier books are introduced into their lives the greater the chance the child will grow up with a love of literature and have their eyes opened to a diverse and wonderful world.
Books have a special way of bringing people together, to spark interest and generate conversations. When a child is read to, they are exposed to new worlds, objects and ways to approach their lives.
But not everybody reads in the same way.
The Feelix Library
The Feelix Collection features braille and tactile storybook kits to build literacy skills and a love of reading from aged 0 to seven. The kits are available to children from the very beginning of their journey with Vision Australia.
The story kits help parents, carers and teachers bring the tales to life for children through books, audio and touch. They include:
A picture book with a clear braille overlay
An audio recording of the book
A tactile book which tells the story through touch
Tactile toys/objects that relate to the story
A child who is blind or has low vision needs context to fully grasp a situation, and tactile reading allows them to get the sensory help need for understanding. In the latest release in our Big Vision book series Cooking up a Storm, the Feelix Storybook Kit created for the book is a wonderful collection of tactile reading tools. Craig Shanahan, a blind chef learnt to identify foods by using his heightened senses of touch and smell, in keeping with the way tactile literacy provides alternative ways of reading and play.
In this kit, Craig’s cooking is represented by mini kitchen tools and accessories, so when a blind or low vision child finds themselves in a kitchen and comes across a rolling pin or knife, they know what they are and understand how they are used. Similarly, in all books that mention a bird, birds will always be represented with a feather.
Re-enforcing facts and keeping all information consistent are key to a child’s literary development. Much like Craig’s book is represented with kitchen aids, when a bird is mentioned, it will be represented by a feather. This is so when a child comes across a kitchen or a bird when in the real world, they have an idea in their minds of what it is without having sighted it fully before. Utilizing every sense when reading is an important tool to support literacy development.
One of the most well-known, and important, styles of tactile literacy is braille. Through braille, a child will be exposed to punctuation, spelling and grammar more than they would be in an audio recording. In a world that has us surrounded by technology at every turn, it is crucial to get a physical copy of a book in a child’s hands to really cement this as a way of tactile literacy. Because to just pick up a book and begin reading is a lovely thing everyone should be able to experience in their lives.
During the primary school years, a child’s brain is at its most adaptable and willing to learn, being able to retain information in an impressive way. If the foundations of braille are set from a young age, braille is more likely to be used throughout a person’s life. It is very much a skill that can carry them into adulthood.
That is why Vision Australia has released their series of children’s books,
Big Visions. These are a book series aimed at children who are blind or have low vision but are stories that everyone can enjoy. Each book features an Australian role model who champions resilience and encourages inclusion. These books aim to inspire a child to live the life they choose, by dispelling the misconceptions and expectation placed on them by society. Each book is printed with braille alongside the text, which will prompt teachers, parents and carers to talk to about the different ways we can read and learn.
Let’s start a conversation and get the knowledge around tactile literacy out there into the wider world.
Being blind or having low vision does not mean you can’t settle down for the night with a good book.