Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

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Recent Emergent Literacy Posts

Emergent Literacy


Introduction to Emergent Literacy


Young boy with glasses looks at picture book.

What is Emergent Literacy?

Emergent Literacy is a process involving the development of language and concepts, especially as they begin to be linked together.  This begins at birth, long before any formal instruction in braille or print.  Communication and literacy are interrelated, and the expression and comprehension of ideas is an essential first step on the path to literacy.  This may include listening and speaking, signing, using objects, pictures, gestures, or any combination of ways in which a child understands and interprets experiences. 
How is communication related to literacy?

Sighted children typically have been exposed to a flood of language, books, and experiences before they are formally taught to read and write.   Children who are blind or visually impaired, however, do not have the same access to incidental learning, and thus must be taught specific concepts that other children develop naturally.  Immersion in a language-rich environment in which objects are described, and events are discussed can help to establish a foundation for the development of literacy skills.


Early Literacy

“Literacy in its most basic form is the ability both to understand and to express one’s feelings, desires and experiences to others”  (Perkins Panda Resource Guide, 2002).  Using examples from Perkins Panda, this power point presentation by Tom Miller, Educational Partnerships Program, Perkins School for the Blind provides and overview of early literacy and how it develops.

The Opportunity to Build a Strong Foundation for Literacy is Every Child's Right

Literacy for the blind or visually impaired child is a gradual process which develops from experiences that are meaningful to him. He needs opportunities to:
Graphic of children engaging in literacy opportunities.

  • Develop motor skills fully
  • Develop language that is meaningful to him
  • Listen to many stories that do not depend on visual experiences or pictures
  • Explore the environment tactually
  • Handle books that are tactually interesting to him
  • Gain added enjoyment and meaning from stories through tactile interaction





From: On the Way to Literacy: Early Experiences for Visually Impaired Children, APH for the Blind, Louisville, KY ©1991.
Graphic based on the original found in One the Way to Literacy, it has been simplified and colorized for optimal Internet viewing.

The materials in this section appeared on the e-advisor site, which was originally hosted by Boston Children's Hospital.  This material has now been moved to the website of Perkins School for the Blind.