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CVI Favorites: Books

Kids aren't always drawn to the “perfect” CVI book so be willing to follow your child’s lead. It’s much easier to adapt a book for vision than it is to manufacture an interest in reading.

Baby touching book

All About Katie

Katie Chiaratti is a stay-at-home mom to two sweet boys, Teddy (age 8, with CVI and cerebral palsy) and Henry (age 2, climbing monster and giver of gray hairs). She has a BA in child development, a teaching credential, and a masters in education. Katie feels that connecting with other families in similar situations is exceptionally important, as well as a wonderful resource for helping Teddy to grow and learn. She hopes that some of these ideas will help you, too.

Katie Chiaratti, her husband, and two sons.

Favorite Books for CVI

Ideal books for CVI have:

  • Solid backgrounds
  • Realistic and simple photos or images
  • Large easy-to-read lettering

Kids aren’t always drawn to the “perfect” CVI book, however, so be willing to follow your child’s lead. It’s much easier to adapt a book for vision than it is to manufacture an interest in reading.

Set-Up for CVI Success:

  • Quiet area
  • Reduced visual clutter (facing a blank wall, in a black pop up tent, tri-fold around the desk)
  • Comfortable body (well supported so their focus is only on vision, especially important for our kiddos with cerebral palsy)
  • Present the book in their preferred vision area using a slant board if needed (many CVI children have a lower field deficit and can’t see well directly below on a desk)
  • Reduce glare from lights or sunshine

Freight Trains by Donald Crews

Clear and crisp images and low complexity backgrounds. Each car on the train is a solid color and great for learning and reinforcing colors as well as talking about parts of the train. The story is very simple but engaging.

The cover page for the book Freight Trains. Shown is a cartoon train on a track with a large cloud of steam coming out from the top of the train.
Image shows a page from the book "Freight Trains." The page reads "Red caboose at the book, orange tank car next, yellow hopper car," and each of those items described are shown on the page.

So Big! (Sesame Beginnings) by Anna Jane Hays

CVI-friendly red Elmo draws your eye as he drinks from a cup, shakes a rattle, and says mamama! Baby Elmo pops out of the last page and says peekaboo! He’s so big, just like you! This board book has been a firm favorite since our son was very young.

The cover of the book So Big, showing Elmo with his hands in the air

Carrot and Pea, An Unlikely Friendship by Morag Hood.

We love this story about how Colin the Carrot is different! He can’t play the way the peas can, but he can do other things, and that’s just the way they like it. The pictures are simple and bright. The font is usually on a white background. We always discuss how it’s okay that Colin is different, and how that makes him special. Everyone is different!

The cover of the book Carrot and Pea. Shown are a lot of peas with smiley faces on them and a carrot stick in the middle of them.
Two pages are shown from the book Carrot & Pea. The first page reads "but they are the best of friends" and the second page shows a pile of green peas with a carrot stick on top of them.

The Happy Little Yellow Box: A Pop-Up Book of Opposites by David A Carter

Concepts like up, down, in, out, and inside and outside are demonstrated with the little yellow box. The box is bright and easy to find but the other illustrations are difficult to discern (see mouse on front cover–not CVI friendly). The movement of the box (slides up and down, pops out on a helicopter, raises up 3D) is ideal for CVI and catching their attention.

The cover page of the book The Happy Little Yellow Box. Shown is a yellow box with a smiley face on it, and a small mouse that jumped off of the top of the box.
Shown are two pages from the book The Happy Little Yellow Box. The first page reads "Up and down with the happy little yellow box." The second page shows a cartoon drawing of three skyscraper buildings and a yellow box with a smiley face on it in the middle of them.

Thank You Bear by Greg Foley

Bear finds a blue box and all the animals want to look at it and share why it isn’t so great. In the end, Mouse loves his gift. Simple illustrations and a simple story have made this one a favorite for many years. While the images are not realistic, my son absolutely adores this story and the animals are easy to find because they are colorful on the white backgrounds.

The cover page of the book Thank You Bear. Shown is a small bear walking holding a stick.

A is for Apple, An Interactive Alphabet

Each letter has two things listed, but one is hidden under the flap. When we first read this book, we skipped each flap until we were ready for more complexity. I like that the capital letter is big, indented so you can trace it, and yellow. The images are not realistic. The lettering is large and clear and the backgrounds are solid colored.

The cover page of the book A is for Apple. A big letter A and small letter A are on the cover with a bumble bee, apple, bug on a leaf, and cat.
Two pages from the book A is for Apple are shown. The first page has a capital and lowercase letter m and says "Mm is for moon" with a picture of a moon below it. The second page shows a capital and lowercase letter n and says "Nn is for nest" with a picture of a bird's nest below that.

That’s Not My…. Series by Usborne

It’s too…fuzzy, scratchy, soft, squishy, squashy, glitter! Bears, cars, planes, fairies, tigers… these are repetitive and encourage exploration of textures. We have SO many of these books! Some of the backgrounds are too busy and the images are not always understandable for CVI. The solid black lines help to delineate the images and the texture is usually easy to find (the penguin has a red silky head in the image that stands out).

The cover of the book That's not my teddy. The cover shows a teddy bear holding up its furry paws.
Two pages from the book "That's not my teddy" are shown.  A large penguin with a scarf on is sliding on ice and the pages read "That's not my penguin. Its head is too silky."

Don’t Push the Button! by Bill Cotter

This book is so silly! The big red button is on every page and you need to find it and push it! When you do… uh oh! The monster will change colors and multiply. You shake the book and scratch his tummy to get it back to normal. My son has loved his book since he was just a toddler. We PUSH the button and shakeshakeshake and UHOH along with the monster. If it’s too visually complex to find the red button, create your own or even buy one

I think a red push button that makes a silly noise or is recordable would be a great option for a phase 1 child to interact with this book!

The cover page of Don't Push the Button. A purple monster is shown being tempted to push a big red button.
Two pages from the book Don't Push the Button are shown. The first shows a big red button and the second page shows the purple monster waving with text that reads, "Hi! My name is Larry. Welcome to my book. There's only one rule. DON'T push the button."

 Recordable Red Button

A large red button

DIY Personal Book

Create your own book all about your child. What is more meaningful than things that they know and understand? Here are two pages of Teddy’s Book! I used Google Docs, one photo and (very large) sentence per page, laminated them, punched holes in one side, and “bound” it with a pipe cleaner twisted through the holes. It says things like, “I am 5 years old.” “I like corn flakes.” “I live with mommy and daddy.” “I like cars.” All with photos that either I took or found online. Remember, real photos are often easier to understand than cartoon images or sketches.

An image of a young boy with glasses and text that reads "My name is Teddy."
An image of a roomba robot vacuum with text that reads "I like roomba."

Novelty is difficult for children with CVI, so when you introduce a new book, be prepared for it to be ignored or pushed away. Teddy often walks away after the first few pages or will ask to read one of his favorite books instead. We find that using funny noises and emphasizing silly parts of the book works best for our little guy and his love of silly sounds, and now that he is late phase 2 on the CVI scale, we have successfully managed to read a new book in one sitting. Once the book is more familiar, it becomes easier. Some of Teddy’s favorite books are not CVI friendly, but they align with his interests, and we read them over and over again. 

Ideas for children who need real items with their stories:

If your child is still in need of real items with their stories you can accompany it with a story box. A story box is a box of real items in 3D that will support understanding of what is on the page. Story boxes allow the child to use those important compensatory skills to feel, smell and hear elements of the object that is in the story. Read more about Story boxes

More about creating your own story boxes:

You Can Do It! Tips for Families Who Are Just Getting Started

Tips for families to create tactile books and other literacy materials for young children who are blind or visually impaired, deafblind or who have multiple disabilities

What books does your child with CVI love? 

CVI Favorites title with a picture of a toddler touching a book.
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